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New Spotted Tail biography released by State Historical Society

New Spotted Tail biography released by State Historical Society

For the first time since 1961, American Indian leader Spotted Tail is the subject of a new biography, published by the South Dakota State Historical Society.

Using firsthand accounts from tribal and nontribal sources, government records and published works, author Richmond L. Clow establishes Spotted Tail as an understudied but influential leader on the Northern Great Plains

Living during a time of conflict and change, Spotted Tail (1823–1881) was not a hereditary chief but developed his standing over time, first proving himself a capable warrior and later a persuasive negotiator. As white settlers encroached on Indian lands in ever-greater numbers, he decided to forgo engaging in prolonged conflicts with the United States, including those led by Red Cloud and Crazy Horse. Instead, Spotted Tail determined to negotiate with the United States to secure a homeland, education, employment, and other necessities essential to the future of his people.

“Clow’s research into contemporary news accounts, including interviews with Spotted Tail, has provided a wealth of information about the leader’s views and actions,” says Nancy Tystad Koupal, director of the South Dakota Historical Society Press.

On Aug. 5, 1881, Crow Dog, a fellow Sicangu leader on the present-day Rosebud Indian Reservation, shot and killed Spotted Tail, ending years of rivalry. Even in death, Spotted Tail continued to have an impact as Crow Dog’s conviction, for his murder made its way to the United States Supreme Court, ultimately impacting tribal sovereignty.

Clow is professor emeritus of Native American Studies at the University of Montana in Missoula. A graduate of the University of South Dakota, he received his doctorate in history from the University of New Mexico and has written extensively on the American Indians of the Northern Great Plains.

“Spotted Tail” is available for $34.95, plus shipping and tax and can be ordered directly from the South Dakota Historical Society Press at or by calling (605) 773-6009. Follow the South Dakota Historical Society Press on Facebook (SDHS Press) and Twitter (@sdhspress) for more. Clow is a featured speaker at the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books in October; more information is at

About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call (605) 773-3458 or visit for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call (605) 394-1936 for more information.

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