A Sharp, Unflinching Account of the Modern-Day Native American Experience (2000)
By Remember this
Published on Nov 30, 2016
The Oglala Lakota or Oglala Sioux (pronounced [oɡəˈlala], meaning “to scatter one’s own” in Lakota language) are one of the seven subtribes of the Lakota people who, along with the Nakota and Dakota, make up the Great Sioux Nation. A majority of the Oglala live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the eighth-largest Native American reservation in the United States. The Oglala are a federally recognized tribe whose official title is the Oglala Sioux Tribe (previously called the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota). Of note, however, some Oglala reject the term “Sioux” because it was a name give to them by the Chippewa Nation, who were historically enemies of the Lakota. The term means “snake” and, as such, is seen as a slur.
In the early 1800s, whites passed through Lakota territory in greater and greater numbers. They sought furs, especially beaver fur at first, and later buffalo fur. The trade in fur changed the Oglala economy and way of life.
1868 brought the Fort Laramie Treaty, and in its wake the Oglala became increasingly polarized over this question: how should they react to continued American encroachment on their territory? Some bands turned to the Indian agencies—forerunners to the Indian reservations—where they received beef and other rations from the U.S. government. Other bands held fast to traditional ways of life. Many bands moved between these two extremes, coming in to the agencies during the winter and joining their relatives in the north each spring. These challenges further split the various Oglala bands.
After being moved several times during the 1870s after the Great Sioux Reservation was broken up into five portions, the Red Cloud Agency was relocated in 1878 and renamed the Pine Ridge Reservation. By 1890, the reservation included 5,537 people, divided into a number of districts that included some 30 distinct communities.
The respected Oglala elder Left Heron once explained that before the coming of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, “the people ran around the prairie like so many wild animals,” not understanding the central importance of community. Left Heron emphasized that not only did this revered spirit woman bring the Sacred Pipe to the tribe but she also taught the Lakota people many valuable lessons, including the importance of family (tiwahe) and community (tiyospaye). The goal of promoting these two values then became a priority, and in the words of Dakota anthropologist Ella Cara Deloria, “every other consideration was secondary — property, personal ambition, glory, good times, life itself. Without that aim and the constant struggle to attain it, the people would no longer be Dakotas in truth. They would no longer even be human.” This strong and enduring connection between related families profoundly influenced Oglala history.
First used in 1961, this flag was approved by the Oglala Sioux Triba OST Council on March 9, 1962 as the flag of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST). The circle of eight teepees on the flag represent the nine districts of the reservation: Porcupine, Wakpamni, Medicine Root, Pass Creek, Eagle Nest, White Clay, LaCreek, Wounded Knee, and Pine Ridge. The red field represents the blood shed by the tribe in defense of their lands and an allegorical reference to the term “red man,” by which they were referred to by European Americans. The blue represents the sky, as seen in all four cardinal directions during the worship of the Great Spirit, and the elements. It also represents the Lakota spiritual concept of heaven or “the Spirit World” to which departed tribal members go.