John Gregory Bourke kept a monumental set of diaries beginning as a young cavalry lieutenant in Arizona in 1872, and ending the evening before his death in 1896. As aide-de-camp to Brigadier General George Crook, he had an insider's view of the early Apache campaigns, the Great Sioux War, the Cheyenne Outbreak, and the Geronimo War. Bourke's writings reveal much about military life on the western frontier, but he also was a noted ethnologist, writing extensive descriptions of American Indian civilization and illustrating his diaries with sketches and photographs.
Previously, researchers could consult only a small part of Bourke’s diary material in various publications, or else take a research trip to the archive and microfilm housed at West Point. Now, for the first time, the 124 manuscript volumes of the Bourke diaries are being compiled, edited, and annotated by Charles M. Robinson III in an easily accessible form to the modern researcher.
This fifth volume opens at Fort Wingate as Bourke prepares to visit the Navajos. Next, at the Pine River Agency, he is witness to the Sun Dance, where despite his discomfort at what he saw, he noted that during the Sun Dance piles of food and clothing were contributed by the Indians themselves, to relieve the poor among their people. Bourke continued his travels among the Zunis, the Rio Grande pueblos, and finally, with the Hopis to attend the Hopi Snake dance. The volume concludes at Fort Apache, Arizona, which is stirring with excitement over the activities of the Apache medicine man, Nakai’-dokli’ni, which Bourke spelled Na Kay do Klinni. This would erupt into bloodshed less than a week later.
Volume Five is especially important because it is the first in this series to deal almost exclusively with Bourke’s ethnological research. Aside from a brief trip to the East Coast, most of the text involves his observations either during the Great Oglala Sun Dance of 1881, or among the pueblos of New Mexico and Arizona. Bourke’s account of the Sun Dance is particularly significant because it was the last one held by the Oglalas. The Hopi material in this volume served as the basis of The Snake Dance of the Moquis of Arizona, published three years later in 1884, and perhaps his best-known work after On the Border with Crook.
Extensively annotated and with a biographical appendix on Indians, civilians, and military personnel named in the diaries, this book will appeal to western and military historians, students of American Indian life and culture, and to anyone interested in the development of the American West.