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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Jeffrey Ostler, the author, does an excellent job of presenting a very balanced analysis of the question of ownership of the Black Hills, home of Mount Rushmore. It takes a great deal of effort to avoid sounding judgmental, and Ostler is largely able to do so successfully. He presents the Lakota and federal government "sides of the story" and leaves it to the reader to decide what the result should be. Justice would seem to lean in favor of the Lakota people, but history has leaned the other way all too often. Ostler makes the people in this book come alive, and their stories have a personal quality to them. It is easy to see that Ostler had the advantage of first-hand research among the Lakota people, hearing their stories and oral histories. In that regard, and as a scholar of Native American politics and history, I am jealous of him. This is a relatively short book, only 191 pages in the hard cover edition, and easy to read in a short period of time. I learned quite a few things about a story I thought I knew pretty well, so that is another mark of a good book. If you are interested in Native American history, or the relations between the federal government and the tribes, or the idea of justice and history, then this is a good book for you to read. Enjoy.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 13, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Ostler, who is very familiar with Lakota from previous book reflecting their history since Lewis and Clark, writes a two part history of the Lakota (preferred over Sioux). The first is a very well detailed history that surprisingly covers a lot of ground from the Lakotas early known periods in the Black Hills, there movement west from their eastern tribal associations virtually to present time. Ostler covers the major events such as their difficult contacts with Lewis and Clark, their dealings with the manifest destiny travel through their lands, the Fort Laramie treaty that becomes the basis for their later court battles, the ridiculous Gratten affair over an aged cow, Red Clouds War, the Black Hills expedition, the Little Big Horn, creation of reservations, the reservation problems, attempts to semi-assimilate the tribes and of course wounded knee. The telling of Red Clouds successful war and the emergence of Spotted Tail, Sitting Bull, Gall and Crazy Horse is captured very well. The manipulation of treaties, the complex detail only understood by whites the erosion of their land, manipulation of supplies for tribal agreements, the failure to provide quality food stuffs, the elimination of the buffalo and attempts to educate the Lakota children while stripping hem of their heritage is a depressing story but accurately depicts the Lakotas plight. The second half of the book focuses on the Lakotas' battle initially to be properly compensated for their loss of Paha Sapa (Black Hills). Until the very early 1900s, many of the famous chiefs were still involved; however, legal obstacles constantly block the tribes abilities to achieve redress. Ostler weaves through the many complicated attempts made by the Lakota to receive a judgement. The exhaustion attempts include representation by one attorney for almost 40 years without much success. During much later attempts by a new team, Ostler provides a picture of tribal fractionallsm, the arrival of AIM, the conflicts between Dick Wilson and the more traditionalists, the occupation of Wounded Knee, the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and he brings you up to date o their current legal status. The major break through occurs in 1980 with a major legal victory but a change of direction by the Lakota to not just settle for compensation but regaining the Black Hills that is given life through the Bradley Bill. As Ostler explains, the Lakota continue their fight and have not given up even today. A unique book that goes beyond the history that most know before Wounded Knee and he provides a modern history update that tells of the 130 year battle with the U.S. government that has gained traction.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Jeffrey Ostler writes a very well researched history of the Lakota people entitled The Lakotas and the Black Hills: The Struggle for Sacred Ground. At a mere 256 pages, Ostler manages to include virtually every major and some minor events of the Lakota people in their dealings with the Europeans. Quite virtually, this slim volume says it all. The Lakotas and the Black Hills is really two books in one. The first part of the book is a history of the tribe and a good one at that. The second part looks at their battle to retain title to the Black Hills in South Dakota through the courts.

The legal battle has been going on for more than a century and in some ways represents as great an effort that the tribe expended on the battlefields of the west. What is more amazing to me than anything else is that just when it looked as though the Lakota would be compensated by the U. S. government for their lands, they changed their minds. The amount of the settlement? $106 million. But taking the money would mean the loss of the Black Hills and so the settlement money is locked away, quietly earning interest. According to Ostler, the present stash is up to $800 million.

The Black Hills is the most sacred land in the Lakota universe. Held dear above all else the land is considered to be magic and the spring source of the nation (Lakota). Much of that land today is in government hands, either the state of South Dakota or Wyoming or the U. S. Government. Some of the land is held by private interests as well. It is also the location of Mount Rushmore and therefore the attraction of more than a million tourists each year.

Will the Lakota ever regain control of the Black Hills? Only time will tell, but the strength of their legal argument seems to be strong.

If you have an interest in American history then The Lakotas and the Black Hills should be a book you'll want to read. The book is well written and will be worth your while.

I highly recommend.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Jeffrey Ostler has produced just what I was hoping someone would - a summary of Lakota history and an explanation of the status of their claim on the Black Hills. There is a lot packed into this short, readable book.

The first part is the sad story of the unequal military and bargaining power of the Lakota western plains natives and the "overlanders". As Spotted Tail, a Brule Lakota leader, said it was fruitless to resist the newcomers, "there were too many of them." (p. 45). The attitude of the settlers and their government was best described by Lone Horn (p. 67) "This is our land yet you blame us for fighting for it."

The second part is the century long history of the attempts of the Lakota to recover their land. There are judicial and legislative initiatives and generational changes in leadership. Most important is the public's evolution in the understanding of the plight of the Lakotas. The first generation of Lakota plaintiffs faced a government and a court system which defended the government's previous unlawful actions. Today, there is agreement that the Lakotas have been wronged and the issues surround how to address it.

I highly recommend this for anyone interested in Native Americans, their history and their current struggle.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Ostler's book on the Lakotas and the Black Hills controversy stands out as a must read regarding the sticky problems that have arisen as a result of broken treaties and general corruption on the part of the federal govenment that haunt us to this day. This book covers the trek of the Lakotas from their ancrestral homeland west of the Missouri River in present day South Dakota, their eventual preimmenence over other tribes in the Black Hills, their struggle to maintain their ways in light of the advancement of anglo civilization in west in the mid 19th Century and their eventual surrender to the same by the end of that century via the decimation of their hunting grounds and bad treaties.

I learned a bit from this book in terms of Indian history and culture. Such activities as recording "winter counts" for historical purposes are covered along with brief histories of famous leaders such as Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Red Cloud; the origins of the Sun Dance and the Ghose Dance are covered as well. I learned also about the notorious decision (Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock) that gave Congress the power to abrogate treaties at will in the name of "plenary power," which in my opinion sets a dangerous precedent in terms of private property rights for Indian and non-Indian alike.

Despite present-day efforts to reclaim part of their ancient homeland, the Lakota has thus far been unsucessful due to political infighting among their own people as well as obstinancy on the part of the federal government. I highly recommend this book for people to learn about indian history and offers a stern warning about placing too much faith in Washington.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I read this book soon after finishing Nathaniel Philbrick's gripping "The Last Stand" (on the Battle of Little Bighorn), so on opening the book I anticipated a comparatively dry read. I'm happy to say I had no reason to worry.

Ostler's book may not be an up-all-night page-turner, but it interlaces history and anecdotes, scholarly points of contention and the author's own analysis in a very engaging way. Covering roughly three centuries (or 2.5 billion years, if you include the geological background!) in 190 pages, Ostler crafts concise summaries of key happenings in Lakota and broader Native American history--such as the Fetterman Massacre, Ghost Dance, and emergence of the American Indian Movement. He seems to very judiciously choose which details deserve more lengthy discussion--such as a lucid description of key articles of the very consequential (and contentious) 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.

For me, not knowing anything of the twentieth century battle for the Black Hills, I found the narration of the legal proceedings to be surprisingly engrossing. I mean, how can you not get riled up by a story full of spineless politicians, tone-deaf courts, and decades-long waits for court decisions? And there is some satisfaction as the courts (and country) start to come to their senses in the 70's and 80's. But of course the story can't end on a triumphant note and Ostler does a good job of assessing just what one can hope for at present.

Finally, I'll echo previous reviewers as to Ostler's fair assessment of the sources. After reading the book you can probably guess where his sympathies rest on most points of debate he mentions, but he takes care not to denigrate any side of an argument. If anything, he made me want to more fully engage in the debates at hand, and better understand the intricacies of the issue--which is I guess another reason to recommend the book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 6, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Nothing earth shaking in this book, just a fairly evenhanded history of the conflict between the Lakotas and the U.S. government. If anything is less than evenly factual it is the descriptions given of the Lakota rights to the Black Hills. This is not surprising since this is how history has always been written by the conqueror.
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on October 18, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book seemed to represent a fair minded point of view. Not the "'europeans' are awful and our life would be better if they had not arrived" mantra. It points out that the Lakota may not have been 'native' to the Black Hills, though may have migrated away and then back to the Black Hills just before the arrival of europeans. But also shares that it does not mean it was not sacred ground. Observes that the way of life was changing regardless, native americans had already sent to extinction a few other species of north american animal, and growing population of the natives alone would likely have changed their way of life. Europeans simply accelerated it. Native Amer. had also chosen to displace other native americans to move into areas, limits the righteous indignation that they are a better race than others. All do what they have to do to survive. At the same time, it does not understate the abuses of them as a people and the failure of government to live up to its promises.. i.e., government doing what government always does. Well done.
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on July 5, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Very informative book. It shows the poor treatment of the Lakotas as well as other tribes in the American governments systematic extermination policy and many broken treaties. It also tells of the tribes fight to regain their lad through negotiation a legal means. The author goes to great lengths to not take sides but discusses both parties motivations which leaves one to draw their own conclusions. Great Read!
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on May 4, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
A great treatise on the great "Rip off" of the Black Hills, and how the government pulled it off. Although Ostler skips around a bit, he makes an adequate case for the Lakotas being the legitimate heirs to one of the most iconic geographical wonders in America.

Dr. Jerry Hollingsworth
McMurry University
Abilene, Texas
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