Jim Recommends: Lakota America – Pekka Hämäläinen

I normally wait to finish reading a book before I start righting about it on Read This but I have been enjoying Pekka Hämäläinen’s Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power so much I needed to stop halfway through and recommend it to you all. As Hämäläinen points out in his introduction, one of the biggest issues of studies of the Lakota is that they all use as their starting point the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Very little has been said about the history of the Lakota from the time they were first mentioned in the historical record (the 17th century) to the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Hämäläinen attempts to change that.

Starting with their somewhat speculative pre-columbian existence he traces their time as hunter/gatherers around the Mississippi River to being part-time horticulturalists in the Great Lakes region to being the preeminent high plains horse culture that we all think of them as. And that is what makes the Lakota pretty amazing. Their ability to continually remake themselves to fit their circumstances. That is pretty apparent in the current section I’m reading now where they are attempting to gain access to the iron and firearms the French are providing to the tribes living on their borders.

The books is an easy read for all the information you are given in it. The only thing I have really had a problem with is pronouncing the Lakota words that are peppered throughout. And I am interlibrary loaning a Lakota dictionary to try a fix that issue. Once I’m finished with Lakota America I am going to move on to Hämäläinen first book Comanche Empire