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Savages & Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America’s Road to Empire through Indian Territory by Paul VanDevelder

Yale University Press, May 2009

"Here is a profound dismantling of the whole mythical edifice surrounding the westward expansion that shaped the republic. This is a shocking and passionate book that is anchored in impeccable scholarship.  Savages and Scoundrels is a Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee for the 21st century."
— John Eklund


Paul VanDevelder re-writes history This week on The Write Question, I talk with Paul VanDevelder about his latest book, Savages & Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America's Road to Empire Through Indian Territory. More »



  Savages & Scoundrels
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The last battle of the American Indian Wars did not end at a place called Wounded Knee.

From Window Rock to Lodge Grass and the Anza Valley, new Indian wars are being fought by a legion of Ivy League-trained lawyers called Coyote Warriors — among them a Mandan attorney named Raymond Cross.

"Coyote Warrior is compelling, outrageous, triumphant..."
— Debra Krol (Salinan/Esselen), Native Peoples Magazine

When Congress seized the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara homelands at the end of World War II, tribal chairman Martin Cross, the great-grandson of chiefs who fed and sheltered Lewis and Clark through the bitter cold winter of 1804, waged an epic but losing battle against the federal government. As floodwaters rose behind the massive shoulders of Garrison Dam, Raymond, the youngest of Martin's ten children, was growing up in a shack with dirt floors and no plumbing or electricity, wearing clothes made from flour sacks. By the time he was six, his people were scattered to the slums in a dozen distant cities. Raymond ended up on the West Coast. Far from the homeland of their ancestors, he and his siblings would hear that their father had died alone and broken on the windswept prairie of North Dakota.

At his father's graveside, Raymond discovered the solitary path he was destined to follow. After Stanford and Yale Law, he returned to the land of his ancestors to take up his father's fight against the federal government. Raymond's remarkable journey led him back to the same U.S. Congress his father battled forty years before and into the hallowed chambers of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the tradition of A Civil Action, and J. Anthony Lukas's Common Ground, Coyote Warrior tells the epic story of the three tribes that saved the Corps of Discovery from starvation, their century-long battle to forge a new nation, and the extraordinary journey of one man to redeem a father's dream — and the dignity of his people.

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Little, Brown and Company. New York, Boston

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 © 2009 Paul VanDevelder

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