Dog Soldier Justice: The Ordeal Of Susanna Alderdice In The Kansas Indian War

ISBN: 0974254614
ISBN 13: 9780974254616
By: Jeff Broome

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Sven Roth

Among the six Cheyenne warrior societies the Hotamianiu a.k.a. Dogmen are the most illustrious. In 1837 one of their headmen had to go into exile by Cheyenne law because he had killed a fellow tribesman. However, he was so popular among his followers that his warrior society decided to join him into exile. This exile lasted for about three years, and it is from this past episode that the label of "renegades" of the "Dog Soldiers" stems. By 1851, however, the Hotamitaniu weren't just rehabilitated but got elevated to one of the ten clans constituting the tribe as such which earned them four seats in the tribal council of 44. From then onwards the Hotamitaniu were both a tribal band and a warrior society, the only one which also had a say in the highest civil political body of the nation. Known for their exceptional military prowess, the Hotamitaniu attracted more warriors than any other warrior society. Their hunting grounds were located between those of the Northern and the Southern Cheyennes around the Republican, Saline and Solomon Rivers in Eastern Kansas and Northwestern Colorado.As far as the encroaching Whites were concerned, the Hotamitaniu were never expansionist but likewise always communicated that they wouldn't cede their territory to anyone and, if necessary, defend it. They stuck to the boundaries of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, ignored the 1861 sellout treaty signed by six chiefs of the already starving Arkansas bands and had these hunting territories confirmed again in the 1865 Treaty of the Little Arkansas and likewise by the US superintendent for Indian Affairs Henderson in the Medicine Lodge Treaty talks in October 1867.I write this because all these essential, basic points are missing in Jeff Broome's Book which is rather puzzling for a book bearing the title "Dog Soldier Justice".While the Hotamitaniu were smoking the peace pipe with Henderson down south on the Arkansas River, their summer buffalo range was being invaded by a wave of settlers who immediately started to transform this last rich buffalo range into a farmland region which would be soon uninhabitable for its Indian inhabitants. These settlers are the tragic heroes of Jeff Broome's book, portrayed at the same time as fearless pioneers in the wilderness and innocent civilian bystanders.Due to a change in weather it wasn't until August 1868 that the Hotamitaniu moved up north again and realized with disbelief and shock who had taken over their parlour and their food store during their intermittent absence.This is where Dog Soldier Justice starts. The only explanation as to who and what the "Dog Soldiers" were is given by the author with this 1868 newspaper clipping from the Junction City Weekly Union:"Indians driven out of various tribes for cowardice and other crimes, who having banded themselves together until they have become a dangerous tribe. They are called Dog Soldiers because the vilest word an Indian can use is to call a man a dog, hence these freebooters are thus designated, and by reason of their excellent drill they are called soldiers."Practically everything in this quote is factually incorrect. Yet it is the only introduction the reader gets from the author about who his Dog Soldiers were.What's more, Broome offers no meaningful explanation whatsoever on the injustices experienced by the Hotamitaniu and how they would have envisioned meting out "justice". The book title "Dog Soldier Justice" is a clear misnomer and turns out to be pure mockery and sarcasm.Ironically, Broome also largely fails to deliver on the second part of the book title, "the ordeal of Susanna Alderdice", this time not for a lack of interest but for a lack of historical source material.As for prisoner abuse, especially claims of habitual "outrage" of the worst kind directed against Susanna Alderdice, the books suffers from the problem that there is no evidence for that whatsoever. Instead, Broome makes the audacious and indeed highly controversial claim that no such individual proof would be necessary as every white woman captured by Cheyene Indians would always endure habitual and continuous S*xual abuse of the worst imaginable kind, even beyond the point of death of the victim. He makes the case for this with a page-long atrocity quote from Colonel Richard Irving Dodge's 1877 book "The Plains of the Great West and Their Inhabitants" which makes such a horror claim. Unfortunately Dodge's book on Plains Indians, indeed regarded in 1877 a top expert book, is a book full of cultural arrogance, contempt, villifications and outright fabrications. There are entire chapters in this book where not a single factual claim is correct. Read it yourself, you can do it online for free, and even if you have virtually no knowledge of Plains Indian culture you cannot fail to notice the prevalent mockery, condescension and mass of outrageous factual claims. If you do have some knowledge of plains cultures, it will alternately send you into fits of laughter and desperation. I am at a loss how Broome could consider this a reliable historical source on Plains Indians. Worse, he doesn't even bother to discuss the trustworthiness of this source. Instead he claims that the horror quotes from the book were "shockingly realistic" by cherry-picking four cases of alleged outrage, some of these less than convincing, and takes them pars pro toto.Jeff Broome explains in the afterword that he is no fan of the so-called "New Western History" which he calls paternalistic because, as Broome puts it, the members of this school believe they can better understand history than the people who actually lived through it and claim to understand historical experiences better than the people who actually had these experiences. Thus, as Broome puts it, there is the danger that "the past gets lost in the present".That's a catchy line and I think I can follow Broome when he sees a problem with today's values and perspectives being superimposed over a past which gets buried and misunderstood in this process.Surely, we have to take the people of the past, their perceptions, experiences and value systems seriously. But what Broome does goes much further than that. He completely leaps back into the perceptions and values of one side of a historical conflict of the past. His book is more an exercise in written historical reenactment than historiography. While trying to avoid the past from getting lost in the present, he prevents a contemporary understanding of a complex conflict of the past by replacing all the research that has been amassed in the last hundred years with period ignorance, self-righteousness and outright hate.His approach is like writing about antebellum slavery by exclusively limiting his sources to pro-slavery antebellum statements and later KKK-style literature. Or like writing about the situation of the Jews in 1930s Germany by resorting to the pamphlets of Julius Streicher or postwar antisemites.He may not get his hands dirty with reusing the same exterminatory and racist language as was deemed acceptable a hundred or seventy years ago (although he sidesteppes that limitation by using many of such statements as uncommented quotes) but he tells exactly the same story. He ignores that the Cheyennes had just been promised continued hunting rights between the Platte and the Arkansas. He even goes so far to say - by quoting a 1940 publication - that the indians wouldn't even act out of a defensive motive at all, denying them the very intellectual capacity to even understand their ongoing destruction and acting accordingly and instead regurgiates the self-serving settler creed that the Indians were just savage robbers and habitual s*ex offenders of the worst kind.The elephant in the room is that these settlers were logical and arguably even legitimate targets of warfare as they were agents of terra-forming who were destroying the last and essential hunting grounds of the Hotasmitaniu. Such a thought doesn't even occur to Broome. He claims, in all seriousness, that the Dog Soldiers were "responsible for all the troubles" and that the prevention of Susanna Alderdice's recapture amidst the bloody destruction of the Hotamitaniu village at Summit Springs was nothing but a needless hate crime (not that Whites would ever have allowed Cheyennes to escape captivity...). Throughout the book he claims that acts like surrounding and massacring recently discharged Pawnee Army scouts for the mere act of begging for food was justified, likewise the annihilation of the peace faction camp of Black Kettle at the Washita in November 1868.I understand that people want to feel good about their past. I can understand that this also applies to settler descendants like Broome. But I am appalled to see in this book where this takes people when they prefer period prejudice, ignorance and hate over a contemporary understanding of a historical conflict which was, let's name it, all about ethnic cleansing. The very essence of Dog Soldier Justice back then was "Don't trespass, or else". It's a shame that Jeff Broome didn't have the intellectual honesty to acknowledge this.When Jeff Broome goes on lecture tours nowadays he is preaching to the choir of all-white settler descendants in rural meeting halls in Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming and even Montana. Occasionally he goes to the LBH battlefield site to hold talks there. Will he ever take the 30 minutes drive to the nearby Cheyenne reservation to repeat his standard talk there? Of course not. Because he would have to face the music there. I can't blame him. If I had written such a book, I would also be scared of receiving some real Dog Soldier Justice.

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