Historical Images

The Lakota people have a played a prominent role in American history, arguably the most prominent of any Native American group. In the 19th century the conflict between the expanding United States and the fierce Lakotas begat some of the legendary events of the Indian Wars – the Battle of Little Bighorn, the massacre at Wounded Knee, the killing of Lakota chief Sitting Bull. As a result, the larger society has represented the Lakotas countless times. When Buffalo Bill Cody organized his Wild West Show, he incorporated eminent Lakotas such as Sitting Bull and Black Elk. From the time the Western movie was new – starting with Cody’s own motion pictures, like The Indian Wars (1913) – the Plains Indians were among the Native Americans most commonly seen in film. By the 1970s, no less than eighty-one movies had been made about the Lakotas. Hollywood’s partiality for the nation continued through films like Dances with Wolves (1990), Sioux City (1994), and Skins (2002). When most people think of Native Americans, the images that most commonly come to mind are the Lakota. These archival images from the Library of Congress attest to the iconic aspect of Lakota history.