Heart of All: Oral Histories of Oglala Lakota People on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

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Working with a group of over fifty students at the Little Wound School in Kyle, South Dakota, Mark Hetzel collected countless hours of oral history interviews with Oglala Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Mark and his students then turned those interviews into a 7-part audio series that attempts to piece together the long and complicated story of the Lakota oyate, or nation, through the voices of local elders and community members. These are available in the form of a podcast called the “Heart of All Oral History Project.”

As Mark’s students write on the Heart of All website, “We see this project as an opportunity to finally tell our own story, to set the record straight, and to be reminded, by our own relatives, where we came from and who we really are.” Framed as a conversation between community elders and students at the Little Wound School, the podcast series reflects the oral storytelling tradition that represents how Lakota people traditionally passed their knowledge from one generation to the next. But this process was interrupted by the US Federal Government’s assimilationist policies during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, which punished Lakota people from speaking their language or practicing their traditional culture in boarding schools and other institutions of settler colonialism. By providing a space for Lakota people to tell their own history in their own voices, this oral history project thus represents a profound statement of Indigenous sovereignty and Lakota resistance to the epistemic imperialism of the United States. It is also a rich resource for non-Native people who are interested to learn more about the violent history of settler colonialism, the immense courage and steadfast resilience of Lakota people, as well as the beauty, creativity, and humor that characterizes Lakota culture.

This interview was conducted by Lukas Rieppel, a historian at Brown University. You can learn more about his research here. If you want to learn more about the Heart of All Oral History Project, please go here.

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