Friday, May 31, 2013

Terrible Justice: Sioux Chiefs And U.S. Soldiers, A Review

A Terrible Justice is a must read for the American Western enthusiast.
Terrible Justice: Sioux Chiefs & US Soldiers
Criticism Of An Otherwise Good Book
By Dakota Wind
BISMARCK, ND – I recently picked up a copy of Doreen Chaky’s Terrible Justice: Sioux Chiefs and U.S. Soldiers on the Upper Missouri, 1854–1868. The first paragraph into the first chapter, Terrible Justice, I immediately determined that this wasn’t a narrative of the Plains Indians conflicts, but a serious study about what happened, when it happened and who was there. A narrative is rather like a travel writer’s attempt to take the reader there. The purpose of the narrative is to make the event easy to read, and something is lost in that style.

Chapters like The Battle of Fort Rice are lengthy and detailed. Nearly no soldier or Indian goes unnamed, and I almost felt I was reading Homer’s Iliad. I had previously read, and re-read Ben Innis’ Bloody Knife: Custer’s Favorite Scout for basic information about what Innis describes as a ten-day siege of Fort Rice, and pretty much leaves it at that. Chakey has gone back and scoured every known published source (The Frontier Scout, military orders for the day, muster roles, etc.) and has delivered the most complete telling of Sitting Bull’s assaults on a military fort. More than just a siege or stand-off, with Chakey’s version, one sees the battle as a battle.

Terrible Justice features maps by a Bill Wilson. Maps which have been pain-stakingly reconstructed from explorers’, traders’ and military maps to show where many of the Sioux (Dakota and Lakota) were known to be in the time period the book focuses on. One of Wilson’s maps even features a breakdown of Sioux tribes and their dialects.

I love maps. I love maps that showcase the Northern Great Plains. Wilson’s maps are detailed with battles sites and forts, place names and state lines, all the standard fare and more that one expects in a map of Dakota Territory. I can appreciate the time and detail that has gone into creating the two maps that are featured in Terrible Justice.

There are only two maps in all of Terrible Justice’s 408 pages, but the book could have used one more. I’m sure that there are resources out there, but the only book with a map – a single map too – that attempts to recreate the landscape as the Great Sioux Nation knew it, is Royal Hassrick’s The Sioux, though not enough detail was put into his single map, only major waterways and major landmarks.

Wilson's first map which appears in Terrible Justice, on page 20. 

I’m not tearing down Chakey’s book, nor Wilson’s maps, they’re both wonderful resources to have in your library collection. I’m just sighing at the lack of a map that have traditional native names associated with them. Wilson’s maps are only an indication of Western/American mentality, the landscape wherein the indigenous have been pushed out or wiped out and the landmarks renamed. The identity of the landscape is made over.

In the chapter hauntingly titled Babies On The Battlefield, Sibley’s 1863 campaign against the Dakota and Lakota covers the running conflict from Big Mound through Dead Buffalo Lake through to Sibley’s final conflict with the Sioux at Apple Creek between present-day United Tribes Technical College and the University of Mary. The running conflict is concisely covered in just two pages.

In this same chapter is the account of Ta’Oyáte Duta’s (His Red Nation; aka Little Crow) son Wówinapĥe (A Place Of Refuge) who reported that his father had attempted to find allies among the Arikara, Hidatsa and Mandan Nation at Fort Berthold, but they were in turn attacked for their recruitment effort. Wówinapĥe also shared with Sibley’s men that his father had attempted to reach out the Chippewa up at the Turtle Mountains and find allies, but too was unsuccessful finding friends there. I had only ever heard this story as oral history from Humanities Scholar Jerome Kills Small.

This same chapter, Babies On The Battlefield, goes into far more detail about Sully’s campaign which culminated at Whitestone Hill. Chakey’s strength is entirely academic and shows in this retelling. The only other place one may find a more complete account of the Whitestone Hill conflict is Clair Jacobson’s Whitestone Hill, the only difference here is that Jacobson includes as much of the native perspective of the conflict as well as the Sully’s and his command’s accounts.

On page 176 the reader learns the awful reasoning behind the chapter’s title. Soldiers’ accounts of the days display a kill and let die philosophy in their carnage. Shooting dogs who drug travois carrying babies were shot, and if they missed, the baby was at rest. The harsh use of language clearly dehumanizes the Sioux, and that’s the sad truth of Sully’s campaign. Babies who were found, the innocent survivors, were given to the women prisoners.

There is no mention of the two pictographic accounts of the Whitestone Hill conflict. The absence of these two recorded primary documents is a resounding silence, the Lakota and Dakota remain voiceless without the inclusion of these firsthand accounts.

My concerns are few (maps and pictographs) but I feel important. Chakey’s Terrible Justice deserves a spot on the bookshelf of the student of American History or Native American history. Footnotes rest at the bottom of nearly each page; a wonderful bibliography follows the conclusion of the book which takes the reader up to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Traditional Lakota Horsemanship Lives

A spotted black horse keeps a watchful eye on visitors.
Šhuŋg Nağí Kičhí Okižhu
"Becoming One With The Spirit Of The Horse"
Traditional Horsemanship On Standing Rock
By Dakota Wind
Fort Yates, N.D. – I met Jon Eagle at the Sitting Bull College right outside of Fort Yates on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation. It was a bright spring morning, a few distant clouds hung in the sky, not enough to provide shade, nor heavy enough to promise rain. Meadowlarks flew boldly through a light breeze carrying short sweet songs of courtship.

Jon had taken me to his niece’s land just south of Fort Yates near the wačhipi (pow-wow) grounds. We followed a short bumpy dirt road, more trail than road, and the pickup kicked up a small cloud of dust which dissipated with the quiet wind. Suddenly we were there, where we saw his horses grazing along the meandering Akičhita Haŋska Wakpa (Long Soldier Creek).

The sun shown clear and true, but not hot, at least not yet, not in the spring in the land of forever. The snow had all but melted and only in the shade of the bends of the creeks was compacted snow still holding out. Tips of trees and ends of bushes bore small tight buds, a sure sign that spring had arrived.

On the drive to the horse range, we spoke of family lines. I had heard him refer to a lekšhi (uncle) of mine as lala (grandfather). To one another, however, we addressed each other as théhaŋšhi (male cousins) and it seems comfortable to do so as we are closer in age than in generation. In knowledge, Jon possesses practical, experiential traditional knowledge handed down to him and he’s quick to acknowledge who and where he acquired it.

“When a horse shares breathe with us, that’s a sacred thing.”

Jon brought me to the horses to talk about them in front of them, and it was far better to speak about the return of traditional horsemanship on site rather than back in the confines of an office. The talk bounced between ancestral or genetic memory, traditional stories of the horse, Lakĥóta societies of history and the recent Black Spotted Horse Society, and traditional horsemanship which is based on developing a relationship versus the western dominion of horse-breaking.

We stepped out of his pickup and onto the floodplain of the creek, a gentle steppe above a wandering waterway that’s quietly shaped and cut a path at the bottom of the valley floor over thousands of years. Horses circled around the little steppe looking for fresh green spring grass and found it shooting up through last year’s brown remains.

Jon stopped us perhaps twenty feet from a mottled brown and white pony as we continued to exchange pleasantries about the day. After a while the mottled pony came over and shared an affectionate greeting with Jon, and introduced herself to me. I held my hand up and she sniffed and huffed at me for a few minutes and tolerated the touch of my palm to the bridge of her face. “When a horse shares breathe with us, that’s a sacred thing,” explained Jon, “They’re sharing their spirit with us.” The mottled pony made a final quiet non-committal huff of me, took a few steps back into the grass and put her nose back to the ground.

A horse made of shadow and light on a bluff along Long Soldier Creek.

In the cool breezy morning air under a now cloudless azure sky our conversation began in earnest about the horse and the return of the practice of traditional horsemanship by the people of Iŋyáŋ Wosláta (Standing Rock).

“The horses have a language of their own, and a natural social order,” explained Jon. With domestication of the horses, humans have interrupted the natural order according to Jon.

The pony that brought herself over to Jon and introduced herself to me, is “untouched” explained Jon. “She’s never known a halter, she’s never been saddled, and I’m trying to preserve that in her.” Indeed, there’s a spirit of equality that emanates from her as though we’re brother and sister, rather than man and animal. It feels as though she would let me ride on her back at her prerogative rather than mine.

...a telling quality of spirit, a gentle quality found in their eyes.

Jon says that he looks for a telling quality of spirit, a gentle quality found in their eyes. “It tells me that they’re intelligent and that she’s trainable, that I can develop a relationship,” he says. For Jon, horses are friends to develop a relationship with, not merely a domestic work animal for breaking, pulling and riding. When people ask him how to learn how to ride a horse, he says that’s something that he can’t teach. In fact, he insists that one needs to develop a relationship with the horse. If one can’t develop a relationship with a horse, one can’t ride a horse.

It’s a lifelong lifestyle for Jon Eagle. He was born into a horse ranching family who rode along the Snake and Grand rivers in South Dakota. In those days, not so long ago, before ATVs, ranchers depended on horses to ride the range and cross the steppe. “We wanted what we called an ‘All Day Horse.’ A horse that could go all day and could get the job done.”

Jon and one of his spotted horses. Our interview commenced after her careful inspection and approval of me.

Jon’s children take an active role in horsemanship. They water and feed the herd, venture into the field to repair fence line, anything that puts them in direct field contact with their horses. They ride some of their horses and are equally practiced in saddle and tack as well as bareback riding. Jon doesn’t push them into the field, but rather lets his children determine their own time with their horses. “I want them to enjoy this. It’s a way of life,” said Jon.

I asked Jon if he rides bareback, a question which he graciously answered and led us into discussion about western horsemanship and traditional Lakĥóta horsemanship. “I can’t ride bareback,” he said and then recounted an incident back in 2000 when he rode a two-year old mare all summer then put her away for the winter. When spring returned, he corralled her and when he rode her, she “clicked,” doing everything he wanted her to do as though he had ridden her only yesterday. Feeling rather enthusiastic about his mare’s recall, he took her out in the field when she began to behave unfavorably. Thinking that Jon had to “correct” his mare he directed her to a run.

“I realized that our cowboy way of horsemanship was disrespectful and abusive. We broke them and they resented that.”

“I was 5’11” when I started that day, and became 5’10” by day’s end. I had shattered my pelvis and fractured by back,” recalled Jon with a distant gaze in his eyes that told me he wasn’t just looking over my shoulder down the dirt road, but was looking back in time. The incident humbled Jon. He was raised as a cowboy and was trained to have dominion over the horses, to break them. “I realized that our cowboy way of horsemanship was disrespectful and abusive. We broke them and they resented that.”

In the time Jon was laid up in recovery, he began to rethink his approach to the horse. He picked one of Monty Roberts’ books about natural horsemanship which talks about the concept of “join up.” Jon then brought his horse into the corral, and after she read Jon’s body language, she became comfortable with him again and approached him after a short while.

In another version of the horses' arrival, the horse came out of a swirl where the James River converges with the Missouri River.

Jon contacted his théhaŋšhi, Greg Holy Bull, in Red Scaffold on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation and heard the story of the Lakĥóta story of the horse. This, Jon graciously shared with me:

A long time ago, the people traveled west to some mountains, then turned south where they encountered a camp of people whom they had never before met. In that camp, they noticed too, that there was an animal that they had never before seen. Unfortunately, enthusiasm of first contact swiftly broke down and violence broke out. During the conflict, the horses broke free and scattered. Warriors went into the new enemies’ camp during the fight and stole women thinking to make wives of them. The people, the Lakĥota, made a run north with the enemy in hot pursuit. Gradually, it happened that the enemy lost heart and turned back. The people slowed their flight in response the enemy retreat and to their wonder, encountered the harras. Warriors wanted these horses and tried taking them without success. In the evening, after camp was established, the enemy women went out in the field and sang to the horses which drew them in. With the horses drawn closer to the familiarity and soothing tone of the women, warriors would attempt to capture them to no avail. All the while the tiyošpaye kept moving. A day came when they came to a river, there they made an abrupt turn east, back to their ancestral territory, and lo, the harras followed. Gradually the horses and warriors came to an understanding and so that’s how this one band of Lakĥota came to have the horse.
Note: According to the story as Jon heard it, the enemy whom the Lakĥóta took women and horses from were the Spanish.

...singing and allowing the horse to come forward on its own accord, is the method the Lakĥota came to call Šung Naği K’sapa, The Wisdom Of Spirit.

The natural approach to the horse, the singing and allowing the horse to come forward on its own accord, is the method the Lakĥota came to call Šung Naği K’sapa, The Wisdom Of Spirit. The spirit of the horse senses the natural order of the world and the natures of men, and they respond. In the natural world, they know when thunderstorms are coming. Horses read the body language of men, and determine if they will get close or allow humans to come close to them.

Jon doesn’t teach people how to ride horses or master horses. He teaches people how to have relationships with horses. He passionately recalls the lessons of the Lakĥota people and how they look at the horse as their own nation, the Šung Wakaŋ Oyáte. That everything out there is a nation unto itself. That everything has a spirit.

This natural and spiritual approach to horsemanship leads Jon to be able to harness and ride his horses without ever having to go through the traditional “breaking” or bribing of the horse. “I can actually get them to come walk over and stick their head in that halter, and it’s all because we’ve established a meaningful relationship based on trust,” Jon explains.

Jon has carefully examined the meaning of the Lakĥota word for horse. A search online, and in person among various Lakĥota communities have yielded different words and even different meanings. Šhuŋka Wakáŋ, which many give a contemporary interpretation as “Holy Dog,” but which Lakĥóta elders render in the traditional sense as “pitiful,” not in the western mindset of downtrodden but as “beautiful, innocent and pure.”

Part of the Lakĥota word for horse, wakáŋ, reaches back to creation. When Iŋyáŋ, Stone, let his blood flow, his blood which ran blue and became the waters of the world, his blood was Kaŋ, full of energy with the potential for destruction and to give life. When the Lakĥóta say Wakáŋ, it means something with energy, energy with good and negative potential. Taken altogether, Šhuŋka Wakáŋ means Beautiful Pure Innocence With-Energy.

...Šhuŋg nağí kičhí okižhu, which translates as “Becoming one with the spirit of the horse.”

Jon described traditional horsemanship with the Lakĥóta phrase Šhuŋg nağí kičhí okižhu, which translates as “Becoming one with the spirit of the horse.” The Lakĥóta people say it’s a way of life, and breaking a horse or having dominion has no part in building a relationship with people, nations and creation. Jon notes that with a natural spiritual relationship with horses, the horses put people in a place of honor, čhatkú, a middle place between the natural authority of the mares and the sires. It’s a place that is earned by trust, which is not so different from how one earns friends and holds them in esteem.

Before I felt it, morning became noon, and before we left Jon’s horses he related one more story with me, a story that came to him from Mr. Albert Foote Sr. who heard from his Lala (grandfather) the origins of the horse:

A long time ago, Thuŋkášhila [Grandfather, in reference to a higher power] had an omníčiye [a gathering] of all the nations in one place. There, Thuŋkášhila told them there would one day appear a two-legged, that’s coming. “They’re going to be uŋšíka [pitiful]. They’re not going to be able to see as good as you. They’re not going to be able to hear as good as you. They’re not going to be as strong as you. And they’re not going to be as fast as you are. So, who amongst you is willing to help them?” said Thuŋkášhila. After this question was posed, one of the šung wakaŋ took off running. Thuŋkášhila then sent Waŋbli [the Eagle] after, “Talk to him. And ask him if he’ll help the two-legged.” The eagle caught up to the horse, “Why are you running?” The horse replied, “They’re going to be a burden to me. They’re going to ride me and they’re going to want me to carry their things.” The eagle alighted on the horse’s rump and said, “This is how much of a burden they’re going to be.” But the horse kicked that eagle off of him. Eagle went back to the gathering and told Thuŋkášhila what transpired. Thuŋkášhila said, “No. You must go back and convince him.” Eagle returned to the horse, but by then it had started to rain and horse had been running for a long time and was sweating profusely. Again, eagle said, “Let me show you how much of a burden they’re going to be,” and again alighted onto horse’s back, and shook himself, and as eagle shook himself, his center plume came out and came to rest on horse’s back. Horse began to protest with wild bucks back and forth, but because he was sweaty from running and wet from the rainfall, horse could dislodge the feather. Eventually, horse relented and said, “I’ll be the one. I’ll be the one to carry their burdens.”

The sun shone true and fair upon us, a few clouds hung high in the azure sky and rambled slowly eastward. I carry no watch, and I didn’t see one on Jon’s wrist either, only the growl in my stomach let me know it was about midday. The horses had wandered across Long Soldier Creek to graze on the fresh dark green grass there. Jon had finished his coffee long ago and sat patiently on the gate of his pickup and gently tapped his empty paper cup against the palm of his hand.

There are no roads either, only the tell-tale ruts of the travois...

For a moment I imagine Jon in another time, sitting on the back end of a travois, tapping the rim of a hand-drum about to break into song. There are no roads either, only the tell-tale ruts of the travois that show how we arrived here. The lofty clouds are the same that floated here three hundred years ago, in a sky the same blue, above a quiet wandering creek just as hauntingly quiet then as now. The same breeze grazes me and cools me.  

I am brought out of this reverie the moment we step into Jon’s pick-up. We barrel up an incline back onto the lonely dirt road that brought us here. It’s my turn to open the barbed wire fence gate. The dirt road gave way to gravel, then blacktop. We drove back into town and into the twenty-first century. The efforts of traditional Lakĥóta people carried the tradition of the horse culture into a new age.

Jon Eagle Sr. is Húnkpapĥa Lakĥota and Isáŋti Dakĥota, his wife Martina is Sihásapa Lakĥota and Ihaŋktĥuwaŋna Dakĥota.  Together, they have seven children and two grandchildren, two cats, two dogs and twelve horses. They enjoy traveling to celebrations all over Indian Country and enjoy a rich and beautiful life.

Visit Šhuŋg Nağí Kičhí Okižhu, Becoming One With The Spirit Of The Horse for more information.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sitting Bull Visitor Center Opens On Standing Rock

The new visitor center near the Sitting Bull College is dedicated.
Sitting Bull Visitor Center, Standing Rock
Hear The Stories Of The Land and People
By Dakota Wind
Fort Yates, ND - On Wednesday, May 15, 2013, the people of Standing Rock and many invited  visitors celebrated the grand opening of the new Sitting Bull Visitor Center on the Sitting Bull College campus in Fort Yates, ND. According to LaDonna Bravebull-Allard, Standing Rock Tribal Tourism Director, it was a project a decade in the making. 

The building, a log cabin, was donated to the Sitting Bull College ten years ago and assembled on a hillside overlooking the campus and highway. At first it was used for offices, then languished with various problems from an unstable foundation to finishing the interior. Gradually, each problem was assessed and then tackled methodically as funding became available. 

A Medicine Wheel rests just outside on the north side of the visitor center. Pergola shading offers modest protection from the sun and rain. Outdoor seating provides a quiet place at three of the four corners for reflection and relaxation. 

Things aren't finished just yet. Future plans call for an amphitheatre for outside public demonstrations of culture, art, story telling, dance and song. 

Hard wood lines the floor and display cases within the visitor center. Lighting inside is bright but soft and profuse. Cases are filled with the finest examples of quill and bead work both historic and contemporary. Historic photos decorate the walls of the reservation in its early agency days.

Interior plans for the ground floor, or basement, show that a classroom will provide an area for Standing Rock's finest artisans to demonstrate their craft to visitors or instruct the next generation in centuries of tradition. 

The dedication of the visitor center was graced with the attendance of Isaac Dog Eagle, one of Sitting Bull's descendants. Kevin Locke, pre-eminent flute-player of the traditional Plains Indian flute and world-reknowned hoop dancer, provided the assembly with a benediction to the Creator and a song by Sitting Bull. Charles Murphy, Standing Rock's Tribal Chairman - longest chairman in office briefly shared a few words of welcome to all. 

A light rainfall sprinkled down, but never threatened a downpour, and an ever-present plains breeze carried the songs of meadowlarks throughout the entire program. In a beautiful gesture an esteemed visitor from North Carolina brought tobacco from his family land and shared it with Standing Rock's leadership. 

For more information visit Standing Rock Tourism.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Villages of the Ochéti Šhakówiŋ in 1750

A Dakota Village by Seth Eastman
The Villages of the Ochéti Šhakówiŋ
The Year 1750 On The Northern Great Plains
By D. Jerome Tweton, The North Star Dakotan
BISMARCK, N.D. - They are commonly referred to as the Sioux. They call themselves the Ochéti Šhakówiŋ, Lakĥota for “Seven Campfires,” representing the seven major bands of the Great Sioux Nation. Once each year representatives of the bands come together to hold council, socialize, and participate in religious rites. This meeting of the Great Sioux Nation takes place in Péšhla “The Heart Of Everything That Is”—the Black Hills, the place, according to tradition, that gave birth to the Ochéti Šhakówiŋ. It is a serious mistake, however, to group all these Siouan-speaking people under one name or characterization, for the ways of life of the Campfires differ considerably.

The Dakota, sometimes referred to as the Eastern Sioux or the Santee Sioux, live in the Mississippi and Minnesota river valleys and account for four of the seven Campfires: the Mdwakanton (Spirit Lake People), the Waĥpékute (Shooters Among The Leaves), the Waĥpétowon (Dwellers Among The Leaves), and the Sissétowon (People Of The Swamp). To the west of the Dakota in the region of the James River Valley lie two Campfires, the Ihanktowan (Yankton) and the Ihanktowana (Yanktonai), sometimes known as the Middle Sioux. The Lakĥota, who populate the plains from the Platte to the Knife rivers, is the seventh Campfire. Also known as the Teton Sioux or Western Sioux, the Lakĥota are comprised of seven bands: Oglala (They Scatter Their Own); Sĥičhaŋğu or Brule (Burnt Thighs); Mniconjou (Planters Beside The Water); Itážipčho or Sans Arcs (Those Without Bows); Oohénoŋpa (Two Boilings/Kettles); Sihasapa (Blackfeet); Hunkpapa (Campers At The Horn).

Siouan territory about 1750.

By the 1500s, the Ochéti Šhakówiŋ inhabited the prairie and woods to the east of the plains. They could not avoid contact with the Ojibway who were moving toward the same territory south of Lake Superior. Tied closely to the French fur trade, the Objiwa, armed with French guns, gradually pushed the Yankton, Yanktonai, and Lakota to the west. The Ojibway made peace with the 5,000 Dakota who stayed in the Mississippi and Minnesota river valleys.

The Dakota remain people of the woods. The Mdewakanton occupy seven villages along the Mississippi; the Wahpekute have a large single village on the Minnesota River not far upstream from where it empties into the Mississippi. The Wahpeton’s seven villages and the 12 of the Sisseton are to the west on the Minnesota River. That the Dakota are people of the woods and water influences how they live. They construct permanent heavily-timbered bark houses with pitched roofs. Some live in small conical structures covered with skins and bark. Both men and women build the dwellings—sometimes referred to as wigwams. For food, the Dakota depend upon the lakes and rivers for fish and the woods for deer and small animals such as rabbits and muskrats. An annual early winter deer hunt usually brings enough meat to get through the winter. The Sisseton, the furthest west of the Dakota, venture out into the open prairie to hunt buffalo. Some Dakota raise corn, squash, and pumpkins. Wild rice and cranberries are plentiful and maple sugar mixed with water provides a tasty hot drink. Dakota life reflects a typical woodlands culture.

The Yankton and Yanktonai lived together around Leech Lake prior to the late 1600s when the two campfires separated. The Yankton, about 3,000 people, moved out of the northern woodlands and onto the prairie country near the pipestone quarries. A hundred years later they have established themselves in the region of the lower James River Valley. The Yanktonai, with a population of about 6,000, left the woodlands in the early 1700s and have built permanent winter homes in the James River Valley to the north of the Yankton.

The two groups developed into mixed cultures; that is, they combine the ways of the woods with the realities of a new environment. They continue to live in permanent villages near water where fish are plentiful. Gone are the large quantities of deer, wild rice, maple sugar, and cranberries. In their place are large gardens and buffalo. Buffalo hunts take the Yanktonai north to Devils Lake, east to the Red River, and west to the Missouri River. The Yanktonai have adopted the earthlodge , probably learning the building technique from the Missouri Valley tribes.

A Lakhota camp follows a bison gange, a scene by George Catlin.

The Lakota, the largest campfire with about 12,000 people, moved to the plains between the late 1600s and the mid-1700s. By the mid-1700s, the Lakota entered the sacred Black Hills, displacing the Cheyenne and Kiowa. As more and more bands reached the lower Missouri River, the Lakota pushed the Sahnish (Arikara) northward upriver toward the Mandan and Hidatsa villages.

Facing a new land, the Lakota have had to abandon their woodland ways and adjust to a completely different climate and terrain. Soft-soled moccasins, so comfortable in the woods, have been replaced by hard soles, more appropriate on the sun-baked plains. Total dependence upon the buffalo has forced radical change. The buffalo, so numerous that they look like a vast brown sea, have become the life blood for the Lakota, providing food; skins for clothing, shelter, and beading; bone tools; sinew for sewing; materials for making all kinds of containers including cooking pouches and spiritual objects. One cannot overstate the importance of the buffalo to sustaining Lakota life.

A Lakhota chases a bison bull on horseback, a scene by George Catlin.

Because the buffalo herds migrate from place to place—sometimes hundreds of miles apart—so, too, do the Lakota. This has made permanent villages impossible; the tipi, a portable dwelling, has replaced the fixed wigwam. Village membership disappeared and has been replaced by smaller units called tiospaye—groups of related people. Each tiospaye is divided into camps that represent extended families. Because the Lakota have to travel, skin cookery has taken the place of breakable and heavy pottery. Because a tiospaye sometimes has to move suddenly, life is extremely well-organized and the closing down of a campsite can be done in a short time. The Lakota have acquired horses, making life much easier.

The Ochéti Šhakówiŋ are people of the woodlands, people of the prairie, and people of the plains. Where they live has dictated how they live. Their bond of togetherness, however, is stronger than their separatism.