Grand­son of Crazy Horse vis­its El Do­rado for book sign­ing

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Cait­lan But­ler Staff Writer

The grand­son of famed Na­tive Amer­i­can war­rior Crazy Horse vis­ited El Do­rado Tues­day night for a book sign­ing at the South Arkansas Arts Cen­ter. Floyd Clown Sr. and Wil­liam Mat­sen were here to pro­mote a book by Mat­sen, “Crazy Horse: The Lakota War­rior’s Life and Legacy.”

Mat­sen, a doc­u­men­tar­ian, wrote the book based on an oral his­tory given to him by Clown and his fam­ily mem­bers. He said he was in­spired to learn about Crazy Horse from a Na­tive Amer­i­can per­spec­tive by his fa­ther.

“My con­nec­tion to the Crazy Horse fam­ily started way be­fore I was born,” Mat­sen said, ex­plain­ing that his fa­ther was part of the 7th Cav­alry in World War II, the same reg­i­ment Lieu­tenant Colonel Ge­orge Custer was in dur­ing the Amer­i­can In­dian Wars. “The drill sergeant used to ask ‘Who won the Bat­tle of Lit­tle Bighorn?’ and he said ‘The In­di­ans did,’ and that was the wrong an­swer as far as the drill sergeant was con­cerned … He al­ways wanted to right that wrong … He wanted to write some­thing on the Bat­tle of Lit­tle Bighorn from the Na­tive side.”

Mat­sen said his fa­ther was never able to make a con­nec­tion with some­one who could tell him the Na­tive Amer­i­can per­spec­tive on the bat­tle, and, on his deathbed, asked him to take the job over. Mat­sen said he couldn’t say no and set to work on find­ing the truth.

When Mat­sen and Clown first met, Clown’s fam­ily was in the fi­nal stages of a le­gal bat­tle with Hor­nell Brew­ing Com­pany. The court case re­vealed that the ad­min­is­tra­tor of Crazy Horse’s es­tate was not ac­tu­ally re­lated to Crazy Horse. Clown’s fam­ily was able to prove their an­ces­try and he was ap­pointed ad­min­is­tra­tor of the es­tate.

“For us, for fam­ily, we have noth­ing to hide. It’s time for truth now,” Clown said.

Clown said in mak­ing their “blood tree,” a re­quire­ment of the United States gov­ern­ment in as­sert­ing tribal mem­ber­ship and re­la­tion to other Na­tive Amer­i­cans, he dis­cov­ered 3,000 other mem­bers of Crazy Horse’s fam­ily. He re­al­ized many did not know of their re­la­tion to Crazy Horse, so he wanted to share the fam­ily’s legacy with them.

“That’s when we de­cided to make a book for our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, that they would know their iden­tity, who they are, know of their grand­fa­thers and grand­moth­ers,” Clown said. “We wanted to do it like how the Lakota fam­i­lies hand down their oral his­to­ries. When you tell a story, you tell it ex­actly the same as how you heard it.”

Crazy Horse is known for his hero­ism in bat­tles for Na­tive Amer­i­can land in the 19th cen­tury. Clown said much of what is cur­rently known about Crazy Horse has a shaky his­tor­i­cal back­ground and he wanted to set the record straight.

“We could say, when we made this book for the fam­ily, ev­ery­thing that was writ­ten be­fore we made this book is fic­tion. It’s as­sump­tion; it’s non-truth,” Clown said.

Orig­i­nally, Mat­sen in­tended to make a fea­ture film about the life of Crazy Horse. How­ever, when Clown and his fam­ily read the script, Mat­sen said they thought it was garbage.

In­stead, Clown showed Mat­sen var­i­ous land­marks that cor­re­spond-

ed to events in Crazy Horse’s life as well as the Lakota tra­di­tion. Af­ter an­other writer was forced to leave the project, Clown’s fam­ily asked Mat­sen to write the oral his­tory that had been passed down to them about their an­ces­try and tra­di­tions.

It was only when the book was in its fi­nal drafts that the fam­ily de­cided to try for a wider pub­li­ca­tion. It has since been pub­lished in Ger­man and Nor­we­gian as well as English.

“When our grand­fa­ther was here, he [led] by ex­am­ple. And that’s what we’re do­ing, his fam­ily. By ex­am­ple, we’re set­ting pro­to­col for All Red Na­tions,” Clown said.

Tues­day’s event was Clown and Mat­son’s 185th book sign­ing. Mat­son spent 12 years with the Clown fam­ily vis­it­ing land­marks and lis­ten­ing to their sto­ries. It was an­other year and a half be­fore the book headed for pub­li­ca­tion. Clown said he is glad to be able to share his fam­ily’s story from their own per­spec­tive.

“It’s time to cor­rect the his­tory of our peo­ple of this na­tion with the truth,” Clown said. “I know my grand­fa­thers are happy that the truth is com­ing out.”

Ricky Turner was one reader in at­ten­dance; he said he was about half­way through the book and had al­ready learned a lot.

“[The book] gave me an op­por­tu­nity to see it from their [Na­tive Amer­i­cans’] per­spec­tive. … It just made me see more than the kind of “savage-type” that we’re taught in his­tory,” Turner said. “[I see] how mis­led, mis­guided we’re taught. … I’ve learned more re­spect for their be­liefs and fam­ily units.”

“Crazy Horse: The Lakota War­rior’s Life and Legacy” is avail­able for sale.

Photo by Cait­lan But­ler

Book sign­ing: Floyd Clown and Wil­liam Mat­sen spoke at the South Arkansas Arts Cen­ter. Clown is the grand­son of Crazy Horse.

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