North-South-East-West: American Indians and the Natural World

The Lakota of the Plains

DollsThe name Lakota means "allies" or "friends." The Lakota, or Sioux, people are seven groups of American Indian people who banded together as members of the Seven Council Fires. They share a common culture and heritage, but are separate social and political entities.

The open rolling prairies and plains of North America were once part of the vast homeland of the Lakota people. The wide expanse of Lakota territory encompassed the region that today comprises the states of Minnestota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

The history of the Lakota people is a study in survival. Before being forced westward by European settlers and warring Indian tribes, the Lakota used the natural resources of their prairies to their full advantage, making villages along the Missouri River, planting crops, and hunting in the abundant forests. Following their displacement and with the advent of horses acquired from Europeans, the formerly sedentary Lakota adopted a nomadic lifestyle, pursuing the buffalo—their most valuable resource—across the Plains.

Image: Female and Male Dolls
Sandra Brewer (1964- ), Lakota, Cheyenne River Reservation, South Dakota, 1992
These dolls wear the traditional apparel of Lakota women and men. The artist included symbols of both gender roles—a baby carrier on the back of the woman and a pipe and pipe bag in the man's hands.

Tanned deer (Odocoileus sp.), unidentified filling, glass, House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) feather, brass, synthetic hair, porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) quill, abalone (Haliotis rufescens) shell, dentalium (Dentalium sp.) shell, unidentified wood, commercial cotton, commercial wool stroud, catlinite, unidentified mammal claw, steel, rayon, nylon sinew, commercial dye; W 17.0 x H 32.3 cm; 35479-1 & 2

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