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Lifting up a Lakota leader

A new children’s book by Native American scholar David Weiden introduces young readers to the legendary Lakota Chief Spotted Tail.

October 28, 2019

By Matt Watson

When inclusive children’s book publisher Reycraft Books approached Native American scholar David Heska Wanbli Weiden for book ideas, he knew right away the story that needed to be told.

While there are many biographies about well-known Native figures such as Geronimo, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, he told the new publishing company, there were none about the great leader of his nation: Chief Spotted Tail.

That changes Nov. 1 when Reycraft releases Weiden’s book, “Spotted Tail,” a biography of the legendary chief of the Lakota nation, of which Weiden is an enrolled member. The 48-page book is written for elementary-school students ages 9 and older and illustrated by Lakota artist Jim Yellowhawk.


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“You don’t see this a lot, a children’s book written by a Native person and illustrated by a Native person as well,” said Weiden, an associate professor of political science and Native American Studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

"Spotted Tail" was written by Lakota author David Weiden and illustrated in part by Lakota artist Jim Yellowhawk. Image courtesy of Reycraft Books.
"Spotted Tail" was written by Lakota author David Weiden and illustrated in part by Lakota artist Jim Yellowhawk. Image courtesy of Reycraft Books.

Reycraft, which launched this fall with the mission of representing a “vast tapestry of cultures, lifestyles and experiences,” invites young reader to:

Meet Chief Spotted Tail, the great leader of the Sicangu Lakota people. Spotted Tail was born almost 200 years ago, and he helped lead the Lakota nation during times of war. Chief Spotted Tail was not only a great warrior, but he was one of the first American Indian leaders to argue for peace between the United States and Native Americans. He was also a great believer in education as the best way to improve the lives of American Indians. Today, there is a university named after him on the Rosebud Indian Reservation, and his life is an inspiration to all Americans.”

The book includes an appendix detailing Lakota customs, such as how spirit names are given and the concept of the giveaway, where Native Americans give away presents to others during celebrations instead of receiving gifts.

“It’s not just a biography. It also contains some general knowledge that I hope will appeal to kids – not just Native kids but hopefully all kids,” Weiden said.

David Heska Wanbli Weiden, associate professor of political science and Native American studies, wrote the book "Spotted Tail" to teach children about a great Lakota chief and Lakota customs that have been overlooked in literature. Photo courtesy of Weiden.
David Heska Wanbli Weiden, associate professor of political science and Native American studies, wrote the book "Spotted Tail" to teach children about a great Lakota chief and Lakota customs that have been overlooked in literature. Photo courtesy of Weiden.

Weiden is invested through his teaching and writing in spreading knowledge of and preserving Lakota history – so much so that he’s providing copies of “Spotted Tail” to every reservation, elementary school and library in the seven Lakota reservations.


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“I’m not making any royalties and I’m not doing this for the money,” Weiden said. “I’m doing it because I want the information to be out there.”

Purchase “Spotted Tail” in paperback or hardcover at Reycraft Books beginning Nov. 1.


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