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Song of Dewey Beard: Last Survivor of the Little Bighorn

The great Native American warriors and their resistance to the U.S. government in the war against the Plains Indians is a well-known chapter in the story of the American West. In the aftermath of the great resistance, as the Indian nations recovered from war, many figures loomed heroic, yet their stories are mostly unknown. This long-overdue biography of Dewey Beard (ca. 1862–1955), a Lakota who witnessed the Battle of Little Bighorn and survived the Wounded Knee Massacre, chronicles a remarkable life that can be traced through major historical events from the late nineteenth into the mid-twentieth century.

Beard was not only a witness to two major battles against the Lakota; he also traveled with William “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s Wild West show, worked as a Hollywood Indian, and witnessed the grand transformation of the Black Hills into a tourism mecca. Beard spent most of his later life fighting to reclaim his homeland and acting as “old Dewey Beard,” a living relic of the “old West” for the tourists.

With a keen eye for detail and a true storyteller’s talent, Philip Burnham presents the man behind the legend of Dewey Beard and shows how the life of the last survivor of Little Bighorn provides a glimpse into the survival of Indigenous America.

“By scouring the archives and conducting personal interviews, Philip Burnham has helped clarify the historical record, teasing out new information and dispelling lingering myths. Song of Dewey Beard is a thoroughly researched, well-written, and engaging book.”—Akim Reinhardt, author of Ruling Pine Ridge: Oglala Lakota Politics from the IRA to Wounded Knee.