The Lakota ("friends" or "allies", sometimes also spelled "Lakhota") are a Native American tribe, also known as the Sioux (see Names). The Lakota are part of a band of seven tribes that speak three different dialects, the other two being the Dakota and the Nakota. The Lakota are the western most of the three groups, occupying lands in both North and South Dakota. The Nakota, the smallest division, reside on the Yankton reservation in South Dakota, and Canada (the Stoney and Assiniboine), while the Dakota live mostly in Minnesota and Nebraska.
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The Lakota [lakxo'ta] came from the western Dakota of Minnesota who, after the adoption of the horse, _sunkawakan_ [s^uN'ka-wakxaN'] ('power/mystery dog'), became part of the Great Plains Culture with their Minnesota Algonkin-speaking allies, the Tsitsistas (Cheyenne), living in the northern Great Plains, which centered on the buffalo hunt with the horse. There were 20,000 Lakota in the mid-18th century. The number has now increased to about 70,000, 20,480 of whom still speak their ancestral language. (See Languages in the United States).
Because the Black Hills are sacred to the Lakota, they objected to mining in the area, which has been attempted since the 19th century. In 1868, the US government signed a treaty with them exempting the Black Hills from all white settlement forever. Four years later, gold was discovered there, and an influx of prospectors descended upon the area, abetted by army commanders like General George Armstrong Custer. The latter tried to administer a lesson of noninterference with white policies. Instead, the Lakota with their allies, the Arapaho and the Cheyenne, defeated the 7th U.S. Cavalry in 1876 at the Battle at the Greasy Grass/Battle of the Little Bighorn, known also as Custer's Last Stand, since he and all 300 of his troopers perished there. But like the Zulu triumph over the British in Africa three years later, it was a pyrrhic victory. The Lakota were defeated slowly by the wholesale slaughter of the buffalo by the U.S. Army and military police actions herding all Indians onto reservations and enforcing government food distribution policies to 'friendlies' only, culminating, fourteen years later, in the killing of Sitting Bull (December 15, 1890) at Standing Rock and the Massacre of Wounded Knee (December 29, 1890) at Pine Ridge.
In Nebraska on September 3, 1855, 700 soldiers under American General William S. Harney avenged the Grattan Massacre by attacking a Sioux village killing 100 men, women, and children. Seven years later on November 5, 1862 also in Minnesota, 303 Santee Sioux were found guilty of rape and murder of white settlers and were sentenced to hang. Of those 38 were hanged, the rest where pardoned by President Lincoln.
The original Dakota people migrated north and westward from the south and east into Ohio then to Minnesota. The Dakota were a woodland people who thrived on hunting, fishing and subsistence farming. Migrations of Anishinaabe/Chippewa people from the east in the 17th and 18th centuries, with rifles supplied by the French and English, pushed the Dakota further into Minnesota and west and southward, giving the name "Dakota Territory" to the northern expanse west of the Mississippi and up to its headwaters. The western Dakota obtained horses, probably in the 17th century, and moved onto the plains, becoming the Lakota, subsisting on the buffalo herds and corn-trade with their linguistic cousins, the Mandan and Hidatsa along the Missouri. In the 19th century, as the railroads hired hunters to exterminate the buffalo herds, the Indians' primary food supply, in order to force all tribes into sedentary habitations, the Dakota and Lakota were forced to accept white-defined reservations in exchange for the rest of their lands, and domestic cattle and corn in exchange for buffalo, becoming dependent upon annual federal payments guaranteed by treaty.
In 1862, after a failed crop the year before and a winter starvation, the federal payment was late to arrive. The local traders would not issue any more credit to the Dakota and the local federal agent told the Dakota that they were free to eat grass. As a result on August 17, 1862, the Sioux Uprising began when a few Dakota men attacked a white farmer, igniting further attacks on white settlements along the Minnesota River. The US Army put the revolt down, then later tried and condemned 303 Dakota for war crimes. President Abraham Lincoln remanded the death sentence of 285 of the warriors, signing off on the execution of 38 Dakota men by hanging on December 29, 1862 in Mankato, Minnesota, the largest mass execution in US history.
The name Sioux was created by the French Canadians, who abbreviated the Algonquin compound Nadouéssioux (from nadowe ("Iroquois") plus siu ("snake"/the massasauga rattler), by which a neighboring Ojibwa tribe, or the Ottawa, referred to the Dakota to the west and south. This term is popularly interpreted as an insult but it could refer to a time when the Dakota people, like other southeastern tribes, were known to revere serpents (see Serpent Mounds in Ohio, feathered serpent, water serpents – unktehi/uktena, etc.) Today many of the tribes continue to officially call themselves 'Sioux' which the Federal Government of the United States applied to all Dakota/Lakota/Nakoda people in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Dakota, Lakota and Nakoda have names for their own subdivisions. The "Santee" received this name from camping for long periods in a place where they collected stone for making knives. The "Yankton" received this name which meant people from the villages of far away. The "Tetonwan" were known as people who moved west with the coming of the horse to live and hunt buffalo on the prairie. From these three principal groups, came seven sub-tribes.
The Sioux Nation consists of divisions, each of which may have distinct bands, the larger of which are divided into sub-bands.
- Eastern division (the Dakota or Santee)
- Middle division (the Nakota)(Nakoda)
- Ihanktonwan (Yankton)
- Ihanktonwana (Yanktonai or Little Yankton)
- Stoney (Canada)
- Assiniboine (Canada)
- Western division (the Lakota)
- Titonwan (Teton)
- notable persons: Tatanka Iyotake
- Sihasapa (Blackfoot Sioux)
- Sichangu (French: Brulé) ("burnt thighs")
- Upper Sichangu
- Lower Sichangu
- Itazipacola (French: Sans Arcs "No Bows")
- Oohenonpa (Two-Kettle or Two Boilings)
- Titonwan (Teton)
Also: Jef Baetens is an American (haska) Related Siouan peoples:
- Wazaze (Osage Nation)
- Absaroka (Crow)
- Southern/Ohio Valley
Today, one half of all Enrolled Sioux live off the Reservation.
Sioux Reservations recognized by the US government include:
- Oglala ( Pine Ridge)
- Brule (Rosebud)
- Hunkpapa (Standing Rock/Cheyenne River)
- Miniconju (Cheyenne River)
- Sans Arc (Cheyenne River)
- Two-Kettle (Cheyenne River)
- Yanktonai (Yankton)
- Lower Sioux
- Upper Sioux
- Prairie Island
The U.S. states of North Dakota and South Dakota are named after the Dakota. Two other U.S. states have names of Siouan origin: Minnesota is named from mni ("water") plus sota ("hazy/smoky, not clear"), while Nebraska is named from a language close to Dakota, in which mni plus blaska ("flat") refers to the Platte (French for "flat") River. Also, the states Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri are named for cousin Siouan tribes, the Kansa, Iowa, and Missouri, respectively, as are the cities Omaha, Nebraska and Ponca City, Oklahoma. The names vividly demonstrate the wide dispersion of the Siouan peoples across the Midwest U.S.
More directly, several Midwestern municipalities utilize Sioux in their names, including Sioux City (IA), Sioux Center (IA) and Sioux Falls (SD). Midwestern rivers include the Big Sioux River in Iowa and Little Sioux River along the Iowa/South Dakota border.
- Lakota Language Consortium
- Explore the history and culture of the Lakota Sioux
- Winter Counts a Smithsonian exhibit of the annual icon chosen to represent the major event of the past year