Lakota America: Oxford Exchange Lecture with Pekka Hämäläinen


For our inaugural Oxford Exchange Lecture, St. Catherine’s College Rhodes Professor of American History Pekka Hämäläinen will give a talk on his most recent book, Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power, published in 2019 as part of Yale University Press’ Lamar Series in Western History and the first comprehensive history of the Lakotas (see below for book description). Free and open to the public, the lecture will take place on October 15 at 5:30pm in the Fred W. Smith Forum at the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI 200).

Book Description

This first complete account of the Lakota Indians traces their rich and often surprising history from the early sixteenth to the early twenty‑first century. Pekka Hämäläinen explores the Lakotas’ roots as marginal hunter‑gatherers and reveals how they reinvented themselves twice: first as a river people who dominated the Missouri Valley, America’s great commercial artery, and then—in what was America’s first sweeping westward expansion—as a horse people who ruled supreme on the vast high plains.

The Lakotas are imprinted in American historical memory. Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull are iconic figures in the American imagination, but in this groundbreaking book they emerge as something different: the architects of Lakota America, an expansive and enduring Indigenous regime that commanded human fates in the North American interior for generations. Hämäläinen’s deeply researched and engagingly written history places the Lakotas at the center of American history, and the results are revelatory.


Pekka Hämäläinen is a historian of early and nineteenth-century North America, specializing in Indigenous, colonial, and borderlands history. He taught at Texas A&M and UC-Santa Barbara prior to Oxford, and he has been a fellow at SMU’s William P. Clements Center in Southwest Studies, the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and Institut d’Etudes Advancées in Nantes. He is the author of Comanche Empire (Yale University Press, 2008), which, among its twelve awards, received the Bancroft Prize, the Merle Curti Award, and the Caughey Prize. He has published scholarship widely, including in Journal of American History, History and Theory, American Historical Review, and Journal of the Civil War Era, and he is co-editor, with Benjamin H. Johnson, of Major Problems in the History of the North American Borderlands (Houghton Mifflin, 2011), and co-author of Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of American People (Cengage, 2015).