Counting Coup and Cutting Horses


Counting Coup and Cutting Horses

Intertribal Warfare on the Northern Plains, 1738-1889

Anthony R. McGinnis

272 pages
19 illustrations, 3 maps


November 2010


$21.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Counting Coup and Cutting Horses is the comprehensive history of more than 150 years of intertribal warfare between northern Plains tribes and a study of the complex rivalries that prevailed among the Native societies that migrated into and around the region. It is a sweeping drama about the warriors’ perpetual search for glory—from the plains of Nebraska to the grasslands of Saskatchewan, from the fields of Minnesota to the forests of Montana. It is also about the attempts of private interests (such as fur trading companies) and the U.S. government to control tribal warfare for their own purposes, and, ultimately, to end it.
Anthony R. McGinnis consulted a wide variety of sources, including early travelers’ accounts, government reports, and studies by other authorities, to provide a full account of the intricate cultural systems of the Arapahos, Assiniboines, Blackfeet, Sioux, Shoshonis, and Cheyennes. Depicting one of the most fascinating periods in western history, Counting Coup and Cutting Horses describes warriors such as Dull Knife, Plenty Coups, and Sitting Bull; women such as Sacagawea, Deer Little Woman, and Buffalo Calf Road; the cycle of raids and revenge; the impact of horses and guns; and the role of the American and Canadian governments.

Author Bio

Anthony R. McGinnis is a historian and former high school teacher whose research in intertribal warfare has taken him all over the West. He has published articles in numerous historical journals, including the Journal of the West, Montana: The Magazine of Western History, and the Red River Valley Historical Review.


“One of the book’s most valuable features is a long bibliographical essay, which lists and evaluates numerous primary sources and secondary works. A graduate student or budding scholar interested in Plains Indian history would find this a useful place to begin.”—Roy W. Meyer, American Historical Review

“McGinnis has produced a useful synthesis of tribal warfare and a compelling argument that brings some order out of the confusion of shifting alliances and short interludes of peace that dominated Indian life on the Northern Plains. Understanding the role that combat played in the lives of Plains Indians is essential to comprehending why Plains warriors found a life of enforced peace empty of meaning.”—Thomas R. Wessel, Western Historical Quarterly

“In preparing this book, Anthony McGinnis consulted a wide variety of sources, including early travelers’ accounts, government reports, and studies by other authorities, to present a comprehensive history of the conflict. Some content has been dealt with elsewhere, though not as sweepingly as here. Most significantly, McGinnis helps to further define the Indians’ motivations and explain their responses to the ideas, products, and events that affected them throughout the culturally critical mid-1800s. . . . Counting Coup and Cutting Horses merits attention as a worthwhile contribution to the field of Indian history.”—Jerome A. Greene, Montana: The Magazine of Western History

Table of Contents

CHAPTER ONE - From Time Immemorial . . . Deadly Enemies: Intertribal Warfare, 1738-1800
CHAPTER TWO - Killed Them Like Birds: Explorers, Traders, and Intensified Warfare, 1804-1810
CHAPTER THREE - Very Impatient of Insult: The Growing Complexity of Warfare, 1810-1830
CHAPTER FOUR - Their Name Is A Terror: Warfare in Blackfoot and Crow Country, 1830-1850
CHAPTER FIVE - War Is the Breath of Their Nostrils: The Sioux Advance on the Eastern Plains, 1830-1850
CHAPTER SIX - Disregard Their Treaty Obligations: Early Treaties and the Sioux Advance, 1851-1865
CHAPTER SEVEN - Scourge of the Missouri: Warfare in the Age of Sioux Suzerainty, 1865-1877
CHAPTER EIGHT - Superior in Daring and Enterprise: The Climax of Warfare, 1865-1877
CHAPTER NINE - A Source of Great Apprehension and Anxiety: The End of Sioux Suzerainty, 1877-1881
CHAPTER TEN - Those Days of Which I Now Only Dream: The End of Intertribal Warfare, 1881-1889
Bibliographical Essay

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