Mike Burns—born Hoomothya—was around eight years old in 1872 when the US military murdered his family and as many as seventy-six other Yavapai men, women, and children in the Skeleton Cave Massacre in Arizona. One of only a few young survivors, he was adopted by an army captain and ended up serving as a scout in the US army and adventuring in the West. Before his death in 1934, Burns wrote about the massacre, his time fighting in the Indian Wars during the 1880s, and life among the Kwevkepaya and Tolkepaya Yavapai. His precarious position between the white and Native worlds gives his account a distinctive narrative voice.
Because Burns was unable to find a publisher during his lifetime, these firsthand accounts of history from a Native perspective remained unseen through much of the twentieth century, archived at the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott. Now Gregory McNamee has brought Burns’s text to life, making this extraordinary tale an accessible and compelling read. Generations after his death, Mike Burns finally gets a chance to tell his story.
This autobiography offers a missing piece of Arizona history—as one of the only Native American accounts of the Skeleton Cave Massacre—and contributes to a growing body of history from a Native perspective. It will be an indispensable tool for scholars and general readers interested in the West—specifically Arizona history, the Apache wars, and Yavapai and Apache history and lifeways.
Orphan, captive, servant, scout, and witness to the contagion of violence that drove the westward expansion: Mike Burns saw it all. The Only One Living to Tell is a crucial piece of American history—a firsthand account of the heartbreaking Skeleton Cave Massacre and its catastrophic consequences, a debunking of the romance of the nineteenth-century ‘Indian fighter,’ and a closely observed ethnography compiled by a man who almost singlehandedly preserved his people’s heritage for posterity.
This is a profound, important, and powerful book that will grab your heart and arouse your mind for years to come. Beautifully written, it should be read by anyone who cares about Native Americans or being human.
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