Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lakota Tribes

I chose to look at the Lakota tribe, located in both North and South Dakota. In the mid 18th century there were 20,000 Lakotas, but the number is now around 70,000, of which 20,480 still speak their native language. The Black Hills in South Dakota were sacred to the Lakota tribe, and they objected to any mining in the area, which has been attempted since the 19th century. This linked to our lecture, when John mentioned the settlers often offering payment for land for mining and other purposes, but it would mean the Indians would have to move and they were very earthly and against damage to the land.

In 1868 the US government signed a treaty stopping any whit settlement in the Black Hills, however four years later gold was discovered and the whites descended into the area. It shows that Native Americans are still sort of disregarded. The whites tried to administer non-interference with their policies, but the Lakotas (with Allies, Arapaho and the Cheyenne) defeated the 7th US cavalry in 1876, known as the Battle of the Little Bighorn. However it was a pyrrhic victory for the Native Americans – it ended inevitably in defeat.  It was known as “Custer’s Last Stand”, named after the General that led the cavalry, but it also became the Native’s last stand too, the nation was outraged at the Indians for fighting back so they redrew boundary lines placing the Black Hills outside the reservation and open to white settlement.  The Indians are somewhat misunderstood however, because despite mutilating most of the deceased soldiers’ bodies, they left General Custer’s, they stripped and cleaned it. Some believe they thought he was an innocent soldier, or there is another myth that they left him alone out of respect for his fighting ability.  Either way, it shows a degree of humanity, something that the rest of the world thought they lacked.

The tribe are still located to the West, which brings up old issues they faced regarding the settlers pushing them westward to the more desolate lands across the country, and they are still there.

Little bit of trivia here – the Dream Catcher is actually a Lakota legend!

They were originally referred to as Dakotas when they lived by the Great Lakes in North America bordering on Canada, but American settlement forced them to move west – continuing the westward movement. 

Today, the Lakotas are found mainly found in the five reservations of Western South Dakota:
-       Rosebud Indian Reservation
-       Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
-       Lower Brule Indian Reservation
-       Cheyenne River Indian Reservation
-       Standing Rock Indian Reservation

They are legally, and by treaty a semi-autonomous nation within the United States. Officials elected to councils for the several reservations and communities represent them locally. Each reservation has a unique local government style and election cycle based on it’s own constitution. The fact they are subject to supervisory oversight by the United States Congress kind of dismisses the progress they have made because they still need to run everything past the US government.

Well-known Lakotas: 

Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse
-       American actor of Lakota descent
-       Mostly plays Native roles in films, is he restricted or typecast because of his upbringing?
-       Was raised and is still living in the traditional Lakota way

Billy Mills
-       Second Native American to ever win an Olympic gold medal
-       Former United States Marine, this struck me as odd; the US are perfectly happy for a Native American to go and fight for their country, but they still don’t have enough power to make their own laws without America’s permission
-       Brought up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Chris Chavis
-       Professional wrestler
-       His ring name is the Lakota word for “Bull Buffalo” – Tatanka
-       Descended from the Lumbee Native American tribe
-       His search on Google images comes up with a photo that fans have photo-shopped of him wearing an Indian headdress and facepaint – proud of his roots or mockery?

John Two Hawks
-       Grammy & Emmy nominated, Platinum award winning recording artists
-       Music featured in films by Fox Searchlight, HBO and The History Channel
-       Taken signature brand of Native American flute music to places it had never been, brought it to millions who had never heard it before
-       Influences – moved by music which speaks with power, passion and truth

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