Schlesier, Karl H.

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Born in Germany; immigrated to United States.


Home—Corrales, NM. Agent—c/o Author Mail, University of Oklahoma Press, 1005 Asp Ave, Norman, OK 73069-6051.


Anthropologist, educator, and novelist. Wichita State University, Wichita, KS, professor of anthropology, then professor emeritus. Military service: Served in German Army, 1945.


The Archeology of Sedna Creek, Wichita State University (Wichita, KS), 1971.

The Wolves of Heaven: Cheyenne Shamanism, Ceremonies, and Prehistoric Origins, University ourthermore, off Oklahoma Press (Norman, OK), 1987.

(Editor and contributor) Plains Indians, A.D. 500-1500: The Archeological Past of Historic Groups, University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, OK), 1994.

Josanie's War: A Chiricahua Apache Novel, University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, OK), 1998.


Karl H. Schlesier, a professor emeritus of anthropology at Wichita State University, is best known for his anthropological study of Native American tribes. Prompted in his interest by witnessing, as a teen, an act of bravery on the part of a Native American on the battlefield of World War II, Schlesier has become a "proponent of Action Anthropology which promotes the idea that anthropologists should not only be scientists and scholars, but should openly advocate the cultural and political causes of native peoples," explained John H. Moore in American Anthropologist. Schlesier's advocacy is demonstrated in The Wolves of Heaven: Cheyenne Shamanism, Ceremonies, and Prehistoric Origins, in which he interprets literal truths from oral and historical data to present a cultural reconstruction of the Cheyenne people and their religious traditions.

In The Wolves of Heaven Schlesier puts forth the theory, based on the archeological remains of the Cheyenne people, that a Cheyenne presence existed on the plains of America beginning from 500 B.C. A comparison between Cheyenne shamanism and Siberian shamanism places the Cheyenne people in the same pedigree as all Algonquian tribes. Schlesier presents his argument based on comparisons between rituals of the Cheyenne and other Algonquian tribes, such as the Yuroks of California, the Mahicans of New England, and the Evenks of Siberia. However, the Cheyenne tribe emerged as a distinct people with their creation of the Massaum, a ceremony of earth-giving. According to Schlesier, the Massaum was an elaborate ceremony of world revitalization, ritual theater, and performances of magic. Peter Nabokov, writing in the Journal of Religion stated that "Schlesier is trying to conjure up a nonstatic American Indian world in which peoples and ideas circulate, constellate, and periodically achieve new plateaus of religious-social integration."

Schlesier again attempts to correlate prehistory with archeological evidence of historic Indian tribes in his editing of Plains Indians, A.D. 500-1500: The Archeological Past of Historical Groups. This 1994 book consists of a collection of thirteen essays, each representing a different subcultural or archeological region of the Great Plains. The object of each chapter is to identify historic ethnic groups with ancestral prehistoric populations by using incomplete archeological records and findings. Even with evidence of tribal migration, population decimations, and cultural borrowing of implements, Schlesier bridges the distant prehistoric past with the dynamic Plains groups. With the same evidence, he addresses particular tribal behavior based on aspects of environment, climate changes, migrations, and human composition. "Overall, this volume succeeds rather well in its intention, and without question makes an important contribution to Great Plains archeology," commented Jeffrey R. Hanson in a review for the Journal of Interdisciplinary History.

Utilizing historical data, Schlesier makes his fictional debut with Josanie's War: A Chiricahua Apache Novel. Five bands of Chiricahua Apaches flee their reservation on Turkey Creek in Arizona on May 17, 1885, hoping to find a new homeland in Mexico outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. government. The story focuses on one of the bands led by the infamous warrior Chihuahua and his older brother, Josanie, in a detailed account of the last great Apache war as the band fights against the combined military forces of both the United States and Mexico. Combining historical documents, such as military records and newspaper reports, with fictitious action and events, Schlesier illustrates the Apaches' resourcefulness, spirituality, and humanity as they fight to the death in a last effort to obtain a Chiricahua homeland. Noting Schlesier's in-depth knowledge of his subject, Peter Bricklebank noted of the novel in his New York Times Book Review appraisal that Josanie's War "takes us into a harsh world, showing how injustice and prejudice proved despicably, needlessly destructive."



American Anthropologist, June, 1988, John H. Moore, review of The Wolves of Heaven: Cheyenne Shamanism, Ceremonies, and Prehistoric Origins, p. 450.

American Historical Review, February, 1989, William K. Powers, review of The Wolves of Heaven, p. 201.

Choice, January, 1988, D. R. Parks, review of The Wolves of Heaven, p. 806; June, 1995, T. A Foor, review of Plains Indians, A.D. 500-1500: The Archeological Past of Historic Groups, pp. 1662-1663.

Journal of American History, September, 1995, R. Douglas Hurt, review of Plains Indians, A.D. 500-1500, p. 678.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, summer, 1996, Jeffrey R. Hanson, review of Plains Indians, A.D. 500-1500, pp. 147-148.

Journal of Religion, October, 1989, review of The Wolves of Heaven, pp. 593-594.

New York Times Book Review, November 15, 1998, Peter Bricklebank, review of Josanie's War: A Chiricahua Apache Novel, p. 63.

Publishers Weekly, August 17, 1998, review of Josanie's War, p. 50.*

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