He was the son of Pawnee Killer, the last in a line of mystic warriors of the Great American Plains Indian tribes. When his father fled to Canada with Sitting Bull, after the battle of Little Big Horn, after the best and the strongest of the Sioux were gone, Running Elk stood unwittingly at the crossroads of history.
Running Elk tried to run away from the reservation to find his father—but he didn’t get far. He’d hardly begun his journey when the Indian Police came for him to ship him off to school in the white man’s world with 33 other boys and girls.
They were taken by wagon, then by riverboat, and finally by train, to the abandoned army barracks of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. On the train, many of the children thought they were being taken to the moon hanging over the tracks. They might as well have been.
At the Indian school, they were disciplined, their hair was cut short, they were taken to church, and they were taught to live like the despised Wasicun. They would be taught to work leather and wood. Their names were changed…Running Elk became William.
Billy gazed at the distant hills and the open stretches of prairie grass on every side. The land seemed much vaster and the sky bluer than he had remembered. He should never have elft this land. Once he belonged here, now he belonged nowhere. The whites hated him for being too Indian, the Indians hated him for being too much white.
When Ghost Dances began and the tribes started to follow the new prophet, Wovoka, Billy wondered which way he would turn. Would he follow the road paved for him by his white education…or would he join his father and fight like the warrior he was mean to be.
Don Worcester is the recipient of the Levi Strauss Saddleman Award for his lifelong contributions to the literature of the American Frontier and a two-time Spur Award winner. He was a history professor at Texas Christian University and has formerly been president of Western Writers of America. He lived in Texas and Arizona.