Hyde, George E. Life of George Bent – Written From His Letters University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Publishing Division of the University, 1968 Bibliography, illustrations, maps, index, 389 p.
The Life of George Bent is a collection of letters written by George Bent to George E. Hyde from 1905 up until his death in 1918. George E. Hyde felt the letters, which was a manuscript making up fifty years of Cheyenne Indian life, needed to be published. With the coming of WWI, it made it impossible to find a publisher. Since he was unable to find a publisher, he sold a copy of the manuscript to the Denver Public Library. His working copy of the manuscript was placed in his attic in a box and forgotten. This manuscript went unpublished for nearly thirty-six years. George Hyde asked Savoie Lottinville to join him in editing the George Bent letters and chronicling the time line of events. The book is written in first person. George Bent is the narrator and gives his account of the Cheyenne Indians and events that occurred on the Great Plains during the nineteenth century. The letters are important for the period from 1863 to 1868 as they are the only account of the war operations from this period of time. He described war traditions and customs of his people, the Cheyennes. Since the death of George Bent, George Hyde picked up additional information about the Indians and included it in the book. He has included information on these Indian tribes dating back to the early 1600s.
Hyde begins the book by giving early information on the Cheyenne tribe. The Cheyenne's earliest home was on the shore of the Great Lakes far in the north. They were a very poor tribe and famine was almost constant. They were badly armed and avoided war anytime they could. Older Cheyennes often refer to this time as “Before the Cheyennes had bows and arrows.” They were mainly fish eaters as they were afraid of the larger animals. Fishing was a group effort of the tribe and since they were so famished they also pounded up the fish bones and ate the oil. They migrated to the area of Ontario and northern Minnesota. Here they lived in wigwams and hunted skunk and deer. They killed the deer by running them into the deep snow. They used dogs like horses since they had none. The entire tribe went on buffalo hunts. This was all on foot. A herd was ran into the deep snow and the Indians would run up and shoot them with bows and arrows. The buffaloes were skinned. They laid the hides flesh side down and folded the hides over the meat and bundled and tied them. They were then tied to the dogs and they drug them through the snow.
The Cheyennes were frequently attacked by the Crees and Assiniboins from the north and Ojibwas from the east. These tribes had guns from the French traders. Cheyennes were still using bows and arrows as they were very behind the times. They first secured guns when an old woman tricked some Assiniboins over a cliff at night. Hyde continues to show how the Cheyenne tribe progressed and soon acquired horses from the Arapahoes, Kiowas and the Crows. Bent's tribe moved too far south to see much of the Crows after 1826. Around 1833 Bent gives great detail on the raids the Cheyennes made against the Pawnees. He stated the fights were formal affairs and the women, children and old men would join and sit in the rear and watch. The tribe would later divide into two – the Northern Cheyennes and the Southern Cheyennes. George and his family were a part of the Southern Cheyennes and he would later state that they later came together after being separated nearly forty years. He goes in great detail about how they found each other strange. He noted that the Northern Cheyennes began to grow more like the Sioux in habits and appearance. The language had changed and they had a hard time understanding each other.
George Bent was born to William Bent and Owl Woman, the daughter of White Thunder, who was the keeper of...
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