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Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power (The Lamar Series in Western History) Hardcover – Illustrated, October 1, 2019
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“A comprehensive history of the tribe”—The Economist
Named One of the New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2019
"A briliant, bold, gripping history."—Simon Sebag Montefiore, London Evening Standard, Best Books of 2019
"Turned many of the stories I thought I knew about our nation inside out."—Cornelia Channing, Paris Review, Favorite Books of 2019
“I recommend Pekka Hämäläinen’s Lakota America, which is my favorite non-fiction book of this year.”—Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg Opinion
Named One of the 10 Best History Books of 2019 by Smithsonian Magazine
“Astonishing in its scope. . . . It is rare to find such a work, a deft narrative so comprehensive that also includes lots of original research.”—Jon M. Sweeney, America
Hämäläinen “recounts his story with unusual verve. . . . Many histories of the United States still depict Lakotas as ‘props’ or ignore them altogether. Hämäläinen’s work gestures toward a new map of power in North America's past, where indigenous polities and politics were as important as non-indigenous ones—until suddenly they were not.”—Christine Mathias, Dissent
“Hämäläinen surpasses most of the legions of authors who have delved into the people popularly known as the Sioux, and his work will appeal to serious readers, who will find this a must addition to their libraries.”—John Langellier, True West
"[A] magisterial book. Relying on newly available ‘winter counts’—pictographs drawn in spirals on buffalo hides, cloth, muslin, and paper to recount a year’s activities—Hämäläinen successfully makes the Lakota people unfamiliar to readers, disabusing us of the imagery inherited from popular culture depictions and painting a more nuanced picture. In short, he shows that the Lakota people have long been brilliant warriors, diplomats, and survivors.”—Tony Jones, Christian Century
“Lakota America will undoubtedly become the standard work on early Lakota history and, more broadly, provide crucial context for understanding key events in the history of the American West. . . . It will stimulate rich conversation in upper-level and graduate seminars, and will long stand as essential reading for historians of Indigenous North America and the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century West.”—John M. Coward, American Indian Quarterly
"An important addition to the fields of North American imperial, Indigenous, and even environmental histories. . . . A fine piece of historical writing, of use to virtually any scholar of the American past."—Stephen Hausmann, The Annals of Iowa
"Comprehensive—its writing vivid, with rare clarity and power. . . This is a wonderful, engaging, and sometimes tragic book.”—Choice
“[A] profound history of the Lakota people. . . . Hämäläinen’s book emphasizes that to understand American history it is vital to understand Lakota—and, by extension, Native American—history. . . . Lakota America joins, and in many respects leads, a growing body of work centered on single-tribe histories through which we can see, for the first time, the wild making of America.”—David Treuer, New York Review of Books
Shortlisted for the Mark Lynton History Prize, sponsored by the Columbia School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation.
Winner of the Western Heritage Book Award for Nonfiction, sponsored by the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum
Winner of the Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize, sponsored by the Center for Great Plains Studies
Winner of the 2020 Spur Award, sponsored by the Western Writers of America
Finalist in the PROSE Awards North American and U.S. History category, sponsored by the Association of American Publishers
“Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse live in history as great warriors. Hämäläinen’s brilliant exploration of the history and culture of the people that produced these two men is destined to become a classic.”—Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard University
“Deeply researched, epic in scale, interpretatively adventurous, and ambitious, Lakota America will influence historians for years.”—Richard White, Stanford University
“Like the Lakotas he studies, Pekka Hämäläinen is a shapeshifter. He is nuanced, nimble, and wise, with an uncanny capacity for reinvention as new understandings come to light. The result is stunning. To read Lakota America is to rethink American history itself.”—Elizabeth Fenn, University of Colorado Boulder
“Lakota America is beautifully researched, persuasively argued, and justifiably audacious in its reach and implications. It is both a landmark in American Indian history and a provocative rethinking of North American history generally.”—Elliott West, University of Arkansas
About the Author
- Publisher : Yale University Press; 1st edition (October 1, 2019)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 544 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0300215959
- ISBN-13 : 978-0300215953
- Item Weight : 2.04 pounds
- Best Sellers Rank: #58,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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They emerge as superbly flexible people who went through a series of geneses from pedestrian foragers to sedentary farmers to equestrian hunters to nomadic pastoralists, each a precarious attempt to carve out a safe place in a world where European newcomers had become a permanent presence. They come to life as fiercely proud people who easily embraced outsiders, turning their domain into a vibrant ethnic jumble. Perhaps most strikingly, they emerge as supreme warriors who routinely eschewed violence, relying on diplomacy, persuasion, and sheer charm to secure what they needed—only to revert to naked force if necessary. When the overconfident Custer rode into the Bighorn Valley on that June day, they had already faced a thousand imperial challenges. They knew exactly what to do with him.
That is where, supposedly, all the pivotal imperial rivalries over North America took place, France vying for supremacy with England on the eastern seaboard; Spaniards, Comanches, Mexicans, and Americans jostling for position in the Southwest; and Russians pushing down the Pacific Coast in search of pelts and challenging Spain’s claims to California. The interior world was a sideshow, too marginal to stir potent imperial passions, too vast and vicious for proper colonies. It was Thomas Jefferson’s imagined Louisiana whose settlement would take a thousand generations.
This book is essential for understanding American history. How about the congruence of these seemingly different cultures?
Neither Lakotas nor Americans compromised their core convictions about themselves and the world. Convinced of the essential rightness of their respective beliefs and principles, they created a yawning mental crevasse where two expansionist powers could fit. They valued, desired, sought, and fought for different things and often talked past one another, which, ironically, made them compatible. It was only when nature itself failed to sustain both that coexistence became impossible.
Lakotas used every possible tool in their efforts to keep what they held most sacred. When dealing with the French, they could be happy to submit to a paternalistic relationship. With the relatively weak Spanish, they could take a more privileged position. And with the British, they could be violent:
They killed one of the traders, cut his heart out, and ate it, and they boiled and ate Memeskia in front of his relatives. The attack was a sensation, and it sent British traders fleeing from the Ohio Country in panic, leaving behind a firmer French-Indian alliance
Amazingly, the Lakota co-opted the Europeans strengths by somehow becoming great shooters and horseman (interestingly the arrival of the "magic dogs" was a million year exodus for the now domesticated horse that was made extinct during the Pleistocene). Their decentralization also allowed them to outlast smallpox long enough for the Americans to strategically offer up a vaccine. Disease comes up many times in this story. British General Cornwallis was forced to surrender at Yorktown due to his African Americans succumbing to malaria and France's New World Empire was abandoned with their troops suffering from yellow fever.
The United States become the local hegemon post the War of 1812 (known by the Dakota's as “Pahinshashawacikiya,” “when the Redhead begged for Our help.”) and the signing of the Treaty of Ghent. The Lakota would go own to dominate their Paha Sapa, lush in vegetation and a desired spot for Bison herds. The US, after Eastern domination of Indian lands, would find a much tougher opponent. The successful Union generals now in power would use coercion, annuities, threats, betrayal, environmental destruction and war leading up to famously unsuccessful military campaigns ("Warriors shouted that the wašíčus should have brought more Indians to do their fighting for them). Ultimately the destruction of bison heard and the massacre at Wounded Knee (“a people’s dream died there”) were the final steps in Lakota submission.
To dispel the notion of unintelligent savage, it is amazing to hear the diversity of quotes about Lakotas. All of them with a grain of truth as they used every tool they had available to them:
-A German traveler was struck by the mental shift. In St. Louis he had heard the Sioux being denounced as “the treacherous enemies of all white,” but a journey upriver revealed a different image: “the more loyal of the aborigines under the care of the American government.”
-Clark denounced them as “the vilest miscreants of the savage race, and must ever remain the pirates of the Missouri.”
-U.S. agents denigrated Lakotas as irredeemable savages “determined to exterminate” their neighboring tribes.
- Lieutenant James Gorrell wrote, “Certainly the greatest nation of Indians ever yet found.” “They can shoot the wildest and largest beasts in the woods, at seventy or one hundred yards distance,”
-Red Cloud fit the bill. The New York Times heralded him as “a perfect Hercules,” “a man of brains, a good ruler, an eloquent speaker, and able general and fair diplomat,” “undoubtedly the most celebrated warrior living on the American Continent,” who commanded ten thousand people and two thousand warriors.
-“A powerful and warlike people, proud, haughty, and defiant; will average six feet in height, strong muscular frames, and very good horsemen.” They were, he warned, “capable of doing much harm.”
Truly a fascinating history told by a great story teller.
over vast land masses was triggered by incessant violence, horsemanship, and raiding, to establish wealth and
dominance until the loss of buffalo, widespread disease, and, finally, organized plans of extermination by Texans
wiped the tribe away. Unlike the lack of any central authority over Comanche people, the fascinating history of the
Lakota people reflects a massive number of members constantly building a ferocious image as quick to violence as a
lever to bolster its decades of success in holding off the inevitable end of its hunting culture and as stewards of land.
Leaders like Red Cloud in particular are featured as shrewd in manipulating government officials, no less U.S.
Presidents, in stalling off numerous deceits, broken promises, and corrupt maneuvers to end the vast power and
military threat that the Lakota nation had amassed over centuries, not just decades..
My constant criticism is really a backhanded compliment..The author has provided such exhaustive detail that one
must imagine he included every inch of his research, to leave nothing out..The saving grace to me is his writing skill,
which presents the material so graphically and cogently that the temptation to skim never really gets going very far.
Over and over, as reading, I asked myself how did he find the time to tell so much? To our good fortune, he somehow did so