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Dakota Philosopher

Dakota Philosopher

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Charles Eastman and American Indian Thought

Author David Martinez

Minnesota Historical Society Press (January 15, 2009)

David Martinez explores the views and work of Charles Eastman and claims for him a long overdue place in American Indian philisophical thought.


Charles Eastman (1858–1939) straddled two worlds in his life and writing. The author of Indian Boyhood was raised in the traditional Dakota (Sioux) way after the upheaval of the 1862 U.S.–Dakota War. His father later persuaded Ohiyesa to take a white name, study Christianity, and attend medical school. But when Eastman served as a government doctor during the Wounded Knee massacre, he became disillusioned about Americans’ capacity to live up to their own ideals.

While Eastman’s contemporaries viewed him as “a great American and a true philosopher,” Indian scholars have long dismissed Eastman’s work as assimilationist. Now, for the first time, his philosophy as manifested in his writing is examined in detail. David Martínez explores Eastman’s views on the U.S.–Dakota War, Dakota and Ojibwe relations, Dakota sacred history, and citizenship in the Progressive Era, claiming for him a long overdue place in America’s intellectual pantheon.

Author information

David Martínez is an assistant professor in the department of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University. Of Pima descent, he is an enrolled member of the Gilla River Indian Community.

Reviews and news

“A compelling, innovative, and provocative reading of the work of Charles Eastman. . . Martínez has achieved a new and deepened understanding of the importance of Charles Eastman to his times, to Native intellectual history, and to the history of the state of Minnesota.”
Robert Allen Warrior, author of The People and the Word: Reading Native Nonfiction

“Martínez makes a unique contribution to the ongoing exploration of the early twentieth-century generation of Indian intellectuals, offering literary interpretations of historical texts and taking particular aim at the connections between intellectual history and philosophy. Dakota Philosopher reflects a rich and exciting configuration of the interdisciplinarity required by American Indian studies.”
Philip Deloria, author of Indians in Unexpected Places

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 224 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873516297

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