The Oglala People, 1841-1879: A Political History

The Oglala People, 1841-1879: A Political History

The Oglala People, 1841-1879: A Political History

The Oglala People, 1841-1879: A Political History

Synopsis

In the late nineteenth century the U. S. government attempted to reshape Lakota (Sioux) society to accord with American ideals. Catherine Price charts the political strategies employed by Oglala councilors as they struggled to preserve their autonomy.

Excerpt

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the United States government, through its agents, superintendents, and commissioners, endeavored to reshape Lakota society in accordance with American ideals. Part of this policy of acculturation included periodic efforts to modify or undermine the political customs of the Lakota people and to erode the decision-making authority of tribal leaders. By synthesizing archival sources, ethnographic and historical works, and transcribed interviews conducted with Oglala Lakota elders from 1896 to the I930s, I endeavor in this book to present the various political strategies employed by Oglala councilors as they struggled to preserve their political customs and autonomy in their ongoing relations with the United States. This study thus examines Lakota concepts of leadership and decision-making authority, highlighting the fluid political relationship among the several forms of Oglala leadership, such as the itancan (symbolic fathers of bands or tiyospaye), headmen, and warriors.

Furthermore, I demonstrate that Oglala leaders participating in tiyospaye and multiband councils over the years expressed numerous opinions regarding their political relations, not just with American officials but also with other Lakota bands and subtribes whose leaders, most notably Crazy Horse, resoundingly rejected diplomatic accords with the United States. From the late I860s through the I870s, federal emissaries frequently regarded the Oglala Bad Face leader Red Cloud as the archetypal "head chief" of the Sioux, thereby downplaying the political and diplomatic influence of other Oglala men, such as Man Afraid of His Horse, Red Dog, Blue Horse, and Little Wound. Moreover, historians George Hyde and James C. Olson in their respective works, Red Cloud's Folk: A History of the Oglala Sioux and Red Cloud and the Sioux Problem, have largely sustained this image of Red Cloud. In contrast, the current study strives to illumi-

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