Lance and the Shield

Identifying a thesis statement within a biography is usually a simple task. More often than not, the author presents the subject and the facts with an obvious opinion which is slanted one way or the other. This is not the case with Robert Utley’s The Lance and the Shield, where the author brings you an all-encompassing view of the subject: Sitting Bull. The author’s thesis is that Sitting Bull was all that his legend claims to be. He was the great war chief, the symbol of resistance, and the inspiration of hope that his people desperately needed. He was also the thorn in manifest destiny’s side, the stubborn (and perhaps short-sighted) opponent, and the highlight of a sad and regretful time in a nation’s history. It doesn’t matter if the reader is Native or Anglo American- Utley paints Sitting Bull and his time in a way that surpasses heritage, and reaches history.
One of the strengths of the book was its ability to bring Sitting Bull to a three dimensional, real person. The warrior who defeated Custer and his 7th cavalry is well known, but the visionary and uniter is often left in obscurity. The Lance and the Shield gets past the hard image of the Warrior Chief and shows you Sitting Bull’s sincerity in purpose and the love he had for his people. Reading of his generosity in giving of his own possessions to help the homeless and hungry was certainly an unexpected fact learned from the reading.
Another strength of the book was Utley’s use of Lakota culture and United States history in creating the biography. This method gives greater understanding to the actions, intention, and feelings of Sitting Bull; not just leaving them as merely factual. Knowing Lakota lifestyle and the events that shaped Sitting Bull in his youth makes all the difference in viewing the struggle between the U.S. government and Native Americans.
One of the weaknesses of the book was its length and tendency to get bogged down in unnecessary details. In the author’s attempt to bring every...