Land of the Spotted Eagle

Land of the Spotted Eagle

Land of the Spotted Eagle

Land of the Spotted Eagle

Synopsis

"A serious and notable contribution to racial understanding. Q"--Saturday Review of Literature Standing Bear's dismay at the condition of his people, when after sixteen years' absence he returned to the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation, may well have served as a catalyst for the writing of this book, first published in 1933. In addition to describing the customs, manners, and traditions of the Teton Sioux, Standing Bear (as Richard N. Ellis notes in the foreword) "also offered more general comments about the importance of native cultures and values and the status of Indian people in American society." With the assistance of Melvin R. Gilmore, curator of ethnology at the University of Michigan, and his niece and secretary, Warcaziwin, Standing Bear sought to tell the white man "just how we lived as Lakotans." His book, generously interspersed with personal reminiscences and anecdotes, includes chapters on child rearing, social and political organization, the family, religion, and manhood. Standing Bear's views on Indian affairs and his suggestions for the improvement of white-Indian relations are presented in the two closing chapters. Standing Bear's My People the Sioux (1928), edited by E. A. Brininstool, also is available in a Bison Books edition, with an introduction by Richard N. Ellis.

Excerpt

It is this loss of faith that has left a void in Indian life--a void that civilization cannot fill. The old life was attuned to nature's rhythm--bound in mystical ties to the sun, moon and stars; to the waving grasses, flowing streams and whispering winds. It is not a question (as so many white writers like to state it) of the white man "bringing the Indian up to his plane of thought and action." It is rather a case where the white man had better grasp some of the Indian's spiritual strength. I protest against calling my people savages. How can the Indian, sharing all the virtues of the white man, be justly called a savage? The white race today is but half civilized and unable to order his life into ways of peace and righteousness.

Luther Standing Bear, The Tragedy of the Sioux, American Mercury 24, no. 95 (November 1931): 277.

In 1931, after an absence of sixteen years, Luther Standing Bear returned to the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. In preceding years conditions on the reservation had worsened, and Standing Bear was shocked by the physical and mental status of the reservation Sioux. If his visit did not serve as a catalyst for the writing of his third book, Land of the Spotted Eagle, it undoubtedly confirmed and strengthened previously formed opinions about the impact of federal Indian policies and convinced him of the need to educate the American people about the strengths of traditional Sioux culture. While he wrote about the Teton Sioux, his people, he also offered more general comments about the importance of native cultures and values and the status of Indian people in American society.

Although Standing Bear describes himself as an Oglala, one of the subtribes of the Teton, or western, Sioux, he may have been a Brulé. He was probably born in the mid-1860s, in the month "when the bark of the trees cracked" in the year of "breaking up of camp." His father, Standing Bear the first, was probably a Brulé band leader on the Rosebud Reservation, which was just to the east of Pine Ridge. Plenty Kill, as young Standing Bear was named, was raised in the traditional Sioux manner, although Sioux freedom was being restricted by military campaigns and government policies, and traditional culture was also undergoing change.

During the 1850s the American army appeared in force in Sioux country, and in 1855, following an army attack on a . . .

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