History for Kids: The Sioux

by Charles River Editions

The Siouxpic

This children’s history is a reminder of the constant struggles and accommodations that took place among the Sioux as the white settlers pushed further into their territory. In this approximately fifty page volume, the editors describe the tribal structure, the Sioux leaders, the army leaders, and major confrontations between the two groups.

Trouble first began in 1849 when gold was discovered. Two years later the American government offered the Sioux tribes money for allowing the settlers to pass through Native American lands. As whites began to settle down on their lands, disputes followed. Things got worse when the railroad was built and more army forts followed to protect white settlers.

The US government divided the Sioux into “Treaty and Non-Treaty Indians.” The distinction meant little because the tribes were decimated by disease or forced to live on reservation land chosen by the Americans and act appropriately according to the white man’s standards. Both sides broke their promises.

I found the discussion of Sioux history and tribal structure particularly interesting. Originally Sioux tribes farmed squash and beans. When weather did not permit that, they hunted animals for meat and ate wild berries. They eventually came to rely on the buffalo both as food and a sacred animal. As early as the 1760’s they began trading for horses and learned to ride them. Sioux used a travois, which is a triangular wooden frame, to transport their goods and possessions. These were pulled by dogs at first but later by horses. They also used their horses to trade for items they could not make like iron goods. The leaders of the tribes were named Naca Ominicia. These men decided when and where to hunt, make camp or declare peace and war.

The history describes the three major wars between the Sioux and the Americans: the Dakota War in 1862, Red Cloud’s War 1866-68, and the Black Hills War 1876-77. One of the most famous battles in American history took place in 1876. Two years before, gold was discovered in the Black Hills. The Americans tried to buy back the land they had previously given to the Sioux in a peace treaty. They refused. Soldiers moved in and the Sioux allied with the Cheyenne. On June 21, General Custer led troops of the 7th Cavalry along the Little Bighorn River. The Native Americans surprised them killing 250 soldiers and wounding 50. But the Native Americans soon tired of fighting as more troops were sent in and one year later Crazy Horse was arrested and killed. His father retrieved his body, but no one knows where Crazy Horse is buried. Sitting Bull took his people to Canada, but they could not survive the cold winters. He joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show for a time but was eventually killed by American soldiers. The last confrontation took place in 1890 when more than 350 Sioux, mostly women and children were massacred by the cavalry at Wounded Knee.

If you read the history, you will find many more details about the leaders on both sides. You will discover the tragedies that the two groups had to endure. This book is written in clear simple language with few errors appropriate for ages seven plus. Children will gain a fair amount of knowledge. Real photographs and portraits enhance the text. Teachers and homeschooling parents will find it relevant to many studies of people and places of mid to late nineteenth century America and a good starting point for many discussions and comparisons in American history.

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