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Historian pens biography of legendary Lakota war chief

Book cover for "Gall: Lakota War Chief"In Gall: Lakota War Chief (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007), Robert Larson (BA economics ’50, MA education ’53) provides the first-ever scholarly biography of the leader who fought alongside Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse in an effort to prevent the U.S. government from annexing the Black Hills in Wyoming and South Dakota.

Although christened Little Cub Bear, the prominent Lakota chief known most often as Gall was nicknamed “Fighting Cock of the Sioux” by U.S. soldiers. Gall played a major part at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Incensed by the deaths of his two wives and three daughters — victims of a surprise attack by U.S. forces — Gall led a charge across the Medicine Trail Ford to decimate Gen. George Custer’s main forces grouped there.

According to Larson, the Lakota Sioux “were the most successful Indian tribe in resisting the settlement of their hunting grounds.”

The U.S. government, however, emerged victorious from the Great Sioux Wars. Gall — believing assimilation to be inevitable — broke with Sitting Bull, his mentor, and worked to integrate his tribe into modern society.

Relying on six years of research, including interviews with Gall’s direct descendants, Larson traces the transformation of the The-Man-That-Goes-in-the-Middle — Gall’s preferred nickname — from fierce warrior to pragmatic leader.

The retired history professor has earned several awards for Gall, including the Western Writers of America Spur Award for the best Western biography of 2008, the Western History Association’s 2008 Robert M. Utley Award and Westerner’s International Co-Founders Best Book Award for 2007.

Larson, 82, lives in Denver. He also wrote Red Cloud: Warrior-Statesman of the Lakota Sioux (University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) and plans a biography of Rain-in-the-Face, another important Lakota leader.

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