We Indians think of the earth and the whole universe as a never-ending circle, and in this circle, man is just another animal. The buffalo and the coyote are our brothers; the birds, our cousins. We end our prayers with the words “all my relations” – and that includes everything that grows, crawls, runs, creeps, hops, and flies.
Jenny Leading Cloud, Lakota, 1992
The Lakota (Western Sioux) people live on five reservations in South and North Dakota in a region of geographic diversity and climatic fluctuation. On the open plains, mixed grasses cover rolling hills interrupted by sand hills, badlands, buttes, and canyons formed by the Missouri River and its tributaries.
These people have not lived in this region long. With the acquisition of European-introduced horses and guns in quantity, the Lakota and their equestrian neighbors entered the Plains, abandoning their woodland homes and gardens in pursuit of the vast herds of American bison and other game animals, including elk and deer. According to the winter count kept by American Horse, the first group of Oglala Lakota arrived at the Black Hills in 1775. They roamed throughout the region for some 100 years before being settled on reservations. Reversing the usual human progression from hunter-gatherer to a sedentary lifestyle, the formerly sedentary Lakota adopted a nomadic lifestyle, pursuing the buffalo—their most valuable resource—across the Plains.
It was not the first time they had traveled to the Plains, but it was the first time they stayed. There, the seasonally nomadic Lakota shared the environment with long-term residents who lived in permanent village settlements along the rivers and practiced agriculture. Nature offered not one, but various ways for humans to live on the Plains.
Female and Male Dolls
Sandra Brewer (1964- ), Lakota, Cheyenne River Reservation, South Dakota, 1992
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
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.