Charles Eastman (1858-1939) was the first Native American physician to serve on the Pine Ridge Reservation and a prolific author of works about Indian life and culture.
He is unique among Indian writers, whether storytellers or oral historians. He was raised traditionally, as a Woodland Sioux, by his grandmother, from 1858 to 1874, until he was 15. He thus gained a thorough first-hand knowledge of the lifeways, language, culture, and oral history. His father (thought to have been hanged at Mankato, Minnesota) reappeared and insisted he receive the white man's education. Educated at Dartmouth and Boston University Medical School, Eastman became a highly literate physician, who was the only doctor available to the victims of the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890, a major historical event, often described as "ending the Indian wars." Other Indian writers of this period were either entirely acculturated (had never lived the traditional life of their people or been educated out of their native knowledge) or were not literate, and were able to provide only "as told to" materials, through the filters of interpreters and non-Indian writers. Eastman had the lifeways and historical events experiences, and he did not need the literary filters of translators and white anthropologists or collectors.
Wigwam Evenings was written in collaberation with his wife, Elaine Goddale Eastman. It is a condensed collection of the values of the Sioux Indians, presented in a style that is at once both direct and engaging. These allegories are the essence of the Sioux culture told in prose a child of any time or place can understand. A rich collection of wisdom.