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Living with Strangers

The Nineteenth-Century Sioux and the Canadian-American Borderlands

David G. McCrady

Publication Year: 2006

The story of the Sioux who moved into the Canadian-American borderlands in the later years of the nineteenth century is told in its entirety for the first time here. Previous histories have been divided by national boundaries and have focused on the famous personages involved, paying scant attention to how Native peoples on both sides of the border reacted to the arrival of the Sioux. Using material from archives across North America, Canadian and American government documents, Lakota winter counts, and oral history, Living with Strangers reveals how the nineteenth-century Sioux were a people of the borderlands.

The Sioux made great tactical use of the Canada–United States boundary. They traded with the Métis of Canada—often in contraband goods such as arms and ammunition—and tried to get better prices from European traders by drawing the Hudson’s Bay Company into competition with American traders. They opened negotiations with both Canadian and American officials to determine which government would accord them better treatment, and they used the boundary as a shield in times of warfare with the United States. Until now, the Canadian-American borderlands and the people who live there have remained a blind spot in Canadian and American nationalist historiographies. Living with Strangers takes readers beyond the traditional dichotomy of the Canadian and the American West and reveals significant and previously unknown strands in Sioux history.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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pp. vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. x-xiv

The story of Sitting Bull's sojourn in Canada unfolded before me as I sat on the floor of the McPherson Library at the University of Victoria reading the annual reports of the Canadian Department of the Interior, the ministry charged in the 1870s with the administration of Indian affairs. I was surprised. I was reasonably...

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A Note on Sioux Groups and Leaders

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pp. xv

This study refers to a constellation of individuals and groups. To bring some order to the panoply that follows, a thumbnail sketch of the borderland Sioux and their leaders may be useful. By the early to mid-nineteenth...

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1. Introduction: Partitioning Sioux History

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pp. 1-7

The Sioux are generally conceived of as "American" Indians. The feather-bonneted, tipi-dwelling, horse-riding, buffalo-hunting Sioux warrior is, for many people around the world, the image of the American Indian. By the 1870s...

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2. From Contested Ground to Borderlands, 1752-1862

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pp. 8-16

In the roughly half century between the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in 1752 and the close of the War of 1812, Sioux lands were contested by empires, both old and new. At first France and Great Britain and then Great Britain and...

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3. The Dakota Conflict of 1862 and the Migration to the Plains Borderlands

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pp. 17-30

In the wake of the Dakota Conflict, Dakota people moved up the Minnesota River and onto the plains beyond. This exodus has often been presented as if the refugees fled either to the Dakota Territory or to Rupert's Land, as if the boundary presented a real barrier once crossed. In reality, Dakotas fled to the...

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4. The Migration of the Sioux to the Milk River Country

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pp. 31-48

The migration of Dakota peoples out of Minnesota and into the borderlands continued throughout the 1860s. By the end of the decade other Sioux groups were likewise shifting territory. Some were migrating up the Missouri River to its junction with the Yellowstone and, beyond that, the Milk River. Other...

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5. The Sioux, the Surveyors, and the North-West Mounted Police, 1872-1874

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pp. 49-60

Between 1872 and 1874, the boundary between Canadian and American territory on the Northern Plains was finally surveyed and demarcated on the ground. British and American teams from the North American Boundary Commission surveyed the frontier from the Northwest Angle of the Lake of the Woods...

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6. The Great Sioux War, 1876-1877

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pp. 61-75

The historiography of the American West usually presents the Great Sioux War of 1876-77 as the final chapter in the conflict between Lakotas and Americans over land in the Black Hills. The fact that, as a result of this conflict, some...

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7. The Lakotas and Métis at Wood Mountain, 1876-1881

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pp. 76-85

In his refusal to listen to what American General Alfred H. Terry had to say during their meeting at Fort Walsh in October 1877, Sitting Bull made a remarkable comment about his people's long-standing relationship with the Métis. "I was...

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8. The Failure of Peace in Canada, 1878-1881

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pp. 86-102

Northern Lakota groups encroached on the lands of other aboriginal groups— Gros Ventres, Assiniboines, and Crows—as they moved northwest toward the Forty-ninth Parallel in the decade before the Great Sioux War. Their position...

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9. Overview: The Northern Borderlands

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pp. 103-114

A great deal of the historiography of the United States and Canada has focused on nation building. Looking back, the frontier thesis of Frederick Jackson Turner served to explain the presumed distinctive character of the American...


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pp. 115-144


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pp. 145-158


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pp. 159-168

E-ISBN-13: 9780803253902
E-ISBN-10: 0803253907

Publication Year: 2006