Synopses & Reviews
During the 1920s and 1930s, Josephine Waggoner (1871and#8211;1943), a Lakota woman who had been educated at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia, grew increasingly concerned that the history and culture of her people were being lost as elders died without passing along their knowledge. A skilled writer, Waggoner set out to record the lifeways of her people and correct much of the misinformation about them spread by white writers, journalists, and scholars of the day. To accomplish this task, she traveled to several Lakota and Dakota reservations to interview chiefs, elders, traditional tribal historians, and other tribal members, including women.
Published for the first time and augmented by extensive annotations, Witness offers a rare participantand#8217;s perspective on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Lakota and Dakota life. The first of Waggonerand#8217;s two manuscripts presented here includes extraordinary firsthand and as-told-to historical stories by tribal members, such as accounts of life in the Powder River camps and at the agencies in the 1870s, the experiences of a mixed-blood Hand#250;and#331;kpapand#543;a girl at the first off-reservation boarding school, and descriptions of traditional beliefs. The second manuscript consists of Waggonerand#8217;s sixty biographies of Lakota and Dakota chiefs and headmen based on eyewitness accounts and interviews with the men themselves. Together these singular manuscripts provide new and extensive information on the history, culture, and experiences of the Lakota and Dakota peoples.
and#8220;Josephine Waggonerand#8217;s writings offer a unique perspective on the Lakota. Witness will become a widely referenced primary source. Emily Levine has meticulously examined all known collections of Waggonerand#8217;s manuscripts, sometimes comparing handwritten drafts with multiple typed copies to preserve information in full. Levineand#8217;s extensive notes are well chosen and informative. Witness will interest both specialist and popular audiences.and#8221;and#8212;Raymond DeMallie, Chancellorsand#8217; Professor of Anthropology and American Indian Studies at Indiana University
and#8220;Bettelyounand#8217;s stories raise important questions about other cultures and particularly oral cultures: whose voice is heard, whose truth counts, and what is true and false about the history of the American West. . . . Bettelyounand#8217;s stories allow readers to hear the voice of a person moving back and forth between several cultures and truths. An important addition to history.and#8221;and#8212;Choice
and#8220;An unmatched perspective on the struggle of the Lakota against the white tide of Manifest Destiny.and#8221;and#8212;News from Indian Country
and#8220;This book is quite unusual in being a firsthand account of 19th-century Sioux life by a woman. It is also a very readable and fascinating account of a key period in Plains Indian life.and#8221;and#8212;Library Journal
andquot;A book written from a Native personand#39;s point of view provides a rareandmdash;and therefore much neededandmdash;narrative about American societyand#39;s impact on indigenous peoples.andquot;andmdash;Edward Valandra, Great Plains Quarterly
andquot;This is an unprecedented addition to the field of Dakota/Lakota scholarship.andquot;andmdash;Shannon D. Smith, Nebraska History
With My Own Eyes tells the history of the nineteenth-century Lakotas. Susan Bordeaux Bettelyoun (1857and#8211;1945), the daughter of a French-American fur trader and a Bruland#233; Lakota woman, was raised near Fort Laramie and experienced firsthand the often devastating changes forced on the Lakotas. As Bettelyoun grew older, she became increasingly dissatisfied with the way her peopleand#8217;s history was being represented by non-Natives. With My Own Eyes represents her attempt to correct misconceptions about Lakota history. Bettelyounand#8217;s narrative was recorded during the 1930s by another Lakota historian, Josephine Waggoner. This detailed, insightful account of Lakota history was never previously published.
About the Author
Emily Levine is an independent scholar and the editor of With My Own Eyes: A Lakota Woman Tells Her Peopleandrsquo;s History, by Susan Bordeaux Bettelyoun and Josephine Waggoner, available in a Bison Books edition.