Lakota Culture During the 19th Century

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The Lakota Indians had the sad and unfortunate luck of becoming personally acquainted with the westward thrust of American development when the Americans’ attitudes toward Indians had grown cynical and cruel. This interaction caused the Lakota culture to change a great deal during the nineteenth century. Horses and guns brought about a dramatic change in the Lakota’s culture. They “enabled them to seize and defend their rich hunting grounds, to follow the great migrating herds of buffalo that shaped their distinctive way of life, and by the middle of the nineteenth century to evolve into the proud and powerful monarchs of the northern Great Plains (R6).” They acquired their first horses and guns, along with the knowledge of how to handle them, from the Americans they came in contact and traded with. The horses allowed the Lakota much greater mobility, which allowed them to hunt more effectively as well as make warfare more prevalent among the tribes. The Lakota’s traditional fighting style was not effective against the troops because while the troops were highly organized and trained the Lakota were not. The Lakota “in any battle, whatever the scale (R7)” stuck with traditional fighting styles. They would “singly and in knots gallop back and forth, firing arrows or musket balls at the enemy (R7).” The American troops followed the commands of their leader while in battle giving them an organized structure of leadership. Within the Lakota however, “each man indulged in a variety of flashy escapades to display bravery; he followed the leader only when it suited his convenience or inclination (R7).” This allowed the American troops the ability to easily pick off the Lakota warriors at will with little to no loss of their own. As seen throughout history, the guerilla style of fighting works well as a producer of propaganda but more often than not failed to produce favorable results and the end of the battle. American soldiers would return to their camps and...
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