Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

History, representation and storytelling

Mark Lee Gardner’s ‘The Earth is All That Lasts’
Brianna Amaral
Gardner poses in the Joy Center following his talk Sept. 20.

Mark Lee Gardner, historian and author, spoke about his recently published book “The Earth Is All That Lasts” on Sept. 20 at Black Hills State University. The book is dual biography that explores the rich history of Chief Sitting Bull and Chief Crazy Horse and the battles of the Great Plains.

Gardner was born and raised in Missouri. He has researched and written about the American West since he was in high school, which stemmed from a lifelong love of antiques, the Civil War and national parks. He spent summers as a seasonal park ranger at Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in Colorado.

Years after graduating college, he began his career as an independent historian, consultant and writer. Gardner has even written several guides for National Park Service historic sites, including the Fort Bowie National Historic Site, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and Fort Laramie National Historic Site.

Gardner’s previous books are very different from this book because it focuses on Native Americans. The book’s inspiration came from Gardner’s fascination with the Battle of Little Bighorn. In the Battle of Little Bighorn, the Lakota and Cheyenne people defeated Gen. George Armstrong Custer in 1876, a story that is not often factually told in history books.

“I wanted to tell a story of the victors and not the losers,” Gardner said.

Native Americans struggle with accurate representation and this book tells a story that historically represents them. The book represents the oral histories of Native people. Gardner took pains to ensure that his book accurately tells their story and that it was the best way to tell that story. The book explains about the struggle of Native people trying to maintain their homeland and place.

“Remember when they say, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover?’ Well, everyone judges a book by its cover,” Gardner said.

One of the goals as a writer is to have your book read. That means the writer must try to write a book that will reach a broad audience. One of things Gardner had to decide right away was what the cover of the book would be. He wanted to find a cover that would speak to his audience. One of the options to be the cover of the book was an array of pictographs of Native warriors and horses by Stephen Standing Bear. Instead, Gardner went with a photo taken by Joseph Dixon from the 1900s. The picture showed Native warriors on the battlefield of the Little Bighorn.

“Their culture is much different than my background material,” Gardner said.

It took Gardner five years to write this book because of the vast resources he had to go through to uncover the facts of the story and his different background. Gardner had to learn a lot of the origins of Native people, the stories of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, battles, treaties, surrenders and murder.

While doing that research he learned a lot about sacred items, holy men, pictographs and the events leading up to the battle. He talked about Crazy Horse Memorial’s ‘Horn Chips Collection.’ Horn Chip was Crazy Horse’s holy man and created medicines for him for protection and guidance.

“That’s what a great leader does,” Gardner said. “He gives everything to others.”

Before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull sundanced for his people and prayed for the protection and survival of his people. The sundance was a sacrifice for the greater good of the people.

“This was the only book that made me angry in the sense of learning of the stealing, the lying and the murder,” Gardner said.

He swore that he was never going to do another dual biography, but he felt this was a story that needed to be told. He weaves the stories of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse because they were both leaders and allies. The book explains the tragic deaths of both great leaders.

“I was trying to find the best way to represent the people,” Gardner said. “They were more than likely not included because it didn’t fit the narrative.”

While his book features many historical artifacts, there are things that weren’t included in the book. Some things not included in the book were quotes from the great leaders, written letters and other pictographs.

The book also includes an exploration of the fur trade, discovery of gold, the aftermath of the battle, the U.S. military and much more history.

“I’m trying to tell their story through this book,” Gardner said

About the Contributors
Sapphire Tiger, Senior Staff Writer
Brianna Amaral
Brianna Amaral, Photographer & Reporter