Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

Oglala Lakota County - Civic Life & History

Oglala Lakota County, formerly known as Shannon County, was established with the founding of Dakota Territory in 1875, but remains unorganized. The county does not have an official county seat, but contracts with Fall River County for its administrative operations. The county’s largest community is Pine Ridge. The entirety of Oglala Lakota County is within the borders of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and contains part of the Badlands National Park. It is South Dakota’s only dry, or prohibition, county.

Oglala Lakota County was named for the Oglala Lakota people, a subgroup of the larger Lakota Sioux Tribe, who are the county’s main inhabitants. The county’s name was changed in May of 2015. Learn more about this name change here.

Arts & Culture

Oglala Lakota County is home to a rich artistic and cultural history and is home to many notable Native American artists, including Arthur Amiotte, who was born in Pine Ridge, Keith Braveheart, an Oglala Sioux Tribe member, and Ina Mae Espinosa, an Oglala Sioux Tribe member who was raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Oglala Lakota College hosts a summer artists series featuring Native American art and artists, hosted at the OLC Heritage Center during summer months. This series is sponsored by the South Dakota Arts Council, the South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development, and the National Endowment for the Arts. It hopes to educate viewers on the history and culture of the Oglala Sioux and to encourage Lakota artists and artisans.

The Red Cloud Indian Art Show has been hosted at the Red Cloud Indian School since 1969 and features a variety of Native American artists at all levels for a free summer exhibition. The annual exhibition showcases over 150 submissions yearly in categories from painting and photography to beadwork and quillwork.

Learn more about Lakota culture and traditions from the Akta Lakota Museum.

Historical Photos & Documents Online

More than 100 historic photographs depicting life and events on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at the turn of the twentieth century are available from the Prints and Photographs Department of the Library of Congress. The collection includes photographs by John C. H. Grabill and W.R. Cross.

The Denver Public Library has over 220 historic photographs of peoples and places related to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation available online, many of them taken a few years before and after the 1890 massacred at Wounded Knee.

Search an extensive collection of 1,600 historic photographs from the Marquette University Special Collections and University Archives using the search term “Pine Ridge.” Most of the photos are related to Holy Rosary Mission/Red Cloud Indian School and are available online.

Find a comprehensive source for federal documents at Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties. This resource was compiled by Charles Kappler and is available online. Use it to access all treaties and most laws related to Native American peoples.

The James R. Walker collection of manuscript documents is a scholarly source for most academic studies of Oglala and Lakota spirituality. Walker was a physician at Pine Ridge in the early 1900s, and Oglala medicine men shared their traditional philosophies and beliefs with him.

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is within the original Sioux territory as identified by the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty as well as the Great Sioux Reservation that was established by the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. The Great Sioux Reservation was reduced by the 1877 Act  that took the Black Hills plus approximately 7 million acres of land. The reduced Great Sioux Reservation was then dissolved by the 1889 Act and five Lakota reservations, one being Pine Ridge, were established on small portions of its land. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation was further reduced by “the sale and disposition of surplus and unallotted lands in Bennett County” and by loss of lands to the Badlands National Monument and the Badlands Air Force gunnery range through a 1968 statute. Find United States Supreme Court decisions, such as the one that determined that the Sioux nation should have been but were not compensated for the taking of the Black Hills by the 1877 Act, at Justia.

The Black Hills Knowledge Network also hosts a variety of historic photos and documents concerning Oglala Lakota County and the Pine Ridge Reservation online. To explore other Black Hills area anthologies on the Black Hills Knowledge Network, see our Digital Archives page.  

Museums, Libraries & Archives

Museums

Oglala Lakota College Cultural Heritage Center: Located on the Piya Wiconi campus of Oglala Lakota College, the Cultural Heritage Center contains artwork and photographs of Oglala Lakota life throughout the 19th century, including images from the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre. A recorded audio presentation that accompanies the exhibit provides visitors an opportunity to experience the history of the Oglala Lakota People.

Red Cloud Indian School Heritage Center: Opened in 1982, the Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School offers an outstanding collection of Lakota tribal arts and Native American fine arts. The fine arts collection includes over 2000 paintings, drawings, and sculptures that represent Native American tribal traditions. Such a vast collection allows the Heritage center to further reach its mission of promoting the arts of Native Americans to bring a greater appreciation of their culture.

Badlands National Park: The White River Visitors Center in the South Unit of Badlands National Park, located 20 miles south of Scenic South Dakota, offers new exhibits that focus on Lakota history and culture. The Visitors Center is open May to August.

Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce: Located six miles west of Kyle, South Dakota, the Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce has a visitor center that houses artwork and artifacts depicting the Oglala Lakota way of life. Tours are available by appointment.

Museum of the Fur Trade: Located east of Chadron, Nebraska, this museum has an outstanding collection of trade goods on exhibit. It stands on the site of James Bordeaux’s trading post established for the American Fur Company in 1837.

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument: Located near Harrison, Nebraska, the monument contains the James H. Cook Collection of artifacts that Red Cloud and other Oglalas and Northern Cheyennes gave as gifts to the Cook family.

Libraries

Oglala Lakota College’s main library, Woksape Tipi maintains 11 branch libraries on the Pine Ridge Reservation as well as in Eagle Butte and Rapid City. Woksape Tipi is also home to the Oglala Lakota College archives.

Archives

Oglala Lakota College’s Woksape Tipi is also home for Oglala Lakota College archives, a collection of documents that include the permanent records of Oglala Lakota College, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. Examples of documents housed by the OLC archives include oral and written histories, pamphlets and personal papers.

Religion

Prior to the establishment of the Great Sioux Reservation by the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, the vast majority of Lakotas believed, like their ancestors, that they had emerged onto this earth through a cave that is now known as Wind Cave. They believed that they were the youngest brother of creation, and that though they were related to all of creation, their closest non-human relatives were the buffalo. They believed that their buffalo relatives had sent a woman named White Buffalo Cow Woman to give them a pipe, which they honored.

The Black Hills are sacred lands to Lakotas, from which they emerged from the underworld and where they returned regularly to conduct ceremonies. The Black Hills were taken by the federal government in 1877 without compensation until a 1980 Supreme Court decision mandated an award, though no Lakota tribe has accepted the monetary settlement.

Six years after their sacred lands were taken from them, Lakotas were prohibited by the Code of Indian Offenses from practicing their ceremonies, dances, or celebrations. The federal government banned these practices to force Native Americans to abandon their “heathenish rites and customs” under penalty of imprisonment or food withholding.  

The Episcopal and Catholic churches established separate missions and schools in 1877 and other Christian churches soon followed.

The Native American Church was introduced in the Pine Ridge and other Lakota reservations in the 1920s. In the 1970s, there was a resurgence in traditional Lakota spiritual practices, and in 1978 Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA), which allowed Native Americans the right to believe and practice their traditional religions.

In addition to traditional Lakota spirituality, the Native American Church and many Christian churches, including Baptist, Body of Christ, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Mormon, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic, have believers on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and in Oglala Lakota County. According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, 9,573 residents of the 2010 population of 13,586 were reported as “unclaimed,” meaning they did not adhere to any of the included religions. Catholicism and Episcopalian followed with 1,918 and 882 adherents, respectively.

Towns

Oglala Lakota County has one census-designated town, Batesland, located in the southwestern corner of the county. As of 2010, the population was 108 and its post office has been operational since 1923. Census-designated places in Oglala Lakota County include Kyle, Manderson-White Horse Creek, Oglala, Pine Ridge, Porcupine, and Wounded Knee.

Kyle

In 2010, Kyle had a population of 846 and covered an area of two square miles. Located in Kyle is the Little Wound School and Oglala Lakota College.

Manderson-White Horse Creek

In 2010, Manderson-White Horse Creek had population of 626. It was the home of Oglala Lakota tribesman Kicking Bear, who died there in 1904 after fighting in several battles during the Black Hills War.

Oglala

In 2010, Oglala had a population of 1,290. The community sits directly north of Oglala Dam and its reservoir and covers an area of 13.4 square miles.

Pine Ridge

Pine Ridge is the most heavily populated community in Oglala Lakota County with 3,308 people according to the 2010 census. It is the tribal headquarters of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and has also been known as Pine Ridge Agency. Pine Ridge covers an area of 3.2 square miles. Red Cloud Indian School is located in Pine Ridge.

Porcupine

As of 2010, Porcupine had a population of 1,062. Porcupine is home to radio station KILI 90.1 FM, a non-profit radio station that began broadcasting in 1983 to the Pine RidgeCheyenne River, and Rosebud Indian Reservations.

Wounded Knee

In 2010, the population of Wounded Knee was 382 and was named for Wounded Knee Creek. In this area in 1890, the Wounded Knee Massacre took place. In 1973, the American Indian Movement occupied the area, in what would be called the Incident at Wounded Knee, in protest of the federal government’s policies regarding Native Americans.

There is also one unincorporated community in Oglala Lakota County, Red Shirt, which is located southeast of Hermosa, South Dakota, just outside of Badlands National Park. Red Cloud is home to Red Shirt School and is part of the Oglala Lakota County School District.

More Information

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is served by print, radio and television media. The Lakota Country Times, founded in 2004 and published weekly in Martin, South Dakota, is the official newspaper of both the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian Reservations. KILI Radio, 90.1 FM, broadcasts from Porcupine Butte, located between the Reservation communities of Porcupine and Wounded Knee. KOLC-TV, founded in 2004 by Oglala Lakota College, offers local cable television programming that focuses on “academic, cultural, and historical events.”

The Oglala Sioux Tribe disseminates Reservation information on the media page of its website. The Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce.

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