New Hugh Glass Biography Coming in May from State Historical Society

Mclaird - Hugh Glass (CI)PIERRE, S.D.—This spring, readers will be able to learn the true story behind frontiersman Hugh Glass, who is currently portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the Hollywood blockbuster “The Revenant.” As Oscar buzz continues to mount for the movie, the South Dakota State Historical Society is getting ready to release “Hugh Glass: Grizzly Survivor”by James D. McLaird in May.


The most famous grizzly bear attack in the history of the American West took place in 1823 and left Glass struggling for life. Setting out on a journey of revenge and forgiveness, he eventually crawled 200 miles across the plains back to civilization. The story of Hugh Glass has provided fertile ground for articles, books and film, but the real man remains much a mystery.


“Hugh Glass continues to be a larger-than-life character who occupies a significant place in American folklore,” says Nancy Tystad Koupal, director of the South Dakota Historical Society Press. “However, little has been done to create an accurate historical biography that looks at the other narratives written about him.”


McLaird, a Mitchell historian, traces the few existing threads of Glass’ life and delves into the role of popular history in making a legend. He also looks at the grizzly bear itself, examining popular sentiments towards the creature that led to its near extinction.


“Had it not been for a chance encounter with a grizzly bear along the Grand River in what is now northwestern South Dakota,” says McLaird, “Hugh Glass would barely warrant a passing note in fur trade history. That fact made researching him a challenge.”


McLaird is professor emeritus of history at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell. He is the author of the second South Dakota Biography Series book “Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane: Deadwood Legends” and numerous articles on the Black Hills and American West. 


“Hugh Glass: Grizzly Survivor”is the latest addition to the South Dakota Biography Series published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press. The book will be available in May for $14.95, plus shipping and tax. It can be preordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press at or by calling (605) 773-6009. Follow the South Dakota Historical Society Press on Facebook (SDHS Press) and Twitter (@sdhspress) for more information.




Editor’s Note:Email for publicity information and to contact the author.


About the South Dakota State Historical Society

The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call (605) 773-3458 or visit for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call (605) 394-1936 for more information.


New Biography from State Historical Society Focuses on Red Cloud

McDermott - Red Cloud (CI)Pierre, S.D.—A larger-than-life figure in the history of the West, Red Cloud is the only American Indian leader who defeated the United States Army in a war. In Red Cloud: Oglala Legend, the latest book from the South Dakota State Historical Society, author John D. McDermott examines the Sioux leader’s rise to prominence, his struggle against cultural domination and the victory that closed Bozeman Trail in 1868.

“With Red Cloud, McDermott has used little-known sources to illuminate the early childhood and worldview of this historical legend who lived during a time of great upheaval for his people,” says Jay D. Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Born in 1821 in present-day Nebraska, Red Cloud fought to keep non-Indian settlers and the United States military out of his people’s territory in 1866–1868. In what would come to be known as Red Cloud’s War, the chief defeated the army but would alter his tactics from armed resistance to a long-term strategy that included diplomacy.

In his latest book, McDermott goes beyond the Oglala leader’s experience as a warrior and focuses on his time as a statesman. Chronicling his diplomatic trips to the United States Capitol, the author examines Red Cloud’s vision for maintaining Oglala life and culture.

John D. McDermott is a research historian who has written numerous articles and books on western history, including Red Cloud’s War: The Bozeman Trail, 1866–1868 (2011).  Now residing in Rapid City, McDermott served as a historian for the National Park Service and a policy director for the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. He will be speaking at the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood this September. More information about the festival can be found at

Red Cloud: Oglala Legend is the fourth book in the South Dakota Biography Series. It is available for $14.95, plus shipping and tax. Published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press, the biography series highlights the state’s most prominent residents. Titles from the series can be purchased from most bookstores or ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press. Visit or call (605) 773-6009.

Biography Series

SD Book Festival

Last week we posted about the South Dakota Library Association conference, but that’s not the only travel we have planned this week. Starting Thursday evening, and running through Sunday morning, it’s also the South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood.

The Book Festival is a major event for the South Dakota State Historical Society Press. As the largest publisher or books in the state, this is our most important chance of the year to put ourselves in front of our readers. The Book Festival is always a really well run show with many thousands of attendees, tons of well-known authors and illustrators, as well as excellent sessions and presentations throughout the 4 days.

This year we’re proud to say that we have eight SDSHS Press authors and illustrators attending the festival and presenting talks about their work. Suzanne Julin, Marilyn Kratz, Donald F. Montileaux, Merlyn Magner, Susan Turnbull, David Wolff, Mary Kopco, and Marc Rasmussen are the talented people in question. We also have a major announcement to make, but we can’t give any more details on that just yet. Show up to the opening event on Thursday evening at the Roundhouse Restaurant in Lead to find out the exciting news.

Additionally, we’ll have prize draws and special offers at our display booth throughout the weekend, as well as the chance to hang out with our authors and illustrators, get their books signed, and savor the ever-growing list of books we publish.

We’re looking forward to a great show and we hope we get a chance to say hello to you at some point during the weekend.


This is not a post about the Mayan calendar or the potential for the world to end in 2012!

No, I just thought I’d update you on what the South Dakota State Historical Society Press plans to publish in 2012. For our fifteenth year of publishing books (we’ve been publishing journals and magazines for a lot longer), we have a varied, intriguing list.

Award-winning artist S. D. Nelson has written and illustrated a stunningly beautiful children’s book called Greet the Dawn. Nelson’s book looks at dawn from a Lakota perspective (he is a registered member of the Standing Rock Sioux). Renowned historian Paul Hedren will bring us Captain Jack Crawford’s correspondence and dispatches from his trips to the Black Hills in the 1870s. Crawford wrote for the Omaha Bee newspaper and his editorial columns offer an amazing view of the Black Hills from that era. It looks as though we’ll also have a new entry to the South Dakota Biography Series, although, right now, I won’t let on which famous South Dakotan that will be. Another children’s “mystery” will appear from former politicos Mark Meierhenry and David Volk. This time they look ponder the Chinese Ringneck pheasant and its place in South Dakota history.

We’ve got a couple of other titles up our sleeves at this time, but it is perhaps a shade too early to reveal much more on them. Additionally, we’ll be expanding out ebook selection considerably. The first of those new ebooks will be Merlyn Magner’s Come into the Water: A Survivor’s Story, and it should be available later in September. Look for ebook versions of the first three books in the South Dakota Biography Series, as well.

Finally, we’re also delving into ebook shorts. Over the last forty-one years, South Dakota History, our quartlery, scholarly journal, has published a number of award-winning articles. We’ll be bringing those to you in ebook format for just ninety-nine cents! The first one, Carlton L. Bonilla’s essay on the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and Races, should be live this month as well.

We’re looking forward to working on these projects and we hope you enjoy reading them.

What to Read?

At this time of year, people start thinking about their summer vacations (at least in the northern hemisphere, they do), and what they might want to read while they relax by the beach or pool, or even while trekking through a National Park! We’re no different at the South Dakota State Historical Society Press, of course, but a recent article in The Times about male reading habits made me pause to think.

Apparently, men make up just 20 percent of the fiction market. Now, given that the SDSHS Press publishes South Dakota history (nonfiction, of course), this seems a good thing in some ways! At this moment, I’m reading fiction (The Tango Singer, by Tomas Eloy Martinez), but, I have to admit, reading fiction is a rarity for me; I am also half way through a book on the history of cricket by former British Prime Minister John Major. So, if you are one of the vast majority of men who prefer to read nonfiction or you are female but have a man in mind who really needs something to read this summer, I’m guessing we might just have something of interest.

Biographies? Check. Humor? Check. Politics? Check. Environmentalism? Check. Military? Check. American Indians? Check. Travel? Check. Memoirs? Check. Sports? Check.

Who needs fiction when we’ve got so many other bases covered? Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to be male to read these incredible books! Have fun reading this summer, whatever you choose to delve into.

Women’s History Month

In honor of Women’s History Month, here is a listing of all our female authors and illustrators:

Carolyn Digby Conahan, The Discontented Gopher and The Prairie-Dog Prince
Cathie Draine, Cowboy Life
Rose Estep Fosha, Ethnic Oasis
Pamela Smith Hill, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Suzanne Julin, A Marvelous Hundred Square Miles
Mary Kopco, Beyond Mount Rushmore
Nancy Tystad Koupal, Baum’s Road to Oz
Marilyn Kratz, Umpire in a Skirt
Merlyn Magner, Come into the Water
Marian Hurd McNeely and Jean L. S. Patrick, The Jumping-Off Place
Paula M. Nelson, Sunshine Always
Molly P. Rozum and Sheila Delaney, Small-town Boy, Small-town Girl
Starley Talbott, Along the Grapevine Trail
Betti VanEpps-Taylor, Forgotten Lives
Janet Townsley, Dakota Dreams
Zitkala-Sa, Dance in a Buffalo Skull
Susan Turnbull, The Raccoon and the Bee Tree

Why I Love History, part 13!

Professor Emeritus James D. McLaird, award-winning author of numerous works of history including the South Dakota State Historical Society Press’s Wild Bill Hickok & Calamity Jane: Deadwood Legends has written today’s post in the ongoing “Why I Love History” series.

For variety, I like driving different routes when I travel. Once, when crossing the sandhills region of Nebraska, I turned south from Gordon. About thirty miles later, I stopped at a historic marker explaining that only a few miles east was the Sandoz homestead site. I had enjoyed reading Mari Sandoz’s Crazy Horse and Old Jules, so headed east. The road quickly changed from gravel to two dirt tire tracks through the grass, but I kept driving, watching curlews fly up and swans swim in nearby ponds. Finally, the orchard planted by the Sandoz family appeared before me. However, I didn’t remain long, nervous about dark storm clouds approaching.

For me, history enriches life experiences. Having read Sandoz’s books helped me appreciate the beauty of the sandhills, and experiencing that bleak landscape allowed me to more deeply appreciate Sandoz’s books. When I meet a person or visit a place, I want to know about the past of that individual or that locality. I appreciate people most when I learn what experiences molded them. I enjoy a community more when I find why it was founded and what changes have occurred in its development. These are among the reasons I find studying history a fulfilling experience.