Lakota Culture, World Economy

Lakota Culture, World Economy

by Kathleen Ann Pickering, Kathleen Pickering


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780803287792
Publisher: UNP - Nebraska Paperback
Publication date: 06/01/2004
Pages: 179
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Kathleen Ann Pickering is an associate professor of anthropology at Colorado State University.

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Lakota Culture, World Economy

By Kathleen Ann Pickering

University of Nebraska Press

Copyright © 2000 University of Nebraska Press
All right reserved.

Chapter One

A History and Overview of the Lakota Economy

Looking at both the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations is like getting to know two sisters. To outsiders, the similarities between the reservations are remarkable. To those living on the reservations, however, it is the differences between Pine Ridge and Rosebud that tend to dominate conversation. When Lakotas are asked about their economic attitudes and experiences in general, the responses of men and women from the Pine Ridge and the Rosebud Reservations highly correspond. When asked to compare their experiences and attitudes with those of their sister reservation, however, Lakotas frequently emphasize differences, as if the two reservations were worlds apart. A similar relationship exists among Lakotas from different villages within the same reservation. For example, when asked about the economic conditions on the reservation as a whole, people from Pine Ridge Village and from Wanbli have similar concerns and observations. But these same men and women highlight distinctive characteristics when asked to compare the two communities specifically.

The social and economic connections between the two reservations are strong. Many Lakotas have land, relatives, and personal histories that span both, and marriage between enrolled members of Pine Ridge and Rosebud is extremely common. Jobopportunities often determine which reservation a family ultimately chooses to live on.

Each reservation harbors special perceptions of the other that are shared in jokes and stories. People in Rosebud often mention being afraid of Pine Ridgers, finding them more violent, radical, and aggressive. The perception in Rosebud is that Rosebud's men are more "gainfully employed" than those in Pine Ridge and that Pine Ridge's women are more "gainfully employed" than Pine Ridge's men. Pine Ridge residents often note that Lakotas in Rosebud have given up more of their traditional practices to accommodate non-Indians and their economic interests. People in Rosebud feel that Pine Ridge is more culturally intact, with more native-language speakers and more households adhering to Lakota traditions in their daily lives. At the same time, people in Pine Ridge think the Lakotas at Rosebud are "more into Indians," understanding the value of working to preserve cultural traditions.

Although I acknowledge such differences in perceptions, I emphasize here the commonalities of the attitudes and experiences that bind Pine Ridge and Rosebud into a coherent economic arena. The residents of these two reservations participate in the same slice of a larger economic system and employ similar cultural mechanisms to deal with that system.

Prereservation History

The residents of Pine Ridge and Rosebud are part of the Lakota-speaking group of the Siouan language family, also known as the Teton Sioux. The Oglalas, Sicangus, Hunkpapas, Minneconjous, Sans Arcs, Two Kettles, and Blackfeet are each subdivisions of the Lakota or Teton Sioux (Walker 1982:19). Originally living in the region that became the state of Minnesota, the Lakota people experienced dramatic changes in their culture and society between 1650 and 1880 as they migrated to the Plains and developed an economic strategy centered on the buffalo and the horse (Bamforth 1988:91; Hyde 1937:3, 9, 11; Hyde 1961:3-4; Neill 1881:9, 42; Thwaites 1895:23:225).

Social Organization

Before the establishment of Pine Ridge and Rosebud, Lakota social organization was tremendously fluid (Henning 1982:58; Price 1996:6-7; see Myers 1988:269). The smallest unit was the single-family household. A group of households, consisting of relatives by blood, marriage, or social convention, formed the tiyópaye (extended family unit), the most basic unit of Lakota social organization. In aggregation, a number of tiyópaye made up one of the seven distinct Lakota subdivisions, such as the Oglalas or the Sicangus (E. Deloria 1944:40-41; Holder 1970:102; Hyde 1937: 309; Walker 1982:3-4). Each member of the tiyópaye had mutual obligations of support and generosity (E. Deloria 1944:40-41; DeMallie 1979: 233; Schusky 1986:68). At any given time, an individual or household unhappy with interpersonal relations or material opportunities within a tiyópaye could split off and either forma new group or join another existing group (Howard 1960:264; T. Kehoe 1983:329; Walker 1982:24). Consequently, a group such as the Oglalas often included members from other subdivisions, such as the Sicangus or Hunkpapas. Intermarriage between subdivisions was also frequent (Hyde 1937:31; Medicine 1938a: 273; Smith 1970:89; Thwaites 1902:38-39; Walker 1982:7, 16).

Related households or tiyópaye lived together throughout most of the year, and each had a nominal leader, although the method of decision making was group consensus (Neill 1881:44; Price 1996:7-8; Schusky 1986:68-69). There are suggestions that heredity played a role in determining the position of leader within a tiyópaye, but, in fact, leadership was often based on superior abilities, authority, and influence with the people (Holder 1970:102; Hyde 1937:30, 308; Walker 1982:24).

Each Lakota subdivision had an all-male council that consisted of the leaders of various tiyópaye: spiritual leaders, elders, accomplished hunters, and other men excelling in camp selection or other critical activities. This council made decisions about when and where to relocate or conduct communal hunts and about other matters of concern to the subdivision as a whole. The council members gained no particular distinction or material advantage from their position, but they received respect, generosity, and most critically social, political, and economic support in return for their ability and insight (Holder 1970:102; Hyde 1937:309; Kelly 1962:87; Pond 1986:68; Price 1996:9-11; Walker 1982:22-23, 126-27). No formal overarching political structure, such as a state or national government, existed for the Lakotas as a whole (Dorsey 1987:221; Goldfrank 1943:69; Hickson 1974:23; Kroeber 1939:149; see Hindess and Hirst 1975: 41). But even though each subdivision was politically autonomous and thus potentially in conflict with the others, religious traditions helped mitigate any hostility that emerged. White Buffalo Calf Woman had appeared to the Lakotas with a sacred pipe that they were instructed to smoke, thereby committing themselves to certain spiritual practices that depended on intratribal peace and cooperation (Mallery 1893:290-91; Melody 1980:4-5,9; Mooney 1896:1062; Price 1996:2; Smith 1970:87-88; Steinmetz 1980:17).

Economic History

The economic and political incorporation of the Lakotas into the world economy was well under way by 1725 (Hanson 1975:4; Henning 1982:59; Holder 1970:79, 99; Hyde 1937:8-9; Reher & Frison 1980:34; White 1978: 323; Wissler 1914:5; Wolf 1982:177). Like most American Indian societies, Lakotas experienced two dramatic periods of incorporation, the fur trade and the formation of reservations.

For generations before their confinement to reservations, Lakotas directly and indirectly traded fur and meat products for plant resources and manufactured items. Wider indigenous networks of trade connected the Lakotas with Upper Missouri River horticulturists and with groups from New Mexico to the southwest, the Hudson Bay to the north, and the Rockies and Pacific coast to the west (Blakeslee 1977:80; Blakeslee 1981: 94; Kenner 1969:7-8, 11; Wood & Thiessen 1985:48; Wood 1980:99-100). Horses, guns, and other Euro-American manufactured items were incorporated into these preexisting intertribal networks (Ewers 1968:22; Schilz &Worcester 1987:7-8; Wissler 1914:10-11; Wood 1980:100). Horses came to symbolize wealth and were a favored gift and exchange item (Hanson 1975:101; Hyde 1937:30; Roe 1955:20-21, 62, 68, 190, 267; Wissler 1938: 161). The Lakotas aggressively eliminated tribes competing for the same trade and used intimidation to create incentives for trade with hesitant or unwilling tribes (Will and Hyde 1917:184-87).

By the early 1800s, the European fur market had shifted from the nearly extinct American beaver to buffalo hides. Large numbers of traders and explorers traveling through the Plains also increased demand for dried buffalo meat provisions (Wolf 1982:176). The growing economic importance of the buffalo coincided with an increase in the hunting capacity of the Lakotas, owing to the acquisition of horses and metal implements (Klein 1983:146-47; Roe 1955:93, 177-78). Euro-American traders and government officials delivered vast amounts of trade goods, weapons, and treaty annuities to particular Lakota men who, some charge, agreed to pursue outside objectives often at the expense of their own. These men in turn gained power by controlling the distribution of these goods, regardless of their status within the tiyópaye (One Feather 1974; Schusky 1986:71-72). By the end of the nineteenth century, the Lakotas had developed a political system that was compatible with regional, U.S., and international demands for representative decision making and elite rule (Schusky 1986:81; see Wallerstein 1991).

As Lakota reliance on trade goods increased in the nineteenth century, buffalo herds decreased (Denig 1961:25; Mooney 1896:825). The systematic and highly organized exploitation of buffalo for the fur and meat trade outstripped animal reproduction (Holder 1970:114, 123; Roe 1955: 182, 190-92). At the same time, the interests of the world economy in the U.S. Plains shifted from furs to agriculture. By 1870, because of a decline in the global demand for furs, the number of trading facilities in Lakota territory decreased significantly (Pickering 1994:62-63).

As U.S. military pressure mounted and settler interests in land and agricultural production intensified, the Lakotas ceded land in a series of agreements, including the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. In exchange for land cessions, the treaties provided rations, annuity goods, and other forms of economic and social support, as well as an explicit acknowledgment of the Lakotas' status as a sovereign tribal entity (Hurt 1987:65, 85; Hyde 1937:40, 51, 56; Olson 1965:7-8, 27-39; Roe 1955:194; Utley 1984: 178-80; Viola 1974:7, 20). The decrease in land base exacerbated the insufficiency of buffalo and other animal resources to sustain Lakota communities (Hyde 1937:34-35, 56, 63, 280-81; Olson 1965:229; Roe 1955:192).

The Pine Ridge and Rosebud Agencies were established in 1878. With the partitioning of the Great Sioux Reservation by the Great Sioux Agreement in 1889, these agencies became the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian Reservations in south-central South Dakota on the Nebraska border.

The Current Reservation Setting

Pine Ridge Village is the employment center on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Clues where people work are revealed by the scattered buildings that make up this Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Agency town. The overwhelming number of signs relate to federal and tribal office buildings: Indian Health Service Hospital, Indian Housing Authority, OST (Oglala Sioux Tribe) Sewer and Water, BIA Headquarters, OST Courthouse, Red Cloud Tribal Office Building, and Pine Ridge High School. A couple of convenience stores, gas stations, video stores, fast-food restaurants, and a grocery store are the full extent of the private sector. Dakota Plains Legal Services, Sue Ann Big Crow Youth Center, the Holy Rosary Mission, and a number of other churches comprise the local nonprofit organizations. Given a drive of at least thirty miles and as much as one hundred miles from the last "real" town, the first-time visitor is often left looking for more.

The village of Kyle, some forty-five miles northeast of Pine Ridge Village, plays a growing role in providing reservation employment opportunities. For the last five years, Kyle has attracted ongoing construction work and the prospect of new office jobs. Oglala Lakota College headquarters, OST Parks and Recreation offices, an Indian Health Services clinic, a tribal courthouse branch, the Mni Wiconi rural water project, the nonprofit Lakota Fund building, and a convenience store all occupy buildings recently constructed in the village. In contrast, smaller villages such as Red Shirt Table and Potato Creek offer virtually no wage labor opportunities (see map 2).

Rosebud Reservation is less centralized. The town of Mission houses the bulk of state and county offices, some federal government offices, and most commercial operations-the two largest reservation grocery stores, a hardware store, two motels, two video stores, and two gas stations with convenience stores-as well as the largest campus of Sinte Gleska University. Most of the tribal and federal government offices are located in Rosebud Village, along with Sinte Gleska University's main offices. The village of St. Francis boasts the headquarters of the St. Francis Jesuit Mission.

Social Organization and Values

Family is the primary social unit for interaction on the reservations. Several people mentioned to me that it was unusual to go visit or talk with someone outside their family. Some families continue to refer to themselves as tiyópaye, particularly in Pine Ridge (One Feather 1974). Most of the tiyópaye have been through numerous shifts in location and membership since reservation residence, as U.S. policies of land allotment, treaty annuity distributions, and relief projects created local political tensions (Biolsi 1992:104-5). Many elders feel that even families are not as close as they used to be, noting that in the past it had been common to go visit a relative on another part of the reservation. "People went visiting by wagon," an elder woman from Oglala remembers, "and when they got to your place, they'd stay overnight, maybe camp out even for two or three months at their relatives, and then go back to their own place. People don't do that anymore. The families aren't close like that, and people are always running around here and there."

Yet, of all the aspects identified as fundamental to Lakota culture, the importance of relatives and the obligations of each individual to his or her relatives is still the most pervasive. "When Wóhpe, daughter of Mahpíyatho, came before the people as White Buffalo Calf Woman, she brought two very important laws: Respect your elders and take care of your relatives. These laws were the basis for the tiyópaye. When wise men speak at feasts and meetings, they always remind the people that these laws are important to the Sioux people" (One Feather 1974:21). The phrase Mitákuye Oyás'i, translated "All my relatives," is used as the ending to prayers, speeches, and editorials. As one Rosebud spiritual leader explained: "Mitákuye Oyás'i" means you have to learn to be a relative to all living things and all things of the earth. The flowering of the Sacred Tree is our thoughts and the fruits are our feelings. Thiwáhe, the family, is one tree, male, female, and children. The way you know if it is a good strong tree is its relationship to other trees."

This conception of relatives influences the way household, family, and community social relations work on Pine Ridge and Rosebud. Lakotas use the terms grandmother, aunt, daughter, and grandchild to apply to a broad range of relationships, some consistent with Western kinship, some consistent with Lakota kinship, and some purely fictive. Lakota kinship addresses the mother and all her sisters as iná or mother, and all the children of her sisters as siblings. Similarly, the father and all his brothers are addressed as até and all the children of his brothers as siblings. The Lakota terms for grandmother, grandfather, and grandchild are used more generally for those much older or much younger than the age of the speaker. In Lakota language, one is taught to address every person by his or her kinship term or, if no direct relationship exists, to call him or her the Lakota equivalent of cousin (White Hat 1999:15).


Excerpted from Lakota Culture, World Economy by Kathleen Ann Pickering Copyright © 2000 by University of Nebraska Press. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsix
1.A History and Overview of the Lakota Economy1
2.Culture in Market Production14
3.Alternative Economic Activities44
4.The Household and Consumption62
5.Economic Aspects of Lakota Social Identity77
6.The Political Economy of Need113
Appendix 1.Summary of Formal Interview Participants141
Appendix 2.Number of People Interviewed, by Community143

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