Rome is rich in Cherokee heritage but it will be the history of a Plains tribe, the Lakota, that author Bill Matson and Elder Floyd Clown Sr. — a descendant of Crazy Horse — will focus on during their visit.
The duo is slated for a lecture and book-signing event Feb. 6 at the Rome Area History Museum.
Matson is the author of “Crazy Horse: The Lakota Warrior’s Life and Legacy.” Matson’s father actually started to write the story but contracted lymphoma. On his deathbed in 1998, he asked his son to finish the book.
“I started from scratch,” Matson said.
His research included reading close to 300 books on Crazy Horse and the Lakota Sioux. He made numerous trips to various reservations and to a sacred mountain known as Bear Butte, near Sturgis, South Dakota.
Along the way he met Doug War Eagle, who introduced him to Elder Floyd Clown, one of the three administrators of the Crazy Horse estate.
Clown literally threw down Matson’s initial manuscripts and called it garbage.
“I tried to act like I wasn’t hurt and they said they’d tell me the true story if I had a good heart,” Matson said.
Matson was taken into a sweat lodge where he listened to songs and prayers in Lakota, although he had no idea what was being said.
“I think, physically, it got rid of all the toxins and I felt good after that for two days,” Matson said. “It was a little hotter than a sauna.”
For the next 12 years, he was taken to each of the special Lakota oral history sites.
“Then I wrote the book and there were six months of corrections,” Matson said. “It told me a lot of those early books were misinterpreted or had misinformation ... (the Lakota) had the last say on everything I wrote.”
Since finishing the book, Matson has been joined by Clown at close to 300 lectures around the world. Matson speaks for about 20 minutes and then Elder Floyd Clown spends an hour or so telling stories of Crazy Horse from the Lakota perspective.
Clown is also an official spokesman for the family. He got his surname from the government because there was no direct English translation for what his father was called — a “heyoka.” It refers to someone who heals through laughter.
Most of the family has remained silent about their relationship to Crazy Horse since his assassination in 1877. They only began to open up in response to various entities that were using the name Crazy Horse without consent of the family.
The lecture and book-signing will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 in the museum at 305 Broad St. There is no admission charge but people will have an opportunity to purchase the book for $30.