Grasshoppers in Summer

Written by Paul Colt
Review by Mary Lawrence

From the earliest days of colonization, white settlers and the United States Government deemed it their “manifest destiny” to own and control the land of North America and its natural resources. What to do with the Native American population resulted in a protracted series of conflicts in the 19th century—of broken treaties, Indian removal, and implementation of the reservation system. Paul Colt’s Grasshoppers in Summer focuses on the period between the making of the Fort Laramie Treaty in 1868 and culminates in the subjugation of Arapaho, Cheyenne, Oglala, Lakota, etc., in 1877.

Colt does an apt job of presenting the major players and varied interests at play in this shameful period in American history. President Ulysses S. Grant is presented as a thoughtful advocate for Native Americans. Together with his friend, Ely Parker, a Seneca attorney, the two endeavor to implement policies to transition Native Americans into settling and making them American citizens. However, politics, monied interests, and egos conspire against their efforts, and Colt showcases the Battle at Little Bighorn as the final unraveling of any sympathies toward the Native American.

Grasshoppers in Summer is a speedy account of ten years of crucial American history. Chapters are short, the passage of time noted by chapter and section headers instead of making the reader feel it. Some information and text become repetitive. Because of the numerous characters presented and cursory nature of the writing, I never felt emotionally connected with the characters. However, it is an important story, but if you prefer nuance and emotional impact you might look elsewhere.