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“History Talks” Presentation on Sicangu Lakota Statesman Spotted Tail

In January, the South Dakota State Historical Society’s virtual “History Talks” author speaker series features professor emeritus of Native American Studies at the University of Montana Richmond Clow, speaking about his book, “Spotted Tail: Warrior and Statesman.”

This free virtual event will be held Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. CST on Zoom. To register, go to “History Talks” is a monthly program of the South Dakota Historical Society Press and the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation.

Clow’s work on Spotted Tail is the first full length biography of the Sicangu Lakota leader written since the 1960s. In it, the author uses firsthand accounts from tribal and nontribal sources, government records, and published works to establish Spotted Tail as both a warrior and a statesman. Clow’s voluminous research into contemporary news accounts, including interviews with Spotted Tail, provides a wealth of information about his views and actions.

Spotted Tail (1823-1881) left his mark on the Northern Great Plains. He 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, Spotted Tail decided to forego engaging in prolonged conflicts, including those led by Red Cloud and Crazy Horse. Instead, he determined to negotiate with the United States to secure a homeland, education, employment, and other necessities essential to the future of his people. Had Spotted Tail chosen to fight, Captain John G. Bourke wrote in 1891, “neither North nor South Dakota, Wyoming, nor Montana might now be on the map.”

Not all Lakota people agreed with Spotted Tail’s philosophy, and his heavy-handed tactics earned him enemies. On Aug. 5 1881, Crow Dog, a fellow Sicangu leader at Rosebud Indian Agency, 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.

Published by the South Dakota Historical Society Press in 2019, “Spotted Tail: Warrior and Statesman” may be ordered for $34.95, plus shipping and tax, from the SDHS Press at and from the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation at or at the Heritage Stores in the Cultural Heritage Center or the State Capitol in Pierre. For more information about the South Dakota Historical Society Press and its books, please visit and follow @sdhspress on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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 since 2013, 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. For questions or memberships, 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.