Living with Strangers


Living with Strangers

The Nineteenth-Century Sioux and the Canadian-American Borderlands

David G. McCrady

176 pages
Illus., maps


April 2006


$45.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

The story of the Sioux who moved into the Canadian-American borderlands in the later years of the nineteenth century is told in its entirety for the first time here. Previous histories have been divided by national boundaries and have focused on the famous personages involved, paying scant attention to how Native peoples on both sides of the border reacted to the arrival of the Sioux. Using material from archives across North America, Canadian and American government documents, Lakota winter counts, and oral history, Living with Strangers reveals how the nineteenth-century Sioux were a people of the borderlands.

The Sioux made great tactical use of the Canada–United States boundary. They traded with the Métis of Canada—often in contraband goods such as arms and ammunition—and tried to get better prices from European traders by drawing the Hudson’s Bay Company into competition with American traders. They opened negotiations with both Canadian and American officials to determine which government would accord them better treatment, and they used the boundary as a shield in times of warfare with the United States. Until now, the Canadian-American borderlands and the people who live there have remained a blind spot in Canadian and American nationalist historiographies. Living with Strangers takes readers beyond the traditional dichotomy of the Canadian and the American West and reveals significant and previously unknown strands in Sioux history.

Author Bio

David G. McCrady is an independent historian living in Winnipeg.


Living with Strangers attempts to cast the history of the Sioux in a different light by introducing a borderlands paradigm to the historiography. This new angle not only sheds light on where the Sioux existed but also about the way in which they lived. McCrady skillfully shows how the Sioux were not passive victims of assimilation but were active participants in shaping their own destiny and the borderlands were integral to this agency. . . . McCrady's work is a welcomed addition to the histiography and examines an important, but neglected, part of the West's history.”—Craig Greenham, Journal of the West

“McCrady’s mastery of Canadian and U.S. sources is impressive. . . . Living with Strangers will be a necessary source to consult when examining other works on the trans-border region because of its importance as a new baseline study, and especially because it has references to other aboriginal groups: Metis, Assiniboine, Blackfoot divisions, Gros Ventre, Plains Ojibwa, Crows, among others.”—David R. Miller, editor of The First Ones: Readings in Indian/Native Studies

“David McCrady performs a very valuable service by providing both a chronology and the concept of borderlands to understand the Sioux and their relations to other Native groups and the different state powers. It is an important subject and one that gives us a different picture of the Native diplomacy, treaty-making war, and reservation-making that constituted what Richard Maxwell Brown has called the 'western wars of incorporation.' Bridging two national historiographies, Living with Strangers makes a real contribution to our understanding of Sioux history.”—Gerhard Ens, author of Homeland to Hinterland: The Changing Worlds of the Red River Metis in the Nineteenth Century

“This is much to compliment in Living with Strangers. It shifts the historical border focus from Canada–United States national studies by uncovering northern Sioux border history and explaining tribal relationship with the international boundary.”—Richmond L. Clow, Journal of American History

“Highly recommended.”—A. B. Kehoe, Choice

“The text is richly narrated with competing definitions of borderlands, discussions of emerging ‘middle grounds,’ portrayals of transboundary peoples, and examples of cultural mediation, especially those involving the Métis. Most important, Living with Strangers is a superb example of reporting history of the northern borderlands. Unlike the Spanish borderlands, which receive frequent attention from scholars, encounters on the Canadian-U.S. borders are still largely unexplored . . . McCrady should be commended for blurring boundaries and producing a unified history of the Sioux in the nineteenth century . . . . A long–overdue and superb treatment of this topic.”—James T. Carroll, Great Plains Quarterly

“This [book] will work well for courses on the Northern Plains, the North American West, and Native American/First Nations history. Especially useful for class settings will be the introductory and concluding chapters that spell out reasons to study comparative and transnational history. . . . [Living with Strangers] presents a deep sense of place and adds significantly to historians’ growing understanding of the borderlands of the American and Canadian Wests.”—Sterling Evans, American Historical Review

“An ambitious and valuable study that begins to map out important dimensions of the complex history of the Sioux of the borderlands.”—Sarah Carter, Montana: The Magazine of Western History


2006 Clio Prize, sponsored by the Canadian Historical Association, prairies region category winner
2006 Margaret McWilliams Award, sponsored by the Manitoba Historical Society, scholarly book category finalist