The Oglala Lakota or Oglala Sioux, meaning "to scatter one's own" in Lakota language) are one of the seven subtribes of the Lakota people; along with the Nakota and Dakota, they make up the Great Sioux Nation. A majority of the Oglala live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the eighth-largest Native American reservation in the United States. The Oglala are a federally recognized tribe whose official title is the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation.
The Oglala Lakota, along with the six other groups of Lakota, had separated from each other by the early 19th century. By 1830, the Oglala had around 3,000 members. In the 1820s and 1830s, the Oglala, along with the Brulé, another Lakota band, and three other Sioux bands, formed the Sioux Alliance. This Alliance attacked surrounding tribes for territorial and hunting reasons.
Typically, in the Oglala Lakota society, the men are in charge of the politics of the tribe. The men were usually the chiefs for political affairs, war leaders and warriors, and hunters. Women are and always have been highly regarded and respected in the tribe. The Lakota are matrilineal and children belong to the mother's clan. Chiefs were selected based on the mother's clan. Women controlled the food, resources and movable property. When a man married, he went to live with his wife with her people. They could support her in childbearing and rearing and, if the couple separated, she would not be away from her people. This also helped control the men's behavior toward women. The women elders of the clan were highly respected and had to approve the selection of chiefs of the clans. If they withdrew their support, a man could not continue as chief. Both genders were equal in decisions and power.
Family is of utmost importance to the Oglala Lakota, with loyalty to the tribe coming in close second. Each family had one or more tipi households. The women were critical to the family's life: they made almost everything the family and tribe used. They cultivated and processed a variety of crops; prepared the food; prepared game and fish caught by the men; worked skins to make clothing and footwear, as well as storage bags, the covering of tipis, and other items.
Beyond the family was the clan. Inheritance of clan chief positions and the composition of the clans was matrilineal: only the males born to the clan could be life chiefs of it. Within the clan, relatives whom Europeans and Americans would call cousins were considered, and identified by titles, equivalent to brothers and sisters. Because of the importance of the clan, a boy's maternal uncle, rather than his father, would often be the most influential male figure in his life. The uncle would integrate the boy into the clan's male society.
Photograph was Hand Color Tinted by artist, Margaret A. Rogers.