The first comprehensive history of the Lakota Indians and their profound role in shaping America’s history
Named One of the New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2019 • Named One of the 10 Best History Books of 2019 by Smithsonian Magazine • Winner of the MPIBA Reading the West Book Award for narrative nonfiction
"Turned many of the stories I thought I knew about our nation inside out."—Cornelia Channing, Paris Review, Favorite Books of 2019
“My favorite non-fiction book of this year.”—Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg Opinion
"A briliant, bold, gripping history."—Simon Sebag Montefiore, London Evening Standard, Best Books of 2019
“All nations deserve to have their stories told with this degree of attentiveness”—Parul Sehgal, New York Times
This first complete account of the Lakota Indians traces their rich and often surprising history from the early sixteenth to the early twenty‑first century. Pekka Hämäläinen explores the Lakotas’ roots as marginal hunter‑gatherers and reveals how they reinvented themselves twice: first as a river people who dominated the Missouri Valley, America’s great commercial artery, and then—in what was America’s first sweeping westward expansion—as a horse people who ruled supreme on the vast high plains.
The Lakotas are imprinted in American historical memory. Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull are iconic figures in the American imagination, but in this groundbreaking book they emerge as something different: the architects of Lakota America, an expansive and enduring Indigenous regime that commanded human fates in the North American interior for generations. Hämäläinen’s deeply researched and engagingly written history places the Lakotas at the center of American history, and the results are revelatory.
Pekka Hämäläinen is the Rhodes Professor of American History and Fellow of St. Catherine’s College at Oxford University. He has served as the principal investigator of a five‑year project on nomadic empires in world history, funded by the European Research Council. His previous book, The Comanche Empire, won the Bancroft Prize in 2009.