“The Heart of Everything That Is”: The Sioux’s Brilliant, Unsung Leader

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown December 31st, 2013 Last Updated on: December 31st, 2013

Red Cloud — Sioux chieftain, sometime ally of Sitting Bull and mentor to Crazy Horse — was a brilliant politician and military tactician. Pragmatic as well as daring, he cuts a less romantic figure than those two more famous and more tragic Indian leaders of the same period; he survived to the ripe old age of 88, dying in 1909. But Red Cloud was also the only Native American commander to defeat the United States in a war. His life, and the war that bears his name, are the subject of “The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend” by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin.

Read more about the book on Salon and see why it has ended up on several critics' best of 2013 list.

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About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

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All due respect to Red Cloud, who is perhaps under-rated, but the article mis-speaks in calling him the only NA commander to defeat the U.S. Not sure what criteria that includes. But Miami chief Little Turtle (Meshikinoqua) gave the U.S. Army the worst defeat (proportionally) ever. St. Clare’s Defeat. Very few people these days have ever heard of him, unless you’re Miami or Peoria.

jonny vekemans

full respect !

jon bostain

I’ve watching your videos for awhile now,and I feel like I,m close to my native heritage.I,m not sure exactly what it is anymore,but I’ve been told that I have Cherokee,Black Foot,Lenenape,Montauk,and I think Shawnee.How would I find out what I have.please can someone tell me where to look for this information.

Jed Pike

Jon, that’s very good about having interest in your blood. I guess heritage? Right? Though, in your case, what your trying to find, is about blood, DNA. There are DNA test kits sold online. Standard test kit is priced btw. 40 – 60 dollars. I have never done it, but have heard people’s comments that have. While it will likely help answer your question, as to Indian ancestry, it may not be able to break down the specific tribe(?) I just don’t know, I don’t know which kit to recommend, but it should cover, the test, processing, handling, shipping, and all that. The other genealogical, or family history way to check involves more time and patience, but promises more rewarding knowledge about your people, family. And that’s to research surnames, Indian registries, land allotments, surveys, and population roll calls on tribal organizations. It’s slower, but less expensive, and could have unforeseen benefits! Like finding long lost cousins! Good luck brother.


Jon…You can do DNA but it is very expensive and limited to what you can find out. If you are submitting your own DNA, you will find out more than a woman donor would. For reasons I can not recall, they can narrow down a mans DNA to a specific area and by now maybe tribe. Where as a woman, they can only trace it to a general group…such as native of north American, etc. I would therefore suggest that maybe you do some geneology research first. Then when you have an idea what tribe you may be decended from, you can see if they have a genetic research project that you can submit your DNA results to and therefore poss find distant relatives.

However, You do not have to prove yourself to anyone. If this was your families oral tradition, esp if it goes back generations…It would probable have truth to it because before the 1980’s, most families wanted that hidden because of prejudice. Go to pow-wow’s…ask questions about first, the culture and customs. It is very important to not offend somebody by doing something that is going to appear rude, or like you are another “white” person who is looking for their heritage just so you can get money, or benefits. If the natives you try to make friends with and learn from can see that your heart is genuine, they will teach you and embrace your friendship. You should remember many tribes often adopted outsiders into their families and I think most still have open hearts to teach others who really want to learn.

If you are lucky, you will end up having people see little genetic traits in you that leave a hint of your ancesters…I did! I was told Blackfoot but whenever I asked more, I was told to leave it alone…”We are Christian and care nothing for our ancestry…We don’t want it”. It was only recently that I found my great grandmothers’ mother on ancestry with applications for the Cherokee nation. For some reason she never received federal recognition but according to Cherokee friends, that was not unusual. Those papers along with my great grandmothers attempting to tell all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, along with her children being too embarrassed to let her tell us more, that is all the proof I need and all those native friends of mine have ever needed. You see all she was ever allowed to say is that we would be indian, that was the common term for natives at that time. At her funeral, I asked my grandfather and he said we were Blackfoot but then he related it to Canada where his family came from…Humm. Now I believe it is poss I have native ancestry on both my dads’ parents sides.

Most likely due to the civil war, changing laws on recognition, and the fact that many natives took white names at some point, you probably will never find all that you seek when it comes to definate proof and family names. That is okay however, because if you are doing this for the same reason I did…not for money but to honor those who have been forgotten and erased, than you can do that by learning as much about natives and the culture as poss. If you can narrow it by the tribe great, if not than learn as much as you can about those in the community you befriend. Your ancestors will know that in that way you honor their memory the best way you can!


Also, Jon…Ask to see old family photos…My Great grandmother was one of 18 children…The youngest. A distant cousin has told me that although she knows nothing of native ancestry, it makes sense. You see her grandfather was G.G.Grandma’s older brother. She says they always wondered why he didn’t look white at all…lol! It was never discussed however. Genetics allow one sibling to look completely white while another may have the recessive traits of an ancestor, esp if that is not a too distant ancestor. The rest of us just got the High cheek bones, diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid, and lazy eye!
Good Luck!

Mark Rodgers

Curious question!

Wondering if you’re still on this board?

I only wonder for the comments you make about the medical side is so resounding in my family. My GG Grandma was half and the comments made about hiding was so true in my father and grandfather. Didn’t get the privilege of meeting any others because of separation of their own creation. Fear of the white people was real in the words, the few, my father told me. He often was like the mediator, in few ways, to keep from drawing attention to his own heritage.
The DNA test isn’t exact, far from it. I’m part most things I knew, but also Neanderthal. No one knew. I’ve had visions to where I came from, two distinct. One was of being nomadic, but not hunter/gatherer, the other of being from another tribe other than was told in the little circle. Told Cherokee but think we where down trace, off shoot from. My family tree runs several generations in and born in Oklahoma.
I just wrote everything after the intro because.

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