The Sioux or Dakota Indian Tribe

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One of the most important Indian tribes north of Mexico, being the largest in the United States with the possible exception of the Ojibwa. Their popular name is supposed to be an abbreviation from Nadowesiwug (corrupted by the French to Nadaouesioux), 'little snakes,' i.e. 'enemies,' their ancient name among the Ojibwa, as distinguished from the Nadowe or Iroquois, the 'snakes' proper. They are now more usually called Buanag, 'enemies' by the Ojibwa, whence Asini-buanag, 'Stone Sioux' of Assiniboin. The Sioux call themselves Lakota, Nakota, or Dakota, according to the respective dialect, the word meaning 'allies.'

According to concurrent linguistic, traditional, and historical evidence the Sioux, with all the cognate tribes of the Siouan stock, originally lived east of the Alleghanies. When first known to the French in 1632 they had their principal seats in northwestern Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota, about the west end of Lake Superior and the heads of the Mississippi. The Assiniboin were already a distinct tribe farther to the northwest, by secession from the Yankton division. From this position the Sioux were driven by the Ojibwa advancing from he east, the latter being aided by the French, and gradually moved out into the plains, crossing the Missouri and taking possession of the Black Hills and the Platte region after driving out the previous occupants, the Crows, Cheyenne, and Kiowa.

In this migration they lost the agricultural habit, with the exception of the Santee bands remaining behind in Minnesota, and became an equestrian nation of buffalo hunters. In 1815 the eastern bands made their first treaties of friendship with the Government after having sided with the English in the War of 1812. By the general treaty made at Prairie du Chien in 1825 an end was made to the hereditary war between the Sioux and the Ojibwa by the adjustment of tribal boundaries, and the Sioux were confirmed in possession of an immense territory stretching from the east bank of the Mississippi almost to the Rocky Mountains and from about Devil's Lake southward to about the present Sioux City, including nearly half of Minnesota, two-thirds of the Dakotas, and large portions of Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Wyoming. The headwaters of the Mississippi were left to the Ojibwa by right of former conquest and existing occupancy. In 1835 missions were established among the eastern (Santee) bands by the American Board, which started schools and printed books in the language. In 1837 the Sioux sold all their claims east of the Mississippi. In 1851 they sold the greater part of Minnesota, but dissatisfaction at the delay of the Government in fulfilling the terms of the treaty led to a massacre of settlers at Spirit Lake on the Minnesota-Iowa border in 1857, followed a few years later by a second rising inaugurated by the terrible "Minnesota Massacre" in 1862, in which nearly 1000 settlers lost their lives. The outbreak was put down by General Sibley, who crushed the Indians and hung 39 of the leaders from the same scaffold. The Result was the expulsion of the Sioux from Minnesota.

From this time until 1868 the western bands, together with the Cheyenne, Kiowa, and other plains tribes and under the leadership of Red Cloud and other noted chiefs, were almost constantly at war with the whites. A principal event of this was the massacre of Fetterman's entire command of about 100 men near Fort Kearney, Neb., in 1866. In 1868 a treaty of peace was made which remained unbroken until the invasion of the Black Hills by the miners, consequent upon the discovery of gold, led to another war in 1876-77, the principal event of which was the massacre of General Custer's entire command of nearly 300 regular troops, June 25, 1876.

Sitting Bull, the leader of the irreconcilables, escaped to Canada with several thousand followers, but returned in 1881 on promise of amnesty. After being held two years as a prisoner of war, Sitting Bull again took up his residence at Standing Rock Agency, where he remained until his death. In 1889 another treaty was made by which the "Great Sioux Reservation," embracing all of South Dakota west of the Missouri, was reduced by about one-half and the remainder cut up into five distinct smaller reservations. The opposition of a powerful minority to this sale, coupled with dissatisfaction at treaty grievances and the excitement aroused by the reported advent of an Indian messiah in the West, led to another outbreak in the winter of 1890-91. Leading events were the killing of Sitting Bull, December 15, 1890, and the Wounded Knee Massacre. December 29, 1890, by which about 300 Indians lost their lives. The outbreak was soon afterwards successfully brought to a close by General Miles.

The Sioux have seven principal divisions, viz. Mde-wakantonwan, "spirit lake village" (Mde-wakanton); Waqpekute, 'leaf shooters;' Waqpetonwan, 'leaf village' (wahpeton); Sisitonwan, 'swamp village' (Sisseton); Ihanktonwan, 'end village' (Yankton); Ihanktonwanna, 'upper end village' (Yanktonais); Titonwan, 'prairie village' (Teton). The first four are known collectively as Isanati or Santee. The Yankton and Yanktonais resided in that part of Dakota east of the Missouri. The Teton, constituting two-thirds of the whole nation, lived west of the Missouri upon the buffalo plains. The Teton are further subdivided into Oqalala (at Pine Ridge), Brule (at Rosebud and Lower Brule agencies), Hunkpapa (at Standing Rock Agency), Two Kettle, Sans Arc, Miniconjou, etc.

There are three principal dialects, Teton, Yankton, and Santee, distinguished chiefly by differences in the use of l, n, and d, as exemplified in the various forms of the tribal name. (See above). The languages have been much cultivated, an alphabet having been adapted to it by the missionaries, so that it now has a considerable literature, including two small newspapers, while nearly all the men can read and write it. It is vocalic, euphonious, but strongly nasal.

The sedentary and agricultural eastern (Santee) Sioux were commonly rated as inferior to their western brethren, who were typical nomad warriors and hunters, the lords of the plains, before whom no other tribe could stand. Their great number and conscious strength bred a brave and haughty manliness which still remains with them. They lived almost exclusively by the buffalo, following with their skin tipis wherever the herds migrated. Beyond what the buffalo gave them of food, clothing, and shelter they had only their horses, dogs, and weapons, nor cared for more. Their greatest ceremony was the annual sun dance, held under the direction of the warrior societies, and usually accompanied by voluntary self-torture. The eastern Sioux have been civilized and Christianized for a generation. The western bands are only now beginning to accept the white man's road, but their high character and intelligence bid fair to bring them rapidly to the front. As usual, however, the yearly census shows a decrease, largely from tuberculosis. The whole number of the Sioux is now somewhat over 24,000 distributed as follows: Canada (refugees from United States), 600; Minnesota, 930; Montana (Fort Peck Agency) 1180; Nebraska (Santee Agency), 1310; North Dakota (Devil's Lake and Standing Rock agencies), 4630; South Dakota (Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Rosebud, and Pine Ridge agencies), 15,480.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Sioux or Dakota Indian Tribe
Researcher/Preparer/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my Collection of Books: The New International Encyclopedia; Dodd, Mead & Company-New York 1902-1905. Total of 21 Volumes.
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