The Historical Fiction Company reviewed “These Sacred Lands” and I am pleased to offer their words here.

These Sacred Lands

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children. If we must die, we die defending our rights. It is not necessary for eagles to be crows.” – Chief Sitting Bull, Lakota Sioux Chief

This story is not about Custer’s Last Stand at Little Big Horn; it is, however, a story about the events leading to the Seventh Calvary’s demise. It is centered around two main characters on both sides of a coin. Can thine enemy be thine friend? Can hate between two cultures destroy any hope of a lasting friendship between two people?

James Harold Kelly steps readers back into history to an age-old question that has plagued humanity since the beginning of time. The story takes place during the American settler’s expansion into the West, during the push of the Lakota Sioux and the Cheyenne into what is now Wyoming, South Dakota, and Colorado.

A Lakota Sioux, who happens to be the great Sioux warrior Red Cloud’s young cousin, meets a U.S. Calvary Officer’s son on the outermost post west of Fort Laramie, Wyoming. The two lads, barely teenagers, meet quite by accident, and like many adolescents who come face to face with a culture they have never encountered, naturally, they are both curious.

“Joshua turned his attention once more to the river and cottonwoods. The sudden rustling of quail, disturbed by the intruder, startled him. In an instant, they were only feet from one another – two boys violating what their fathers had cautioned. The world around them faded away. There was no hate, just curiosity across the small space between them.”

Modern-day children are no different across this planet we inhabit, no matter what culture they are born into, and possess an innocence to adult racial boundaries. A chance to make a new friend, regardless of whether they are different, remains true today as in the past. Shadow Hawk and Joshua are from two different worlds. Young Shadow Hawk feels that young Joshua can teach him many things about the white man’s perspective, and Joshua feels he can learn many things from the Sioux; the problem is getting their parents to agree. In this story, there is another serious problem that needs to be mentioned – Joshua’s father is an officer in the U.S. Calvary under General Crook’s command, and this requires his father, Jedediah, to duly inform his superior officer and to receive his blessings in allowing the two boys to meet. The ultimate decision to allow this friendship to continue brings about remarkable changes and is in the best interest of all the parties involved. They become friends and learn many things from each other. During this time, they both grow into manhood, and Joshua decides to follow his father’s career path. As with most indigenous cultures, there are certain rituals a male must enter to achieve warrior status among their prospective tribes.

“These Sacred Lands” explores what happens when two friends from two different sides of the fence return years later and are respected in their field of choice. Shadow Hawk already understands there is a high probability he will have to face his friend on the battlefield. When Joshua is sent back to the same fort where they met as boys, he is quite aware of that possibility, as well. As in the above quote of Sitting Bull, the Great Lakota Sioux Chief, when a culture feels threatened by another, there is an old saying when push comes to shove and the situation deteriorates, there is only one solution: you push back, and you push back hard.

“The wagons had burned, and their contents scattered. Two families were trailing the last wagon train that left Fort Robinson, and they were all dead. From the look of the mutilated corpses, the corporal estimated the attack occurred perhaps two or three days ago. He walked his horse through the area to see the murdered adults and older children – seven bodies. The children hid in the nearby grass while the butchering took place. The raiding warriors filled the men’s bodies with arrows. He had seen this before when retrieving the bodies of massacred soldiers. Some men burned, using the wagons for cover during the attack until the flames forced them into the open and death. Three women were in different locations, and each was lying face down and killed by bullets rather than arrows. They were fully clothed and appeared untouched by the warriors who perpetrated this heinous act. It seemed vengeance applied to the men.”

There has been much said through film, books, and such of the atrocities brought against the settlers surrounding the prelude to what occurred when the Seventh Calvary met their demise, but there is much more to the story on both sides.

“Sir, a winter campaign will catch the hostiles in their most vulnerable state. They are in their villages from the Black Hills to the Yellowstone River and are waiting for spring,” a captain offered. “Precisely why we must find them now. The hostiles are in a weakened state after these past winter months. General Crook believes we can eliminate the threat if we find Crazy Horse or Sitting Bull’s village first.” Mackenzie recalled how angered Hawk was over the government’s demand to return to the reservation by the end of January.

A soldier’s duty has always been to follow their superiors’ orders first and foremost. One’s personal feelings must be set aside whether the said friend is the enemy or on the same side. Men and women have had to confront this phenomenon throughout history. The author does an excellent job of revealing the themes throughout the storyline, and it is a very worthy read.

“These Sacred Lands” by James Harold Kelly receives five stars from The Historical Fiction Company and the “Highly Recommended” award.

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