Lakota America begins with a famous, almost mythologized moment in American history: the Battle of the Little Bighorn (1876), where Lakota leaders Sitting Bull (Hunkpapa) and Crazy Horse (Oglala) defeated the Seventh US Cavalry Regiment under the command of George Armstrong Custer. While Little Bighorn hermetically sealed the Lakotas in American historical consciousness, Pekka Hämäläinen outright rejects it as the defining moment in the Lakota historical narrative, insisting that a comprehensive history of the Lakota people has yet to be told. Examining Lakota history from the early sixteenth to the early twenty-first century, Hämäläinen masterfully weaves Lakota America together from both more traditional archival sources (fur traders’ journals, travel narratives, Indian agents’ reports) and Indigenous sources: winter count (waníyetu wówaepi) chronologies, and oral traditions (such as the story of White Buffalo Calf Woman).

Hämäläinen portrays his Lakota protagonists as “shapeshifters”—a...

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