This is a response paper answering the question about the South: The post-Civil War South has been called the “New South.” In what ways did it succeed in reinventing itself? In what ways did it fail? The second question is about the West: How did the culture of the Plains Indians, specifically the Lakota Sioux, change in the late 19th century?

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The “New South” Reconstruction
The ‘New South’ is a historical paradigm involving people, places (the Southeast US territories) and a period of time since 1865. There are of course successes and failures that have been shaping the South since the Civil War. The idea of reinvention consisted in establishing new ways of thinking about political, economic, and cultural life in the South. I such a way, the New South have encompassed the spirit of reinvention. The primary success is associated with the abolishment of slavery which forced the South to reinvent its society and economy. Natives, residents, newcomers, immigrants, and visitors have all contributed to the composition and development of the region.

The actual period of Reconstruction lasted for 12 years (1865 – 1877). Over this period the US government tried to put the country together following the Civil War. As a whole, historians regard this endeavor as unsuccessful. Regardless of the fact that the Government managed to politically convince Southern states to rejoin the Union by passing only three amendments to the Constitution, few things went well.

The North cut short the underfunded Freedmen’s Bureau and therefore left the overwhelming majority of uneducated free slaves in the South. The Government failed to come up with the land reform and forced the slaves to survive on a sharecropping system. Slaves were not allowed to own farms, and this fact alone still made them dependent, unequal and unsuccessful. Various laws and the Black Codes restricted formerly practiced enslavement, though in fact most African-Americans were left legally unprotected and were reduced to involuntarily work for whites to survive. When the Reconstruction effort was eventually cut off, the South economy appeared in ruins while the Southern society survived in poverty (Brogan, 1985).

The culture of the Lakota Sioux in the late 19th century
The Lakota Sioux are depicted as the iconic warrior horsemen in the Northern Plains. The tribe has become recognized owing to their cultural heritage, including paintings and photographs, Hollywood movies, and Wild West shows. This horse-rich tribe forged military alliances on the grounds of shared cultural traditions and the existence of common enemies.

The 1890s came as a rather difficult decade for the Sioux. They were confined to reservations supervised by indifferent and self-serving Indian agents, where they farmed arid land. Sioux children were shipped to boarding schools in Pennsylvania and other states, where they were taught to assimilate by abandoning their Indian heritage and culture. These destructive influences were overwhelming and influential. In particular, in 1882 ‘The Sun Dance’ an integrating symbol for the Lakotas was banned together with various other rituals. Shared and followed by Lakotas. As a reaction to various cultural bans, Lacotas inhibited peyotism and Ghost Dance rituals. Despite of numerous prohibitions and restrictions, Lakota Sioux managed to safeguard their culture and traditions to future generations (Pritzker, 2000).

  • Brogan, H. (1985). The Penguin History of the United States of America. London, England: Penguin Books
  • Pritzker, B. (2000). A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press.