William Heat Least-Moon
Moon’s Life & Career
Born William Trogden
in Kansas City, MO
English, Irish & Osage
Served in Navy: USS
Education: B.A., Journalism & Ph.D., English,
University of Missouri
In addition to teaching at a few colleges, Moon
has been a professor at U. Missouri.
Has won the Distinguished Alumnus Award and
Mahan Award in Poetry from Missouri.
Other books: PrairyErth (1991) & River-Horse
(2001), about a cross-country trip by boat.
Has published in such magazines as The Atlantic,
Esquire, National Geographic, and Time.
The marriage referred to in book lasted 11 years.
He did marry a second time.
Lives in the outskirts of Columbia, MO, near the
See also back cover and Afterword:
What happened after Moon’s return
The process of writing the book.
Hints for reading
Study paragraph after contents page.
Review p. 8: Ghost Dancing & list of
Map p. 413 shows overall trip.
Use index to look up locations.
Mark unfamiliar words as you read.
Then look them up.
Most describe animals, plants & etc.
Keep Moon’s mixed ethnic heritage in
Moon holds back on analysis of
Authors Who Have Influenced Moon:
Jack Kerouac—Beat Generation Author
Walt Whitman—19th-century American Poe
Black Elk—Native American Leader and
Lewis and Clark—American Explorers.
Born in Massachusetts to
Dropped out of Columbia
to join the Merchant Marine
Traveled the country,
experimenting with drugs and sex.
On the Road (1957), a fictional narrative
based on his travels
Its sequel, Big Sur (1962)
Mexico City Blues (1959), collection of
Lonesome Traveler (1960), collection of
Became leader of the Beat Movement,
advocating alternative forms of writing and
Married 3 times (2 short marriages)
Had troubled handling fame, died at age 47
Traits of Beat Movement:
Questioned conformity and suburban
lifestyle dominant in 1950s.
Interest in Asian culture, esp. Zen
Buddhism and Haiku
Attracted to Jazz
Influenced by poet Walt Whitman.
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
Born on Long Island, son of
a builder, had 8 siblings.
Learned printing trade
stimulated love of words
led him to read classics.
Taught school for 5 years.
Became a journalist in 1841.
Working in New Orleans led to involvement in
Compiled his poems into Leaves of Grass in
During Civil War, Whitman devoted himself to
caring for wounded.
In early 1870s, cared for dying mother but
suffered a stroke.
Continued to write and revise his work until his
Black Elk (1863-1950)
Born into Oglala Sioux tribe.
Had first visions at age 9
In Battle of Little Big Horn at 13
Became medicine man in 1882
Toured Europe with Buffalo Bill Wild West Show
Witnessed massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890.
Converted to Catholicism Dec. 1904 after being cured
of ulcers after receiving the sacrament in a hospital.
By then Indians forbidden to practice their own
religion & other customs.
Better spiritually and physically, he gave up his
career as a medicine man.
1930 shared his life story and visions with John
Neihardt, who recorded them in Black Elk Speaks.
Meriwether Lewis William Clark
Reared on large Virginia plantation near Monticello.
Showed an early interest in plants, stimulated by
mother’s knowledge of herbs.
1794 to 1801: Served in U.S. Army, 1794-1801.
1801: became President Jefferson’s secretary
1803-06: Led govt. expedition to explore the
Goals of Expedition:
To chart the new territory
To find travel routes, esp. a
To announce the transfer to
new Native American subjects.
Lewis served as chief recruiter, naturalist, and
As one reward for this service, Lewis made
governor of Territory of Upper Louisiana.
Discouraged in attempts to marry and to publish
journals of expedition.
Depression led to alcoholism.
Slow in taking over his new post.
Discouraged by conflicts among Native
Americans and American commercial interests,
set off for D.C. for help.
Committed suicide during journey.
Reared on a Kentucky plantation near Louisville.
1790s: Served in Army under Anthony Wayne,
fighting in Indian Wars, esp. in Ohio.
Met and impressed Lewis
Left army for several years to restore family fortune
1803: invited to serve as co-leader of expedition to
explore Louisiana Purchase.
Was chief cartographer and skilled diplomat
Offered a captaincy but mistakenly made a
War of 1812: Helped defend west against
British and Native Americans.
Developed important map of American West
With Nicholas Biddle, completed and
published journal of expedition in 1814.
Continued to work for govt. in relations with
Native Americans, who respected him greatly
Known as “the red-headed chief.”