“My People the Sioux” is a good literary work written in 1928. This book leaves an everlasting impression with some because it definitely intensifies the sympathy for the Indians. Luther Standing Bear, also known as Plenty Kill, portrays the dramatic and traumatic changes about the Sioux throughout their traditional way of life. As a young boy growing up, he experienced many of these hardships first hand between his people and the whites. This autobiography is quite valuable as it helps allow us to envision what really happened in the battling times of the Indians.
Luther stated this quote, which to me, is unforgettable and very well said.
It reads: “We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, and winding streams with tangled growth, as “wild. ” Only to the white man was nature a “wilderness” and only to him was the land “infested” with “wild” animals and “savage” people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.
Not until the hairy man from the east came and with brutal frenzy heaped injustices upon us and the families we loved was it “wild” for us. When the very animals of the forest began fleeing from his approach, then it was that for us the “Wild West” began.
” This quote stated by Luther is stated as if it was said today. It describes the relationship between the Indians and the white folk well. The relationship between the Indians and whites was a battle in the 1860’s and it still remains to be a bit of a battle today. The Indian way of life definitely contrasts with many of the ways the white folk tend to live their lives, but with those differences we could bring forth new teachings. If we were to all respect each other in the ways we each choose to live, life and its relationships would by far be at more peace, and we could all grow wiser with each other.
Luther Standing Bear was Chief of the Oglala and the Lakota as remembered by him. But, others state that he was a Brule rather than an Oglala. He was born in the 1860’s and matured to a young man through many trivial times for the Indians. He was raised within the traditional ways of the Sioux. He was taught to be a good, respectful and productive young warrior and hunter. But, as times changed, so did the ways of the Indians. Some changes were not performed by choice, but rather to the demand and force of the whites. After many battles had been fought, one battle forced much change upon the Indians; the Custer Battle.
This battle forced Indians to conform to the new idea of life on the reservation. The changes that struck the Indians were not minor ordeals. Their independent lifestyle soon was diminished. As the nature around them, including their prized buffalo, greatly changed, so did they. After many of their traditional ways of life were destroyed, they soon became quite dependent on the government for their living needs, especially for food. Along with their living needs being greatly changed, so was their religion. The Indians were quite religious in their ways and practices.
But, that of course changed when the government stepped in. They would not allow the Indians to engage in their Sun Dance ritual, which was their most important religious and social event of the year. The last spectacular Sioux Sun Dance that Luther enjoyed happened in the summer of 1879, right before he left for school in Carlisle. This dance was a religious ritual, of which they knew God was watching over them. Besides us praying out to God, Our Father, Our Lord, etc. , the Indians call out to Him as God, Wakan Tanka, Big Holy, and Grandfather.
This is just one more difference that we have between each other, yet it is also one more similarity we have too; we both believe in God. But, the government wanted to do away with the Indian way of life entirely. They desired for all Indians to be transformed into the “white America. ” Luther was a brave young man, as he was willing to take risks not knowing what would happen in the end. He was there to serve his people, and he would defend them and their rights until justice was served. One risk taken was when he entered as the first Indian to take foot inside the school at Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
He traveled there with the whites not ever knowing if he would end up alive. The beginning of his adventure was a trying time. At Carlisle, he began writing and dressing as the typical white American did, and may I note that Luther disliked wearing the flannel underwear. He considered them to be uncomfortable torture and the worst thing about his new Carlisle life. Along with the unfit clothing, their housing and bedding were not adequate. They were forced to make the sleeping situation as comfortable as possible, and that was tough to do considering they used their pants for a pillow and one blanket for their top and bottom bedding.
The nights were cold on the cement floors but they did whatever it took. The goal at Carlisle was for the Indians to become educated and stripped of their old Indian ways of life. They were forced to speak in English, as their native languages were not allowed. On top of having to speak English, they also had to choose an English name, and that is how “Luther” Standing Bear came to existence. Luther had risked coming to this school just to prove his bravery to his people, not ever really knowing or understanding what his adventure entailed. Finally it was time to return back home to Dakota.
Luther’s father waited alongside his carriage and ponies to see Luther’s arrival back home. On their final return home, Luther had a gathering of people awaiting his arrival. Some, however, acted a bit strangely, but soon he was told why. It had happened that a few Indians who had returned home after being at Carlisle did not want to acknowledge their own native peoples. They even went as far as saying that they forgot their Sioux language. But, Luther Standing Bear definitely was not one of them. He spent much time with his native people telling them any story they wanted to know. The time he spent there was not all bad.
For he came home and was proud to look a bit like a white American, and he also felt quite fashionable being that he received new clothing. Another interesting idea that differs between the Indians and the whites is the idea of romantic relationships, whether it is at the dating level or the marriage level. The white boys seem to go directly after the females, whereas the Indian boys seem to patiently await their woman crush. Luther treated his women with respect and gave them his honest words. He was a well educated Indian man who was known for his hard working ethics and his well-kept manner.
In spite of Luther’s good manners and morals, he engages into marriage with Nellie. She was half Indian and half white. His father felt it was the right time and her father felt the same; however, her mother was not too fond of the idea. Despite of that, they still married and moved into their house together. Soon after they married, Luther was proposed to a new idea of having two wives. He turned that idea down because he knew it was not right for him or to Nellie, his wife. Soon after, their family continued to grow with the new addition of a baby girl and a baby boy.
“My People the Sioux” is a very interesting book. It definitely has enlightened me in many of the traditional Indian ways that were once in existence, whereas now, they have definitely declined. Luther, himself, seems like an honest and good hearted man. Another well stated quote by Luther that grasped my attention fully was; “All this taught me that it paid to be kind and gentle to all people at all times, and in all my life, wherever I have been, I have always made friends, and have always got along with any race of people who knew me. ” To me, this quote holds it own.
Life is all about having good times and thanking the Lord each day for allowing us such a blessing. At times, we all take things and people for granted, but in reality, we should not do that. We should always be there for those who need us most, because someday you will need their love and guidance too. Life does not always prove to be perfect, but that is why the Lord made the world like he did. He knew we needed balance among all things and that is exactly what he did. If we take one day at a time, and enjoy and care for those around us, life as we know it can only make us stronger and better people.
Luther accomplished many things during his lifetime. He was considered diligent and faithful by the whites, as well as his own native people. In his time, he was a minister, an actor, a store and ranch owner, a great author before his death in 1939, a man devoted to the Indian Rights Movement and much more. This book allows us to engage in the times of the battles between the Indians and the whites. It is quite sad and heart-wrenching to actually know that times have been this brutal between people, but it is true and all we can do is give respect and use it to our advantage to help make this world a better place to live.
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