The Chiefs of Council Bluffs
Five Leaders of the Missouri Valley Tribes
by Gail Geo. Holmes
Charleston, South Carolina
The known as Council Bluffs, Iowa sits in a strategic place on the Missouri River becoming part of the Omaha metropolitan area. How did this place start?
Five Native Americans were instrumental to this place Big Elk, Captain Billy Caldwell, Chief Wangewaha who was also called Hard Heart, Petalesharo, and Standing Bear. Though all have different histories, tribes, and experiences, their interactions greatly and permanently influenced this place.
Gail Holmes weaves this tale of these outstanding Native American leaders with the Mormon people as they passed through this area on their way to Utah as a storyteller intermixing the events and historical figures of the day as well as their conflicts and solutions.
What was outstanding in this short historical collection was Mr. Holmes research about placing these events in the present day so that the reader can truly comprehend where these places were in this metropolitan community. He also has an excellent manner in explaining the geography of this area especially the loess hills and the river area.
The Chiefs of Council Bluffs is strongly connects with the Mormom centers in the area, especially the recent production of “Come Home to Kanesville” at the Council Bluffs' Tabernacle. Mr. Holmes masterfully details the Mormom journey through this area and further relates it to the Native American and their interactions of the time developing a stronger understanding of the area, choices, and the people of this time.
There is one slight problem in that the story of Billy Caldwell is repeated completely in the book twice. Yes, this is somewhat like a storyteller repeating themselves.
The drawings by Brent Fredrickson were wonderful representations of the Native American leaders. Personally, the drawing of the five statues were perfect for the book and actually should be considered as real statues together for the city. All the drawings and photographs were perfectly placed in accentuating certain aspects of the book for visualization.
Who should read this book? The Chiefs of Council Bluffs is for anyone who has an interest in the history of this area. Being that Mr. Holmes was the president of a Native American branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he built on his experiences and research for this book which besides the chiefs it also focuses on the Mormom exit from Nauvoo and their stay in this area to their final migration to Salt Lake City.
Mr. Holmes has definitely had varied experiences in his life. From serving in the Philippines in World War II, to directing the aerial mapping of South Korea, to publishing a newspaper in Switzerland, to being a press officer for the World Plenary of YMCAs in Denmark, to working with the press from North Dakota to Saskatchewan, Canada, to being a copy editor at the World Herald in Omaha, Nebraska, all of these experiences greatly assisted in the writing of this wonderful book.
Who should read The Chiefs of Council Bluffs? Everyone in this area should to better understand and respect those who influenced the beginnings of our city and to fully understand the choices these leaders made for us.
I look forward to further publications by this local historian, Gail Geo. Holmes.