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A traditional Sioux tipi
    
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Eastman was born in a buffalo hide tipi near Redwood Falls, Minnesota, in the winter of 1858. At birth, he was named “Hakadah”, meaning “the pitiful last,” because he was the last of his three brothers and one sister, and his mother died shortly after his birth. She had been the granddaughter of the Sioux chief Cloud Man and the daughter of Stands Sacred and a well-known army officer, Seth Eastman.

These were still the days of nomadic bands of Plains Indians living in relative isolation from the white settlers who were invading their traditional lands.

In his early youth, he received the name Ohiyesa, meaning "the Winner."
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