Lakota America ~ by Pekka Hämäläinen

I read Hämäläinen’s Comanche Empire back in about 2010 due to reading Empire of the Sujmme Moon by S.C. Gwynn and wanting to know more about that tribe. It was fabulous and I wanted to know more so I read the Mandan book, “Encounters at the Heart of the World” by Elizabeth Fenn and that continued to increase my interest in Native American history. (I’ve read various books since Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and maybe prior.)

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Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power
by Pekka Hamalainen
2019 / 544 pages
read by Joe Barrett 17h 34m
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I don’t know what it was about Comanche Empire but I did enjoy it more. This one was just as good in terms of research, and writing but there seemed to be more information but the subject was such that it felt jumbled for awhile – unclear who the Lakotas were. That may be true to life, though, what with nations, tribes, families-kin lines, smaller informal groups, allies and others.

The Lakotas were a huge tribe which was busily growing while the US was moving West. This was the tribe of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.. Hamalainen covers their story from the first we know of them, through Custer and on to Russell Means at Wounded Knee into the 21st Century with the pipeline project and Donald Trump.. 😦

Another thing which makes comprehension a bit more difficult, (he says he did it to make the Lakotas “unfamiliar,”) is to use the Lakota language for some names and places. There is a glossary but for instance, “Wasicus” is white people. It might be a good idea to find places mentioned via Google or something. (The maps and graphics are excellent but not always quite enough and there are not a lot of them. maps.)

For me it was much better in the early chapters and the last half . The middle section seems to consist mostly of a lot of small battles mostly between Indian tribes for scarcer resources or, more toward the end, against the Americans for autonomy. and living space. .

There is a lot of information today that wasn’t around when I was in college and studying this stuff in the early 1970s. Actually, there’s been a growing amount of Native-centered historiography since Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1971) or the movie “Dances With Wolves” (1990). There have been many sources used other than the journals of US military men. Hamalainen uses them and the telling is in the copious Notes section.

Enjoy!

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