The Life of Sherman Coolidge, Arapaho Activist


The Life of Sherman Coolidge, Arapaho Activist

Tadeusz Lewandowski

358 pages
30 photographs, index


December 2022


$50.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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December 2022


$50.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2022


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About the Book

Sherman Coolidge’s (1860–1932) panoramic life as survivor of the Indian Wars, witness to the maladministration of the reservation system, mediator between Native and white worlds, and ultimate defender of Native rights and heritage made him the embodiment of his era in American Indian history.

Born to a band of Northern Arapaho in present-day Wyoming, Des-che-wa-wah (Runs On Top) endured a series of harrowing tragedies against the brutal backdrop of the nineteenth-century Indian Wars. As a boy he experienced the merciless killings of his family in vicious raids and attacks, surviving only to be given up by his starving mother to U.S. officers stationed at a western military base. Des-che-wa-wah was eventually adopted by a sympathetic infantry lieutenant who changed his name and set his life on a radically different course.

Over the next sixty years Coolidge inhabited western plains and eastern cities, rode in military campaigns against the Lakota, entered the Episcopal priesthood, labored as missionary to his tribe on the Wind River Reservation, fomented dangerous conspiracies, married a wealthy New York heiress, met with presidents and congressmen, and became one of the nation’s most prominent Indigenous persons as leader of the Native-run reform group the Society of American Indians. Coolidge’s fascinating biography is essential for understanding the myriad ways Native Americans faced modernity at the turn of the century.

Author Bio

Tadeusz Lewandowski is a professor extraordinarius at the Institute of Literatures, University of Opole, Poland, and an associate professor of English and American studies at the University of Ostrava in the Czech Republic. He is the author of Red Bird, Red Power: The Life and Legacy of Zitkala-Ša and Ojibwe, Activist, Priest: The Life of Father Philip Bergin Gordon, Tibishkogijik.


"Tadeusz Lewandowski has written a valuable history of Arapaho activist Sherman Coolidge. At last, the field has a scholarly biography on this important but long-neglected Society of American Indians (SAI) leader."—Jack Evans, South Dakota History

“Pointed, polished, lucid, and readable. Those who study the era of assimilation will find much to savor in this account of Sherman Coolidge, a man who played a major role in the creation of a nationwide Indian organization and contributed to how Native people were publicly perceived during his lifetime. In addition, this biography also offers a narrative version of events that is interesting in its own right as it recounts the ups and downs of a human life.”—Philip Burnham, author of Song of Dewey Beard: Last Survivor of the Little Bighorn

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. The Arapahos and Runs On Top
2. New Life
3. Return
4. Conspiracy, Exile, and the East
5. Losing Ground
6. Grace
7. Proving Herself
8. Twosing
9. Death and Life
10. Malcontents     
11. A New Mission, a New Society
12. The Society Ascendant
13. Harmony in Jeopardy 
14. State of Chaos, State of War

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