Category Archives: South Dakota

Rest in Peace, Bill Janklow

Bill Janklow, my former Governor, passed away today. He was 73.

It is impossible to express how large (and generally benevolent) a presense he was in South Dakota politics. Under his leadership, South Dakota was the first state in the union to wire ever school to the internet. Many of the return addresses for credit card bills and mailings you receive probably have a return address of “Sioux Falls, SD” — that is also because of him.

Everyone has their own Bill Janklow stories. He has screamed (in person to one, over the phone to another) at least two members of my close family. A waitress friend of ours, who works at a small town steakhouse, would complain about his latest antics there.

Bill felt nowhere more comfortable than in a small town steakhouse. Though I doubt the Hy-Vee Cafteria could have been far behind.

Janklow’s dad was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials. Bill profoundly identified with South Dakota as only somewhere raised here but stil from “outside” could. He was born in Chicago, and gave his religion as “Jewish Lutheran.”

We’ll miss you.

Update: The Argus Leader captures the mood perfectly: The lion is dead.

Historical Map of Sioux Falls

Ever wonder what your city looked like a century ago? The answer is available from The University of Texas at Austin’s Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection (which has previously been described at tdaxp and by Catholicgauze).

Here’s what the grandest city in South Dakota, Sioux Falls, looked like in 1920:

What’s interesting to me is how few of the streets I am familiar with. Main and Philippes are still in the city’s center, and Minnesota and Cliff are still imposing avenues. But Ridge? Colton?

I recognize some further sites — the Big Sioux River, obviously, as well as the South Dakota Deaf Mute Institute School for the Deaf

1920 Map of Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Sioux Falls is a beautiful city. ‘Specially when we blow stuff up. And afterwards, too.

Lakota After 4GW

In Ms Mankiller’s Footsteps,” The Economist,, 27 January 2005.

My home state was ethnically cleansed twice. First, working as native allies of the United States Department of the Army, Sioux tribes swept in from the south-east. Dislocating the Ojibwe, Mandan, and all other Indian nations in the region they killed everyone could find. Literally. There is a monument in South Dakota to an Ojibwe was run down by Sioux warriors. They physically ran him to his death on horseback.

Later, after Sioux Falls, Medary, and Bon Homme were founded, the white settlers felt the blowback. Medary and Bon Homme would never be resurrected, while Sioux Falls would be refounded around an army fort.

The Sioux Wars lasted generations, and peace was earned in stages. The Great Sioux Nation was internally split, and the split is most rememberd on how they pronounced the word “friend.” Most said “dakota” or “nakota,” while a minority prounced it “lakota.”

The Army followed the same paths as the Sioux did nearly a century before. They first encountered Dakota tribes who had settled in the rich farmland of modern Minnesota and Nebraska. A agrarian economy is a peace-loving one. Both sides had economic interests in a civil settlement, and after not-insignificant fighting this was achieved. Dakota received reservations in Minnesota and Nebraska where they farmed and the tribes generally ran their own schools. Despite the cultural shocks, these Dakota generally have the same or higher standard of living than their white neighbors.

The remaining Dakota tribes, and most Nakota people, were not farmers. Eastern Dakota Territory had much poor soil than Minnesota and Nebraska, and the D/Nakota tribesfamilies lived a hunter-gatherer existence. It was D/Nakota Warriors who massacred the judge and his family whose monument I passed every day going to work, and the D/Nakota successfully threw Bon Homme and Medary to the ashheap of history.

Intensive Army operations removed the D/Nakota threat. While reservations were generally on poor or bizarrely sized land, farming was possible. Today these Dakota are noted for their beadwork, and D/Nakota are generally integrated into the surrounding society.

The Lakota fought bitterly, and they lost bitterly. Like all 4GW forces they fought “unfairly.” More than any enemy in history, the U.S. destroyed their capacity to make war. Or make business. Or make anything. The Lakota had a warrior culture was which annihilated. Nightmarish schools destroyed the Lakota language and emasculated lakota youth. An education centered on war was replaced on one focused on student rape. A violent patriarchal society was humiliatingly replaced with a suppine matriarchal one. “Hell land” reservations was unable to support cattle or crops. The government subsidized tribes just enough so that every Lakota male had enough cash to buy liquor. The Lakota are not “recovering” from the war or the peace. They are suffering the consequences of a fourth generation war gone horribly awry.

In that context…

The Sioux Indians are famous for their warrior chieftains, such as Sitting Bull. Hence the significance of the recent inauguration of the first woman ever to head the Oglala Sioux. In December, Cecilia Fire Thunder, a 58-year-old former welfare recipient, lobbyist and community organiser, took office on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota. She was chosen over Russell Means, a famous figure in the national Indian movement.

In a ceremony filled with tradition, from ritual dancing to speeches in the Lakota language, Ms Fire Thunder was installed as chairwoman (sadly, her official title) of a 46,000-member tribe based on one of America’s largest reservations. “The spirits of my ancestors made a decision for me to run,” she says. “I asked for their guidance and their permission, and I was chosen by the people.”

The American Indian College Fund says two-thirds of students at tribal colleges nationwide are female. At Oglala Lakota College, on the Pine Ridge reservation, the figure tops 70%. There, the average student is a 30-year-old woman with two or three children. Tom Short Bull, the president of the Oglala Lakota, laments the shortage of male students, though he wonders “even if we did train them for a position, what jobs would they go into?”

Indeed, Ms Fire Thunder has a challenge on her hands. The jobless rate at Pine Ridge is 85%. Alcoholism and domestic abuse are common. Most of the money coming into the tribe is from federal grants of one sort or another. Ms Fire Thunder, who sees herself as a chief executive—albeit with spiritual guidance from the elders—is busy trimming budgets and asking for PowerPoint presentations from every department.

The article generally conflates the terrible problems suffered by the Lakota with the everyday problems most tribes experience. The article’s real lesson is unstated: a 4GW war permanently by an industrialized society against a violent opponent if the society is prepared to permanently destroy the enemy’s culture. Whether this is advisable, or moral, is a story for another time.

Update: I was wrong to characterize any part of the Indian Wars as a fourth-generation war. It was a Pre-Modern War.