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The Oglala Lakota or Oglala Sioux (pronounced [oɡəˈlala], meaning "to scatter one's own" in Lakota language[5]) are one of the seven subtribes of the Lakota people who, along with the 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, many 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.

Oglala Lakota
Total population
46,855 enrolled tribal members (2013)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 United States ( South Dakota)
Lakota, English[2]
traditional tribal religion, Sun Dance,[3]
Native American Church, Christianity[4]
Related ethnic groups
other Lakota peoples, Dakota, Nakota[5]



Oglala elders relate stories about the origin of the name "Oglala" and their emergence as a distinct group, probably sometime in the 18th century.

Conflict with the AmericansEdit

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? This Treaty forfeited large amounts of Oglala territory to the United States in exchange for food and other necessities[6]. 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.

Early ReservationEdit

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.

Social OrganizationEdit

Kevin Pourier is an Oglala Lakota jeweler and sculptor whose medium is buffalo horn.[7]
The Wake Singers, band of Oglala Lakota musicians

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."[8] This strong and enduring connection between related families profoundly influenced Oglala history.

Community (Tiyospaye)Edit

Dr. John J. Saville, the U.S. Indian agent at the Red Cloud Agency, observed in 1875 that the Oglala tribe was divided into three main groups: the Kiyuksa, the Oyuĥpe and the "True Oglala". "Each of these bands are subdivided into smaller parties, variously named, usually designated by the name of their chief or leader."[9] As the Oglala were settled on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the late 1870s, their communities probably looked something like this:

Oyuȟpe Tiyošpaye

Oglala Tiyośpaye

Kiyaksa Tiyošpaye


By 1830, the Oglala had around 3,000 members. In the 1820s and 1830s, the Oglala, along with the Brulé, another Lakota band, and three other Sioux bands, formed the Sioux Alliance. This Alliance attacked surrounding tribes for territorial and hunting reasons.


Gender rolesEdit

Historically, women have been critical to the family's life: making almost everything used by the family and tribe. They have cultivated and processed a variety of crops; prepared the food; prepared game and fish; worked skins to make clothing and footwear, as well as storage bags, the covering of tipis, and other items. Women have historically controlled the food, resources and movable property, as well as owned the family's home.[10]

Typically, in the Oglala Lakota society, the men are in charge of the politics of the tribe. The men are usually the chiefs for political affairs, war leaders and warriors, and hunters. Traditionally, when a man marries, he goes to live with his wife with her people.

In addition to masculine men and feminine women, the Lakota also recognize feminine men, who are usually homosexual, as Winkte.

Oglala flagEdit

Oglala flag in use since 1961

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.[11]


Ola Mildred Rexroat, the only Native American pilot in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP)


Military personnelEdit





  • Albert Afraid of Hawk - member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show who died and was buried in Danbury, CT, while on tour in 1900. His remains were exhumed and re-interred on Pine Ridge Reservation in 2012.[13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Pine Ridge Agency." Archived 2013-02-17 at the Wayback Machine. US Department of the Interior Indian Affairs. Retrieved 25 Feb 2013.
  2. ^ Pritzker 329
  3. ^ Pritzker 331
  4. ^ Pritzker 335
  5. ^ a b Pritzker 328
  6. ^ Means, Jeffrey D. “'Indians SHALL DO THINGS in Common': Oglala Lakota Identity and Cattle-Raising on the Pine Ridge Reservation.” Montana: The Magazine of Western History, vol. 61, no. 3, 2011, pp. 3–93. JSTOR, JSTOR,
  7. ^ Crash, Tom. "Oglala Lakota College opens their summer artist series ". Lakota Times. 12 June 2008 (retrieved 21 Dec 2009)
  8. ^ Deloria, Ella, Speaking of Indians (New York: Friendship Press, 1944), p. 25.
  9. ^ Saville to Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Aug. 31, 1875, published in Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1875), p. 250. Dr. Saville actually listed four bands in his report, but, the Wajaje, while closely associated with the Oglala at that time, were in fact Brulé.
  10. ^ LaFromboise, Teresa D.; Heyle, Anneliese M.; Ozer, Emily J. "Changing and diverse roles of women in American Indian cultures". Sex Roles. 22 (7-8): 455–476. doi:10.1007/bf00288164. 
  11. ^ Oglala Sioux Tribe, Official Website
  12. ^ "American Indian Heritage Month – Native American Women Veterans". Department of Defense. 
  13. ^ "Albert Afraid of Hawk". Albert Afraid of Hawk. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit