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Admire John McPhee, Bill Bryson, David Remnick, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr and James Martin (and most open and curious minds)



The Private Library: What Books Reveal About Their Readers

By  posted at 12:00 pm on February 11, 2016 5
Michel De Montaigne owned 900 books, which he kept on shelves arranged in a semi-circle. Immanuel Kant owned about 400 books. Virginia Woolf: 4,000.
coverQin Shi Huang, the Chinese emperor who built the Great Wall, ordered the destruction of all books written before his reign. According to the Han-era historian Sima Qian, the Qin burned only those works held in private libraries, while the court erudites and government archives were permitted to retain and expand their collections. During the Qin era, anyone caught discussing TheClassic of Poetry in public would be executed. Under Qin Shi Huang it was a capital offence to discuss the past as being preferable to the present.
Many of those books spared by the emperor were destroyed when the warlord Xiang Yu entered the city of Xiangyang, four years after Qin Shi Huang’s death, and razed the Qin palace and its library to the ground.
John Dee, mathematician, astrologer, and adviser to Elizabeth I, kept a collection of 2,337 books and 378 manuscripts in his house on Mortlake-on-Thames. When he died, in 1608, the land around his home was bought by the antiquarian Robert Cotton, who suspected — correctly — that Dee had buried a cache of valuable manuscripts in a nearby field.
Gustave Flaubert possessed more books by George Sand than any other author.
coverEmily Dickinson owned a copy of Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte BrontëF. Scott Fitzgerald owned the 1926 edition of The Paris That’s Not in the Guidebooks by Basil WoonJames Joyce owned the guidebook In and About Paris by Sisley Huddleston. Joseph Roth, it appears, possessed very few books.
Franz Kafka owned all of Max Brod’s books. In a diary entry from 1911, Kafka writes: “November 11. All afternoon at Max’s. Decided on the sequence of the essays for (Brod’s latest collection) On the Beauty of Ugly Pictures. Not good feeling.”
coverEvery few years, Willa Cather re-read her favourite novels. By 1945 she had read Huckleberry Finn 20 times, and Flaubert’s Salammbo 13 times.
Socrates said the written word represented “no true wisdom.” He preferred a dialogue. He claimed written words “seem to talk to you as though they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say, from a desire to be instructed, they go on telling you the same thing for ever.”
In her copy of Emmanuel Mounier’s The Character of ManFlannery O’Connor underlined the following sentences: “When we say that thought is dialogue, we mean this quite strictly. We never think alone. The unspoken thought is a dialogue with someone who questions, contradicts, or spurs one on.”
coverIn chapter seven of Eugene Onegin, the heroine Tatiana visits the country estate of Onegin, where she is let in by the housekeeper. The chapter is framed as a digression by the narrator: Tatiana does not meet Onegin at the villa, instead she encounters his collection of books, and reads his marginalia, and the scrapbook into which he copied his favorite passages. For the first time, Tatiana encounters what she considers to be the real Onegin — in the marginal notations his mind “declares itself in ways unwitting.” Then what is the true Onegin like? Tatiana begins to see him as a composite of fictional characters from his favorite books.
On a page of Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the HMS Beagle Round the WorldMark Twain wrote: “Can any plausible excuse be furnished for the crime of creating the human race?”
covercovercoverIn the margins of Howards EndPenelope Fitzgerald complains of the author: “He is lecturing us”. Fitzgerald’s biographer, Hermione Lee, finds this observation about Lady Russell in a copy of Persuasion: “A right-feeling but wrong-judging parent, who does as much harm as an unfeeling one.” About Fanny’s mother in Mansfield Park, Fitzgerald writes: “We see relentlessly what a difference some money makes.” About Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice: “She punishes herself too much.” In a copy of Waiting for Godot: “An attempt to show how man bears his own company.” In her copy of The Good Soldier, Fitzgerald writes: “A short enough book to contain 2 suicides, 2 ruined lives, a death, a girl driven insane — it may seem odd to find that the key note of the book is restraint.”
Among Djuna Barnes’s personal library, now kept at the University of Maryland, is the 1963 edition of Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews. As a young writer, on commission for magazines, Barnes interviewed other novelists, including James Joyce. She herself was never interviewed by The Paris Review.
Jeff Buckley owned the book Addiction Recovery for Beginners by David BrizerTupac Shakur owned In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker.
Katherine Anne Porter’s library comprised 4,000 books — rounded up by librarians — now preserved at the University of Maryland. Doris Lessing donated her collection of 3,000 titles to Harare City Library, Zimbabwe.
Five years after her death, Iris Murdoch’s books were sold to the Kingston University Library, London, for the sum of £120,000. Her husband John Bayley said: “Her mind seemed to work independently of her precious library, but at the same time she depended for inspiration on the presence of her books, a silent living presence whose company sustained and reassured her.”
Late in his career, David Markson wrote novels that he constructed, for the most part, out of hundreds of anecdotes and factoids about writers and other artists. Nested amid these catalogues of biographical facts are brief statements by an unnamed narrator, which relate his or her circumstances or distressed frame of mind. All these components are united by two themes: the life of an artist and death. At a reading of his final novel, titled The Last Novel, Markson introduced the work by stating that his book featured no dramatic scenes, no incidents, no chapters, but was “98.5 per cent — and that’s not really a guess” composed of anecdotes and quotes sourced from other books. Markson’s novels are enormous collages full of fragments from his private library. After his death in 2010, his collection was donated to The Strand in New York, where, presumably, he bought most of the books that contained the anecdotes and quotes and facts that comprised his novels. As if completing a perfect ritual, Markson’s library was sorted and integrated into the Strand’s floor stock, and sold and dispersed again.

Why Is Christmas in December? | Britannica.com

Why Is Christmas in December? | Britannica.com

Nativity Scene, Adoration of the Magi, Church of the Birth of the Virgin Mary, Montenegro


First Day of Winter 2016: Solstice Dates, Times | The Old Farmer's Almanac

First Day of Winter 2016: Solstice Dates, Times | The Old Farmer's Almanac

When is First Day of Winter?

Desert Island Discs, Carl Sagan

BBC Radio 4 - Desert Island Discs, Carl Sagan

Watch Wes Anderson Very Politely Announce His New Film, Starring Yoko | Vanity Fair

Watch Wes Anderson Very Politely Announce His New Film, Starring Yoko | Vanity Fair

If This Sleigh Is A-rockin', Don't Come A-knockin'. | This American Life

If This Sleigh Is A-rockin', Don't Come A-knockin'. | This American Life

'Silence' is a complex film about the nature of faith—it's a wonder it ever got made. | America Magazine

'Silence' is a complex film about the nature of faith—it's a wonder it ever got made. | America Magazine


Can You Predict Your Scores on an Important Personality Test?


Photo: Constance Bannister Corp/Getty Images

The Big Five model is a very big deal to psychologists, and has been for decades. At the moment, it is the most respected, widely studied method for accomplishing the tricky task of summing up someone’s personality. It consists of five dimensions, and as the University of Oregon social psychologist Sanjay Srivastava explains on his website, each is perhaps best understood as containing a bundle of traits:
Extraversion. The broad dimension of Extraversion encompasses such more specific traits as talkative, energetic, and assertive.

Agreeableness. Includes traits like sympathetic, kind, and affectionate.

Conscientiousness. Includes traits like organized, thorough, and planful.

Neuroticism. Includes traits like tense, moody, and anxious.

Openness to Experience. Includes traits like having wide interests, and being imaginative and insightful.
Researchers developed these five dimensions through statistical analysis — they found that people who plan a lot tend to also be organized, for example, and people who are sympathetic also tend to be kind. These dimensions are mostly stable at the individual level. “If you take a bunch of 20-year-olds and rank them on extraversion, and then wait 20 years and measure them again, you’ll find the people who scored highest at age 20 will tend to be high at age 30,” explained Christopher Soto, a personality psychologist at Colby College. That said, “there are definitely also changes” — people can certainly become more extraverted or less neurotic over their lifespan.
So: How good a grasp do you think you have on your own personality, in Big Five terms? In the below test, you can find out. First, you’ll first be asked to rank yourself on each of the Big Five, on a scale of 0 to 100. Then you’ll take a short version of the test designed by Soto and Oliver John of the University of California, Berkeley, after which the test will reveal how you rank, your approximate percentile relative to the data Soto and John have collected from previous test-takers, and how your score compared to your estimate and to the average score from Soto and John’s data.

How well do you understand your own personality?

PART 1: Guess your results
On a scale of 0 to 100, how much of each trait do you think you have?





How should you interpret your scores? There’s some potentially useful information there — in fact, one reason psychologists are very into the Big Five is that its dimensions seem to correlate with some rather important life outcomes. “It was designed to be a useful summary of a wide spectrum of traits that matter in human social relations,” said Srivastava. “So while you can certainly go into much more depth (either with more nuanced trait measures, or with a totally different approach to personality besides traits), there’s quite a range of information packed into those 5 scores.”

In 2006, the UC-Riverside psychologists Daniel J. Ozer and Verónica Benet-Martínez published a review of the literature on these correlations in the Annual Review of Psychology. Among other links, they found that higher extraversion is correlated with a lower prevalence of depression; agreeableness is correlated with enhanced longevity and a lower risk of heart disease; and neuroticism — unsurprisingly — is correlated with lower subjective well-being (you can view the table running down their findings here). Sometimes things aren’t that clear-cut: as of the paper’s publication, researchers hadn’t found links between the openness dimension and outcomes dealing with social and family relations, for example. And some dimensions, like extraversion and agreeableness, are correlated with an increased likelihood of some personality disorders, but a decreased likelihood of others.
Overall, it’s important to keep in mind that while these correlations are meaningful at the population level, just because you score high or low on a given dimension isn’t reason to think you’re fated for any particular outcome. That is, there are plenty of highly neurotic people who are happy, and there are plenty of highly extraverted people who are unhappy.
As for the relationship between people’s personalities and what they think their personalities are, here things are a bit more complicated. Generally speaking, people are okay but not great at this sort of self-evaluation. In one 2010 paper from Social and Personality Psychology Compass, for example, the psychological researchers Simine Vazire and Erika N. Carlson reviewed a bunch of the past literature on this question and found that overall, “people’s perceptions of their own personality are certainly more accurate than random guesses would be, but they are substantially far from perfect.”
Soto explained that there are certain patterns to how people misfire when evaluating their personalities, and in some cases your friends, family members, or co-workers might possess a more accurate sense of who you are than you do. “Some kind of behavior and aspects of personality are highly observable by others, like extraversion, and for those peers are generally better,” he explained. “Other things are more about your internal emotions and thoughts, and there the self is better.” In other words, it isn’t hard for your friends to tell whether or not you talk to a lot of people at parties, so if you have a false sense of your own level of extraversion, the truth of the matter is evident to observers. For traits like neuroticism, on the other hand, external observers have a lot less to go on, so in most cases you will be a better judge than people who know you.
Taking a Big Five test like this one is simply a good way to better understand yourself. It can also help put things in context — as Srivastava put it, “through the feedback, you get to find out where you stand relative to other people. Everybody has ideas about what they’re like, things like ‘I’m kind of reserved’ or ‘Sometimes I get pretty anxious.’ All of those things are on a spectrum of human experience, and getting standardized feedback tells you where you are on that spectrum.” In other words, a test like this turns what can sometimes be guesswork about who you are into something a bit more scientific and concrete.
BFI-2 items copyright 2015 by Oliver P. John and Christopher J. Soto. Reprinted with permission. For more information about the BFI-2, visit the Colby Personality Lab website at http://www.colby.edu/psych/personality-lab/.

The Year in Review

The Year in Review


The Secret Life of Time - The New Yorker

The Secret Life of Time - The New Yorker


The case for re-naming the human species - Australian Geographic

OPINION: The case for re-naming the human species - Australian Geographic


In the Northern Hemisphere, today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It's officially the first day of winter and one of the oldest-known holidays in human history. Anthropologists believe that solstice celebrations go back at least 30,000 years, before humans even began farming on a large scale. Many of the most ancient stone structures made by human beings were designed to pinpoint the precise date of the solstice. The stone circles of Stonehenge were arranged to receive the first rays of midwinter sun.
Some ancient peoples believed that because daylight was waning, it might go away forever, so they lit huge bonfires to tempt the sun to come back. The tradition of decorating our houses and our trees with lights at this time of year is passed down from those ancient bonfires. In ancient Egypt and Syria, people celebrated the winter solstice as the sun's birthday. In ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated with the festival of Saturnalia, during which all business transactions and even wars were suspended, and slaves were waited upon by their masters.


Young Universe as a Lumpy Softball - The New York Times

3-D Printing the Young Universe as a Lumpy Softball - The New York Times


At The Existentialist Café by Sarah Bakewell. In 1933, a young Raymond Aron laid forth the ideas of Germany's phenomenologists to twenty-seven-year old Jean-Paul Sartre and twenty-five-year old Simone de Beauvoir at a Paris bar, and the seeds of a new philosophy -- existentialism -- had been planted. By 1945, Sartre had fully developed this existentialist philosophy, and had become famous as young people emerging from the devastation of World War II embraced his ideas:

"[Jean-Paul] Sartre's existentialism implies that it is possible to be authentic and free, as long as you keep up the effort. It is exhilarating to exactly the same degree that it's frightening, and for the same reasons. As Sartre summed it up in an interview ...:

There is no traced-out path to lead man to his salvation; he must constantly invent his own path. But, to invent it, he is free, responsible, without excuse, and every hope lies within him.

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir at Balzac Memorial
"It's a bracing thought, and was an attractive one in 1945, when estab­lished social and political institutions had been undermined by the war. In France and elsewhere, many had good reason to forget the recent past and its moral compromises and horrors, in order to focus on new beginnings. But there were deeper reasons to seek renewal. Sartre's audience heard his message at a time when much of Europe lay in ruins, news of Nazi death camps had emerged, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been destroyed by atom bombs. The war had made people realise that they and their fellow humans were capable of departing entirely from civilised norms; no wonder the idea of a fixed human nature seemed questionable. Whatever new world was going to arise out of the old one, it would probably need to be built without reliable guidance from sources of authority such as politi­cians, religious leaders, and even philosophers -- the old kind of phi­losophers, a new kind of philosopher, ready to wade in and perfectly suited to the task. 

"Sartre's big question in the mid-1940s was: given that we are free, how can we use our freedom well in such challenging times? In his essay 'The End of the War', written just after Hiroshima and published in October 1945 -- the same month as the lecture -- he exhorted his readers to decide what kind of world they wanted, and make it hap­pen. From now on, he wrote, we must always take into account our knowledge that we can destroy ourselves at will, with all our history and perhaps life on earth itself. Nothing stops us but our own free choosing. If we want to survive, we have to decide to live. Thus, he offered a phi­losophy designed for a species that had just scared the hell out of itself, but that finally felt ready to grow up and take responsibility.

"The institutions whose authority Sartre challenged in his writings and talks responded aggressively. The Catholic Church put Sartre's entire works on its Index of Prohibited Books in 1948, from his great philosophical tome Being and Nothingness to his novels, plays and essays. They feared, rightly, that his talk of freedom might make peo­ple doubt their faith. ... Marxists hated it too. ... From dif­ferent ideological starting points, opponents of existentialism almost all agreed that it was, as an article in Les nouvelles littéraires phrased it, a 'sickening mixture of philosophic pretentiousness, equivocal dreams, physiological technicalities, morbid tastes and hesitant eroti­cism ... an introspective embryo that one would take distinct pleasure in crushing'.

"Such attacks only enhanced existentialism's appeal for the young and rebellious, who took it on as a way of life and a trendy label. From the mid-1940s, 'existentialist' was used as shorthand for anyone who practised free love and stayed up late dancing to jazz music. As the actor and nightclubber Anne-Marie Cazalis remarked in her memoirs, 'If you were twenty, in 1945, after four years of Occupation, freedom also meant the freedom to go to bed at 4 or o'clock in the morn­ing.' It meant offending your elders and defying the order of things. It could also mean mingling promiscuously with different races and classes. The philosopher Gabriel Marcel heard a lady on a train saying, 'Sir, what a horror, existentialism! I have a friend whose son is an exis­tentialist; he lives in a kitchen with a Negro woman!'

"The existentialist subculture that rose up in the 1940s found its home in the environs of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés church on the Left Bank of Paris -- an area that still milks the association for all it is worth. Sartre and Beauvoir spent many years living in cheap Saint-Germain hotels and writing all day in cafés, mainly because these were warmer places to go than the unheated hotel rooms. ... After the cafés, there were subterranean jazz dives to go to. ... Existentialists wore cast-off shirts and raincoats; some of them sported what sounds like a proto-punk style. One youth went around with 'a completely shredded and tattered shirt on his back', according to a journalist's report. They eventually adopted the most iconic exis­tentialist garment of all: the black woolen turtleneck.

"In this rebellious world, just as with the Parisian bohemians and Dadaists in earlier generations, everything that was dangerous and provocative was good, and everything that was nice or bourgeois was bad."
At the Existentialist Cafe
Author: Sarah Bakewell
Publisher: Other Press
Copyright 2016 by Sarah Bakewell

Carl Sagan


A Special Tuesday Release of eSkeptic to Honor Carl Sagan on the 20th Anniversary of His Death

20 years ago today, the world lost a great human being. Carl Sagan was an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, science popularizer, scientific skeptic, professor, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Peabody Award-winning TV celebrity and a visionary humanitarian, dedicated to improving science literacy around the world. He received the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, helped plan the first messages from Earth sent into space, and advocated for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). His 1980’s public television series, Cosmos, reached hundreds of millions of people world-wide. He was a true advocate for science, scientific skepticism, and critical thinking. Carl Sagan died of pneumonia at the age of 62, on December 20, 1996, after having suffered from cancer and undergoing several bone marrow transplants.
We remember him fondly, on this day, grateful for the inspiration and education that he provided to so many.

FT 2016 in Review


It has been a momentous 2016, a year that may prove pivotal in the course of history. The UK voted to leave the EU, a complex divorce that may take years to negotiate. Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in an unexpected victory. Europe's migrant crisis grew, Pokemon Go became a sensation and Deutsche Bank faced a fine of up to $14bn. All the while, oil prices plunged and surged.
Our readers had much to contribute in 2016 - almost 1m comments were posted on FT.com. Readers shared stories of career changes, frustrations with their student loans, the pains of raising wealthy children and their thoughts on Trump's victory. Millennials disagreed over whether it was more realistic to save for a holiday or a pension. In the wake of Brexit, one particular commentcaught the world's attention, so we invited its author to write an op-ed. Readers were also keen to join in on our reporting: almost 800 submitted ideas for a post-Brexit Britain and more than 700 EU citizens living in the UK laid out their plansfor the future.

Meanwhile, novelist Kazuo Ishiguro took to our pages to call for a second Brexit referendum and a great many pints of beer were downed during our lunch with Nigel Farage

FT 2016 in Review


It has been a momentous 2016, a year that may prove pivotal in the course of history. The UK voted to leave the EU, a complex divorce that may take years to negotiate. Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in an unexpected victory. Europe's migrant crisis grew, Pokemon Go became a sensation and Deutsche Bank faced a fine of up to $14bn. All the while, oil prices plunged and surged.
Our readers had much to contribute in 2016 - almost 1m comments were posted on FT.com. Readers shared stories of career changes, frustrations with their student loans, the pains of raising wealthy children and their thoughts on Trump's victory. Millennials disagreed over whether it was more realistic to save for a holiday or a pension. In the wake of Brexit, one particular commentcaught the world's attention, so we invited its author to write an op-ed. Readers were also keen to join in on our reporting: almost 800 submitted ideas for a post-Brexit Britain and more than 700 EU citizens living in the UK laid out their plansfor the future.

Meanwhile, novelist Kazuo Ishiguro took to our pages to call for a second Brexit referendum and a great many pints of beer were downed during our lunch with Nigel Farage

Literary Hub’s Best Books of 2016 | Literary Hub

Literary Hub’s Best Books of 2016 | Literary Hub

Native Americans

The Earth is Weeping by Peter Cozzens. In 1863, the Cheyenne Chief Lean Bear met at the White House with Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, normally adroit in his meetings with visiting dignitaries, was less than artful in this instance. Within two months, Lean Bear was dead at the hands of U.S. soldiers:

"Chief Lean Bear was a member of the Council of Forty-Four, the governing body of the Cheyenne people. Council chiefs were peace­makers, enjoined by tribal custom never to permit passion to displace reason and to always act on behalf of the tribe's best interests, which in 1863 most elder Cheyenne chiefs construed as friendly relations with the mushrooming white population in the Territory of Colorado that crowded their already diminished hunting lands. But official Washing­ton was troubled. Confederate agents were rumored to be circulating among the Plains Indians, trying to incite them to war. To counter the threat (which was in fact baseless) and smooth over differences with the tribes, the Indian Bureau had arranged for Lean Bear and ten other chiefs to visit the Great Father. The Indian agent Samuel G. Colley and their white interpreter accompanied them.

"On the morning of March 26, 1863, two weeks before the opening of their New York extravaganza, the Indians, their agent, and their interpreter had filed into the East Room of the White House through a murmuring throng of cabinet secretaries, foreign diplomats, and distinguished curiosity seekers. 'Maintaining that dignity or stolidity characteristic of the stoics of the woods,' a Washington journalist told his readers, 'they quietly seated themselves on the carpet in a semi­circle, and with an air of recognition to the destiny of greatness to be gazed at, seemed quite satisfied with the brilliancy of their own adorn­ings and colorings.'

Lean Bear and the Council of Fourty-Four pictured with their interpretor and Mrs. Lincoln (far right).
"After a fifteen-minute wait, President Lincoln strode into the room and asked the chiefs if they had anything to say. Lean Bear arose. As the crowd of dignitaries pressed closer, Lean Bear momentarily lost his composure. The chief stammered that he had much to say but was so nervous that he needed a chair. Two chairs were brought, and Lincoln sat down opposite the chief. Cradling his long-stem pipe, Lean Bear spoke, hesitantly at first, but with a growing eloquence. He told Lin­coln that his invitation had traveled a long way to reach them and the chiefs had traveled far to hear his counsel. He had no pockets in which to hide the Great Father's words but would treasure them in his heart and faithfully carry them back to his people.

Cheyenne Chief often identified as Lean Bear photographed in 1863,  Washington, D.C.
"Lean Bear addressed Lincoln as an equal. The president, he said, lived in splendor with a finer lodge, yet he, Lean Bear, was like the president, a great chief at home. The Great Father must counsel his white children to abstain from acts of violence so that both Indians and whites might travel safely across the plains. Lean Bear deplored 
white man's war then raging in the East and prayed for its end. He closed with a reminder to Lincoln that as chiefs of their peoples he and the other Indian leaders must return home, and Lean Bear asked the president to expedite their departure.

"Then Lincoln spoke. He began with good-humored but marked con­descension, telling the chiefs of wonders beyond their imagination, of 'pale-faced people' in the room who had come from distant countries, of the earth being a 'great, round ball teeming with whites.' He called for a globe and had a professor show them the ocean and the conti­nents, the many countries populated with whites, and finally the broad swath of beige representing the Great Plains of the United States.

"The geography lesson over, Lincoln turned somber. 'You have asked for my advice ... I can only say that I can see no way in which your race is to become as numerous and prosperous as the white race excepting living as they do, by the cultivation of the earth. It is the object of this government,' continued Lincoln, 'to be on terms of peace with you and with all our red brethren ... and if our children should sometimes behave badly and violate treaties, it is against our wish. You know,' he added, 'it is not always possible for any father to have his children do precisely as he wishes them to do.' Lincoln said an officer called the commissioner of Indian affairs would see to their early return west. The chiefs were given bronzed-copper peace medals and papers signed by Lincoln attesting to their friendship with the government, after which Lean Bear thanked the president and the council concluded. ...

"President Lincoln's peace pledge rang hollow in the Territory of Colo­rado, where Governor John Evans's idea of interracial amity was to con­fine the Cheyennes on a small and arid reservation. Although they had signed a treaty three years earlier agreeing to accept reservation life, Lean Bear and the other peace chiefs were powerless to compel their people to relinquish their freedom. Cheyenne hunting parties ranged over eastern Colorado and the unsettled western Kansas plains as they had always done. They harmed no whites; indeed, the Cheyennes con­sidered themselves at peace with their white neighbors, but Coloradans nonetheless found their presence intolerable. Governor Evans and the military district commander, Colonel John Chivington, who had polit­ical ambitions of his own in Colorado, took dubious reports of cattle theft by hungry Cheyennes as an excuse to declare war on the tribe. In early April 1864, Chivington ordered cavalry to fan out into western Kansas and to kill Cheyennes 'whenever and wherever found.'

Lean Bear and his fellow peace chief Black Kettle had passed the winter and early spring quietly near Fort Larned, Kansas, where they traded buffalo robes. Now tribal runners brought word of the immi­nent danger. Recalling their hunting parties, Lean Bear and Black Kettle started their people northward to find protection in numbers among Cheyenne bands gathering on the Smoky Hill River. But the army found them first.

"On the night of May 15, 1864, Lean Bear and Black Kettle camped on a muddy, cottonwood-fringed stream three miles short of the Smoky Hill. At dawn, hunting parties fanned out onto the open plain in search of buffalo. Before long, they were back, pounding their ponies to the lodge of the camp crier. They had spotted four columns of mounted soldiers on the horizon, and the troops had cannon. As the crier awak­ened the village, Lean Bear rode forward with a small escort to meet the soldiers. His medal from President Lincoln rested on his breast in plain view, and in his hand he carried the peace papers from Washing­ton. From atop a low rise, Lean Bear saw the troopers at the same time they saw him. Their commander ordered his eighty-four men and two mountain howitzers into a battle line. Behind Lean Bear, four hundred warriors from the village assembled warily.

"Lean Bear rode forward, and a sergeant cantered toward him. All must have seemed well to the chief. After all, he and the Great Father had pledged mutual peace. Dignitaries from around the globe had greeted him at the White House. Army officers in the forts around Washington had been gracious and respectful. The people of New York City had honored him. He had his medal and peace papers to prove that he was the white man's friend. But the Great Plains was a world unto itself.

"Lean Bear was just thirty feet from the soldiers when they opened fire. The chief was dead before he hit the ground. After the smoke cleared, several troops broke ranks and pumped more bullets into his corpse. As Lincoln had cautioned Lean Bear, his children sometimes behaved badly."

The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West
Author: Peter Cozzens 
Borzoi Book published Alfred A. Knopf
Copyright 2016 Peter Cozzens