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May 30, 2020

Amazing Hand-Colored Portraits of Oglala Sioux Chiefs, 1899

The Oglala are one of the seven subtribes of the Lakota people who, along with the Dakota, make up the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Seven Council Fires). 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. However, many Oglala reject the term “Sioux” due to the hypothesis (among other possible theories) that its origin may be a derogatory word meaning “snake” in the language of the Ojibwe, who were among the historical enemies of the Lakota. They are also known as Oglala Lakota.

In the early 1800s, Europeans 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? This treaty forfeited large amounts of Oglala territory to the United States in exchange for food and other necessities. Some bands turned to the Indian agencies—forerunners to the Indian reservations—where they received beef and other rations from the US 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.

The Great Sioux Reservation was broken up into five portions. This caused the Red Cloud Agency to be moved multiple times throughout the 1870s until it was relocated and renamed the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1878. By 1890, the reservation included 5,537 people, divided into a number of districts that included some 30 distinct communities.

Bone Necklace, Council Chief.

Shout At.

Left Hand Bear, Chief.

Strikes With Nose, Chief.

(Photos by Heyn Photo/ Library of Congress)

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