The Enduring Legacy of the Indian Wars and George Armstrong Custer
It’s easy to understand why this tremendous defeat shocked the American public at the time. But with Custerology, Michael A. Elliott tackles the far more complicated question of why the battle still haunts the American imagination today. Weaving vivid historical accounts of Custer at Little Bighorn with contemporary commemorations that range from battle reenactments to the unfinished Crazy Horse memorial, Elliott reveals a Custer and a West whose legacies are still vigorously contested. He takes readers to each of the important places of Custer’s life, from his Civil War home in Michigan to the site of his famous demise, and introduces us to Native American activists, Park Service rangers, and devoted history buffs along the way. Elliott shows how Custer and the Indian Wars continue to be both a powerful symbol of America’s bloody past and a crucial key to understanding the nation’s multicultural present.
“[Elliott] is an approachable guide as he takes readers to battlefields where Custer fought American Indians . . . to the Michigan town of Monroe that Custer called home after he moved there at age 10 . . . to the Black Hills of South Dakota where Custer led an expedition that gave birth to a gold rush."—Steve Weinberg, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“By ‘Custerology,’ Elliott means the historical interpretation and commemoration of Custer and the Indian Wars in which he fought not only by those who honor Custer but by those who celebrate the Native American resistance that defeated him. The purpose of this book is to show how Custer and the Little Bighorn can be and have been commemorated for such contradictory purposes.”—Library Journal
“Michael Elliott has invented the excellent term ‘Custerology’ to describe an intriguing cultural phenomenon—the ever-enduring interest in George Armstrong Custer. His book examines its manifestations with insight and authority. Custerology is a fascinating and valuable book that reveals its author’s generous sympathy and illuminating intelligence on every page.”
"By 'Custerology,' Elliott means the historical interpretation and commemoration of Custer and the Indian Wars in which he fought not only by those who honor Custer but by those who celebrate the Native American resistance that defeated him. This is not a history or biography of Custer. The purpose of this book is to show how Custer and the Little Bighorn can be and have been commemorated for such contradictory purposes. Elliott accomplishes his task primarily by looking at particular current instances of public history associated with Custer battlefields, museums, and reenactments, although he does mention some books and films. Also running through the book is the question of whether any commemoration of Custer and the Indian Wars is still relevant in the multicultural world of the 21st century. Elliott argues that it is. Not for the uninitiated, this complex and multilayered work is best suited for upper-division undergraduates and above and for others who are interested in the meaning and significance of Custer in today's world."
1 Ghost Dancing on Last Stand Hill: Crow Agency, Montana
2 Being Custer: Monroe, Michigan
3 Lives on the Plains: Cheyenne, Oklahoma
4 Into the Black Hills: Rapid City, South Dakota
5 Testimony in Translation: The Library
6 Little Bighorn Forever: Hardin, Montana • Garryowen, Montana
Epilogue: Indian Country