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The Last of the Sioux

The Last of the Sioux


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The First Sioux War was fought between 1854 and 1856 following the Grattan Massacre. [8] The punitive Battle of Ash Hollow was fought in September 1855.

The Santee Sioux or Dakotas of Western Minnesota rebelled on August 17, 1862, after the Federal Government failed to deliver the annuity payments that had been promised to them in the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux of 1851. The tribe pillaged the nearby village of New Ulm and attacked on Fort Ridgely. They killed over 800 German farmers, including men, women and children. After the Battle of Birch Coulee on September 2, the Indians were eventually defeated on September 23 in the Battle of Wood Lake.

Most of the warriors who took part in the fighting escaped to the west and north into Dakota Territory to continue the conflict, while the remaining Santees surrendered on September 26 at Camp Release to the US Army. In the following murder trials, 303 Indians were sentenced to death. After closer investigation from Washington, 38 were hanged on December 26 in the Town of Mankato in America's largest mass-execution. [9]

In the aftermath, battles continued between Minnesota regiments and combined Lakota and Dakota forces through 1864 as Col. Henry Sibley's troops pursued the Sioux. Sibley's army defeated the Lakota and Dakota in four major battles in 1863: the Battle of Big Mound on July 24, 1863, the Battle of Dead Buffalo Lake on July 26, 1863 the Battle of Stony Lake on July 28, 1863 and the Battle of Whitestone Hill on September 3, 1863. The Sioux retreated further but faced a United States army again in 1864. General Alfred Sully led a force from near Fort Pierre, South Dakota, and decisively defeated the Sioux at the Battle of Killdeer Mountain on July 28, 1864, and at the Battle of the Badlands on August 9, 1864.

The survivors were forced to move to a small reservation on the Missouri River in central South Dakota. There, on the Crow Creek Reservation their descendants still live today.

The Colorado War began in 1863 and was primarily fought by American militia while the United States Army played a minor role. Several Native American tribes attacked American settlements in the Eastern Plains, including the Lakota Sioux who raided in northeast Colorado. On November 29, 1864 Colorado Volunteers under the command of Colonel John Chivington attacked a peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho village camped on Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado. Under orders to take no prisoners the militia killed an estimated 150 men, women, and children, mutilating the dead and taking scalps and other grisly trophies of battle. [10] The Indians at Sand Creek had been assured by the U.S. Government that they would be safe in the territory they were occupying, but anti-Indian sentiments by white settlers were running high. Later congressional investigations resulted in short-lived U.S. public outcry against the slaughter of the Native Americans.

Following the Sand Creek massacre the survivors joined the camps of the Northern Cheyenne on the Smokey Hill and Republican rivers. There the war pipe was smoked and passed from camp to camp among the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho camped in the area and an attack on the stage station and fort, Camp Rankin at that time, at Julesburg on the South Platte River was planned and carried out in January, 1865. [11] This successful attack, the Battle of Julesburg, led by the Sioux, who were most familiar with the territory, was carried out by about a thousand warriors and was followed up by numerous raids along the South Platte both east and west of Julesburg and a second raid on Julesburg in early February. Following the first raid on January 7, 500 troops under the command of General Robert B. Mitchell consisting of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, the First Nebraska Veteran Volunteer Cavalry, and Companies "B" and "C," First Nebraska Militia (mounted) [12] had been removed from the Platte and were engaged in a fruitless search for hostile Indians on the plains south of the Platte. They found the camp on the Republican River occupied by the tribes only after they had left. [13] A great deal of loot was captured and many whites killed. The bulk of the natives then moved north into Nebraska on their way to the Black Hills and the Powder River but paused to burn the telegraph station on Lodgepole Creek then attacked the station at Mud Springs on the Jules cutoff. There were 9 soldiers stationed there, the telegraph operator and a few other civilians. The Indians began the attack by running the stock off from the station's corral along with a herd of cattle. Alerted by telegraph, the Army dispatched men from Fort Mitchell and Fort Laramie on February 4, about 150 men in all. Arriving on February 5 the first party of reinforcements of 36 men found themselves facing superior forces, estimated to number 500 warriors and with two men wounded were forced to retreat into the station. The second party of 120 troops under the command of Colonel William Collins, commandant of Fort Laramie, arrived on the 6th and found themselves facing 500 to 1,000 warriors. Armed with Spencer repeating rifles the soldiers were able to hold their own and a standoff resulted. After about 4 hours of fighting the war party left and moved their village to the head of Brown's Creek on the north side of the North Platte. Collins' forces were soon reinforced by 50 more men from Fort Laramie who had towed a mountain howitzer with them. With a force of about 185 men Collins followed the trail of the Indians to their abandoned camp at Rock Creek Spring, then followed their plain trail to the south bank of the North Platte at Rush Creek where they encountered a force of approximately 2,000 warriors on the north side of the river. An inconclusive fight followed and the decision was made to abandon pursuit of the war party. In his report Colonel Collins correctly predicted that the party was en route to the Power River Country and would continue to raid along the North Platte. His estimate of Indian casualties during the two engagements was 100 to 150, many more than reported by George Bent a participant in the war party. [14] [15]

In the spring of 1865, raids continued along the Oregon trail in Nebraska. January 27, 1865 while a brisk northwest wind was blowing the army fired the prairie from Fort McPherson to Denver. [16] The Sioux, the Northern Cheyenne, the Northern Arapaho together with the warriors who had come north after the Sand Creek massacre raided the Oregon Trail along the North Platte River, and in July, 1865 attacked the troops stationed at the bridge across the North Platte at the present site of Casper, Wyoming, the Battle of the Platte Bridge Station. [17] [18]

In 1865 Major General Grenville M. Dodge ordered a punitive expedition against the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes that lived in the Black Hills region. General Patrick E. Connor was placed in command with hundreds of regular and volunteer soldiers at his disposal. Connor divided his force into three columns, the first was under Colonel Nelson Cole and was assigned to operate along the Loup River of Nebraska. The second column, under Lt Col Samuel Walker, would travel north from Fort Laramie to occupy an area west of the Black Hills while the third, led by General Connor and Colonel James H. Kidd, would march up the Powder River. Only minor skirmishing occurred until August 29, 1865 when Connor's column of about 400 men encountered about 500 Arapahos of Chief Black Bear in the Battle of the Tongue River. That morning Connor's men charged and captured a village and routed the defenders who counterattacked unsuccessfully. A few days later a small party of soldiers and civilian surveyors was attacked by the Arapaho in what became known as the Sawyers Fight, three Americans were killed and it marked the last skirmish of the Powder River War.

Due to increasing demand of safe travel along the Bozeman Trail to the Montana gold fields, the US government tried to negotiate new treaties with the Lakota Indians who were legally entitled to the Powder River country, through which the trail led, by the Treaty of Fort Laramie. Because the military sent simultaneously two battalions of the 18th Infantry under the command of Colonel Henry B. Carrington to establish new forts to watch over the Bozeman Road, the Indians refused to sign any treaty and left Fort Laramie determined to defend their land.

Carrington reinforced Fort Reno and established two additional forts further north (Fort Phil Kearny and Fort C. F. Smith) in the summer of 1866. His strategy, based on his orders from higher headquarters, was to secure the road, rather than fight the Indians. At the same time Red Cloud and the other chiefs soon became aware that they were unable to defeat a fully defended fort, so they kept to raiding every wagon train and traveling party they could find along the road. [27]

Young eager warriors from the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes formed war parties who would attack woodcutting parties near the forts as well as freight trains to cut their supplies. Crazy Horse from the Oglala, Gall from the Hunkpapas and Hump from the Miniconjous were the best known ones among them. [27] On December 21, 1866, Indians fired on woodcutters working near Fort Phil Kearny. The relief party was commanded by Captain William J. Fetterman. Fetterman's party was drawn into an ambush by an estimated 1,000–3,000 Indians and wiped out. Due to the high casualties on the American side, the Indians called the fight the "Battle of the Hundred Slain" ever since among the Whites, it was called the "Fetterman Massacre". [27]

The US government came to the conclusion after the Fetterman Fight that the forts along the Bozeman Trail were expensive to maintain (both in terms of supplies and manpower) and did not bring the intended security for travelers along the Road. However Red Cloud refused to attend any meeting with treaty commissions during 1867. Only after the army evacuated the forts in the Powder River country and the Indians burned down all three of them, did he travel to Fort Laramie in the summer of 1868, [27] where the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) was signed. It established the Great Sioux Reservation which included all South Dakota territory west of the Missouri river. It also declared additional territory reaching as far as the Yellowstone and North Platte rivers as unceded territory for sole use by the Indians.

On May 7, 1868, the Crow tribe ceded land to the United States, including areas along the Yellowstone, Montana. [2] The army came under attack by Lakotas in 1872, while it protected surveying expeditions for the Northern Pacific Railway down the river. [28] The next year, the Lakotas carried out attacks on the U.S. army in the five years old U.S. territory at Honsinger Bluff [29] and Pease Bottom. [30] Further east, soldiers and Arikara scouts from Fort McKeen at the Missouri had to fight attacking Lakotas on August 26, 1872. [31] [32] Nearly 300 Lakotas attacked the fort on October 14. [31] Around 100 Lakotas attacked close by Fort Abraham Lincoln on May 7, 1873. [33] Both forts were located in former Lakota territory, which the tribe had ceded to the United States at the same time as the establishment of the Great Sioux Reservation in 1868. [34]

Especially after the Lakota massacre on the Pawnee Indians in the south-western Nebraska on August 5, 1873, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs advocated a firmer line against all Lakotas harassing people, both Indians and whites, outside the recognized 1868 Lakota domain. [35] [36] "In his 1873 annual report he recommended . that those [Sioux] Indians roaming west of the Dakota line be forced by the military to come in to the Great Sioux Reservation". [37] "The Great Sioux War" could have started in 1873, but nothing came about.

The Great Sioux War refers to series of conflicts from 1876 to 1877 involving the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne tribes. Following the influx of gold miners to the Black Hills of South Dakota, war broke out when the native followers of Chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse left their reservations, apparently to go on the war path and defend the sacred Black Hills. In the first major fight of the war, on March 17, 1876, about 300 men under Colonel Joseph J. Reynolds attacked approximately 225 Northern Cheyenne warriors in the Battle of Powder River which ended with a United States victory. During the fighting, the Cheyenne were forced to retreat with their families further up the Powder River, leaving behind large quantities of weapons and ammunition. Next came the major Battle of Rosebud on June 17 when 1,500 Cheyenne warriors, led by Crazy Horse himself, defeated a force of 1,300 Americans under General George Crook. Crook retreated which helped lead to the infamous Battle of Little Big Horn beginning on June 25. Lieutenant Colonel George Custer, commanding a force of over 600 troops, was badly defeated with the loss of over 300 men killed or wounded, including himself. The next major engagement occurred at Slim Buttes on September 9 and 10. While moving toward Deadwood to secure supplies for Crook's command, elements of the 1st Cavalry commander by Capt Anson Mills located and attacked a Sioux village. The Dull Knife Fight, on November 25, and the Battle of Wolf Mountain on January 8, 1877 were the last major fights in the conflict. During the latter, Nelson A. Miles defended a ridge from a series of failed attacks led by Crazy Horse, who shortly thereafter surrendered at Camp Robinson, thus ending the war. [38]

From November 1890 to January 1891, unresolved grievances led to the last major conflict with the Sioux. A lopsided engagement that involved almost half the infantry and cavalry of the Regular Army caused the surviving warriors to lay down their arms and retreat to their reservations.

That autumn, the Sioux were moved to a large reservation in the Dakota Territory, but the government pressured them to sign a treaty giving up much of their land. Sitting Bull had returned from Canada and held the Sioux resistance together for a few years. But in the summer of 1889, the reservation agent, James McLaughlin, was able to secure the Sioux's signatures by keeping the final treaty council a secret from Sitting Bull. The treaty broke up their 35,000 acres (142 km²) into six small reservations.

In October 1890, Kicking Bear and Short Bull brought the Sioux one last hope of resistance. They taught them the Ghost Dance, something they had learned from Wovoka, a Paiute medicine man. He told them that in the spring, the earth would be covered with a new layer of soil that would bury the white men while the Native Americans who did the Ghost Dance would be suspended in the air. The grass and the buffalo would return, along with the ghosts of their dead ancestors. The Ghost Dance movement spread across western reservations. The U.S. government considered it a threat and sent out its military.

On the Sioux reservations, McLaughlin had Kicking Bear arrested, while Sitting Bull's arrest on December 15, 1890, resulted in a struggle between reservation police and Ghost Dancers in which Sitting Bull was killed. Two weeks later, the military intercepted Big Foot's band of Ghost Dancers. They were Minneconjou Sioux, mostly women who had lost husbands and other male relatives in the wars with the U.S. military. When Colonel Forsyth tried to disarm the last Minneconjou of his rifle, a shot broke out, and the surrounding soldiers opened fire. Hotchkiss guns shredded the camp on Wounded Knee Creek, killing, according to one estimate, 300 of 350 men, women, and children.

Stranded 9th Cavalry Edit

The battalion of 9th Cavalry was scouting near the White River (Missouri River tributary) about 50 miles north of Indian agency at Pine Ridge when the Wounded Knee Massacre occurred, and rode south all night to reach the reservation. In the early morning of December 30, 1890, F, I, and K Troops reached the Pine Ridge agency, however, their supply wagon guarded by D Troop located behind them was attacked by 50 Sioux warriors near Cheyenne Creek (about 2 miles from the Indian agency). One soldier was immediately killed. The wagon train protected itself by circling the wagons. Corporal William Wilson volunteered to take a message to the agency at Pine Ridge to get help after the Indian scouts refused to go. Wilson took off through the wagon circle with Sioux in pursuit and his troops covering him. Wilson reached the agency and spread the alarm. The 9th Cavalry within the agency came to rescue the stranded troopers and the Sioux dispersed. For his actions, Corporal Wilson received the Medal of Honor. [39]

Drexel Mission Fight Edit

The Drexel Mission Fight followed later in the day.

Winter guards Edit

The 9th Cavalry were stationed on the Pine Ridge reservation through the rest of the winter of 1890–1891 until March 1891, lodging in their tents. By then, the 9th Cavalry was the only regiment on the reservation after being the first to arrive in November 1890. [39]


The Last of the Sioux - HISTORY


Wife of American Horse, Dakota Sioux
by Gertrude Kasebier

The Sioux Nation is a large group of Native American tribes that traditionally lived in the Great Plains. There are three major divisions of Sioux: Eastern Dakota, Western Dakota, and the Lakota.

Many Sioux tribes were nomadic people who moved from place to place following bison (buffalo) herds. Much of their lifestyle was based around hunting bison.

Where did the Sioux live?

The Sioux lived in the northern Great Plains in lands that are today the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Tribes travelled all over the plains, however, and sometimes ended up in other states for periods of time.

What were their homes like?

The Sioux lived in teepees made from long wooden poles and covered with bison hides. The poles would be tied together at the top and spread wide at the bottom to make the shape of an upside down cone. Teepees could be taken down and set up quickly. This enabled entire villages to move on a regular basis.


Oglala Girl in front of a Sioux Tipi
by John C.H. Grabill

What did the Native American Sioux eat?

Some Sioux grew crops like corn, squash, and beans, however the majority of the Sioux gained most of their food from hunting. Their primary food source was meat from bison, but they also hunted deer and elk. They would dry the bison meat into a tough jerky that could be stored and lasted for over a year.

The women wore dresses made from deerskin. They would decorate them with rabbit fur. The men wore leggings and buckskin shirts when it was cool. When it was really cold they would wear warm cloaks made from buffalo hides. Like most Native Americans they wore soft leather shoes called moccasins.


Lakota Man's Shirt
Photo by Ducksters

One of the most important aspects of the Sioux Indian life was the bison. They used all of the bison, not just its meat for food. They used the skin and fur for blankets and clothes. They tanned the hides to make the coverings for their teepees. Bones were used as tools. The bison hair was used to make ropes and the tendons could be used for sewing thread and bow strings.

Bison are huge and dangerous animals. The Sioux had to be brave and clever to hunt them. Sometimes a brave would run the bison down with his horse and use a spear or an arrow to take down the bison. This was difficult and dangerous, but could be done with practice and skill. Before they had horses, the Sioux would cause a large herd of bison to stampede toward a cliff. The bison in the back would push the bison in the front off the cliff and hunters would be waiting at the bottom with spears and arrows to finish them off.

Horses Changed Their Life

Prior to Europeans arriving and bringing horses with them, there weren't any horses in America. The Sioux Indians would walk everywhere and hunting would take a long time. When they moved their village they couldn't carry too much and the teepees needed to be small enough so that their dogs could drag them along. When horses arrived, everything changed. The Sioux could now make much larger teepees to live in and could move a lot more stuff with them when the village relocated. Horses also made it much easier to travel and hunt buffalo. Both food and buffalo skins became much more abundant.


A History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians from their earliest traditions and first contact with white men to the final settlement of the last of them upon reservations (1904)

"Robinson, a historian with the South Dakota Historical Society, collected data for a history of the Lakota not long after the Wounded Knee massacre." -From Fort Laramie to Wounded Knee (1997)
"Well-researched history, told of their fights with other tribes as the Sioux pushed westward." - Changing Military Patterns of the Great Plains Indians (1992)
"An extremely detailed
"Robinson, a historian with the South Dakota Historical Society, collected data for a history of the Lakota not long after the Wounded Knee massacre." -From Fort Laramie to Wounded Knee (1997)
"Well-researched history, told of their fights with other tribes as the Sioux pushed westward." - Changing Military Patterns of the Great Plains Indians (1992)
"An extremely detailed history of the Sioux Indians." -The American Indian Ghost Dance (1991)
"In any list of notable South Dakotans, Jonah 'Doane' Robinson must rank near the top. -South Dakota Hall of Fame
"Doane Robinson is known as the 'Father of Mount Rushmore.' It was his idea for colossal carvings in the Black Hills." -Nps.gov

The Dakota or Sioux tribe, the most powerful of all of the Native American tribes, had in 1900 been the subject of a vast deal of writing, but it is somewhat remarkable that not until Doane Robinson's 1904 "History of the Dakota or Sioux Indians," had anyone attempted a comprehensive history of this people.

Growing up in Wisconsin among "Indian fighters," homesteading in Minnesota, interviewing many eyewitnesses, and examining numerous official reports, along with his position as South Dakota's state historian with access to some of the Sioux participants in the great struggles on the northern plains who he was able to interview, made this celebrated South Dakota historian uniquely qualified to be the first to write the history of the Sioux in 1904.

In discussing Native American participation in the Indian Wars, Robinson writes:

"The prairie Indian is a born soldier, with all the soldier's pride of loyalty to duty, and may be trusted implicitly after he has once consented to enter the service. The scouts at Wounded Knee were Sioux, with Philip Wells as interpreter. Other Sioux scouts were ranging the country between the agency and the hostile camp in the Bad Lands, and acted as mediators in the peace negotiations which led to the final surrender Fifty Cheyenne and about as many Crow scouts were also employed in the same section of country. Throughout the entire campaign the Indian scouts and police were faithful and received the warmest commendation of their officers."

Writing of Red Cloud's successful campaign to secure the country north of the North Platte River and east of the summits of the Big Horn Mountains, Robinson notes that "it will be observed that everything Red Cloud was fighting for was conceded by this treaty. It was a complete victory for the Dakotas and a square backdown for the government. It is the only instance in the history of the United States where the government has gone to war and afterwards negotiated a peace conceding everything demanded by the enemy and exacting nothing in return."

Based on his interviews of Sioux, Robinson questioned the established account of Custer's last stand:
"The most that can be said is that he rode into a trap and that his command was utterly annihilated. The Indian loss was sixty-three killed, several of whom were killed by their own arrows. Some writers have asserted that Custer dismounted his men and fought them intelligently and under orders. This is not supported by Indian testimony, which declares that he had absolutely no opportunity to give orders or to do anything but fight desperately for life after the ambush was discovered."

This detailed first-of-its-kind history of the Sioux by South Dakota's most celebrated historian is a well-researched authority on the most powerful Native American tribe. . more


New Ulm museum tells story of last Sioux Indian battles, local history

The Brown County Historical Museum is located a former post office building. The building was constructed in 1910 with a German Renaissance design.

New Ulm played a major role in the Indian Wars of the 1800s. The southern Minnesota city along the banks of the Minnesota River was the site of two battles between the Dakota (Santee Sioux) and local residents. The story of New Ulm and the US-Dakota War of 1862 – the last major war for the Dakota – is told at the Brown County Historical Museum, located in a former post office building.

Minnesota was a stronghold for much of the Dakota’s time as a free people. New Ulm was settled in 1854 by European-Americans. As the years passed, the Dakota traded with local businesses.

Replica of an 1800s New Ulm home.

The United States entered into the Civil War in 1861, as southern states split from the union in response to the election of President Abraham Lincoln, who favored freedom for slaves. The Civil War would last until 1865.

The Dakota lived on reservations near Indian agencies northwest of New Ulm. The neighbors peacefully lived near each other. In 1862, the United States government bailed on its scheduled payments to the Dakota in exchange for the land it took. Local businesses wouldn’t work with the Santee, without money to spend. Without money to buy food and supplies, Dakota members began to starve.

Replica of a tipi used by the Dakota (Santee Sioux).

In late summer, tribal leaders met with local and federal representatives to express their concerns. In response to their concerns, a local businessman is believed to have told the Native Americans to eat grass or dung.

Angered, the Dakota gathered in council. One group wanted to go to war with the Americans. The majority of Dakota didn’t agree with the idea. However, Little Crow agreed to lead a small group of warriors into battle.

Arrows used by the Dakota during the Battles of New Ulm in 1862.

The band attacked New Ulm on Aug. 19 th . The fight lasted several hours. Five residents died. Word was sent out from the town that the Native Americans had attacked and New Ulm needed help.

About 600 Dakota – much larger than the original band of warriors – launched its second attack on the town. Outnumbered by the Native Americans, locals and their reinforcements held their own during the fighting. However, some of the Dakota were able to advance into the town and started a fire that engulfed all but a few buildings.

Weapons – including a Dakota club – used during the fighting.

Following the daylong battle, the Dakota retreated for the night. The next morning, a few men showed up and fired on the city, but for the most part the New Ulm battle was over. Residents were taken to Mankato for their safety. New Ulm was eventually rebuilt.

Following the battle, some of the Dakota escaped to the west and Canada. Others – my great-great –grandparents and great-grandfather among them – were taken into custody and imprisoned at Fort Snelling, near St. Paul. They were among the 1,600 who had little to no involvement with the attacks. The Dakota were eventually moved to the current reservation in northeast Nebraska.

The Brown County museum captures the history of the events and tells the story well, mainly from a settler’s perspective. The events leading up to the battles are well-documented from both sides. The museum’s third floor is dedicated to the story’s exhibits.

Faces – white and Native American – of the people of the New Ulm area during the war.

While the battles of New Ulm may be a major piece of Minnesota history, the museum shares more of its local story with a large collection on the first floor of the museum. New Ulm is proud of its German heritage and that can be seen with some of the vases, cups and other china pieces on display.

German ceramics featured at the Brown County museum.

An old ice cutting tool is prominently displayed. Before electric-powered freezers, people would take ice cutters to froze lakes, ponds and rivers and cut ice squares for home use or to sell. Next time you reach for the ice tray in the freezer, think about what we would have had to done more than a century ago.

An ice cutter used to create blocks of ice on nearby rivers and lakes.

Medical advancements, such as an early hearing aid, can be viewed. Think about what dentistry was like in the early 1900s. Ouch!

An antique dentist’s chair.

Female-focused items are on display, from fashionable hats to an early hair curler.

I can’t imagine anyone wanting to use this old curling machine.

Local businesses are highlighted at the Brown County Historical Museum. Many cities once had their own phone companies. Movie theaters were once mainstays along Main Street.

New Ulm had its own phone company once. An operator would use this switchboard to connect calls.

The Brown County Historical Museum may best be best known for its award-winning US-Dakota War exhibit, but the museum does an outstanding job of sharing local history. We enjoy visiting history museums when we travel because you can get more of an area’s story from the items people have collected over the years.

We enjoyed our visit to the Brown County Historical Museum. It helped with a chapter of my personal history, seeing some of the items and reading stories of the US-Dakota War of 1862. We recommend visiting the museum.


The Last Days of the Sioux Nation : Second Edition

This fascinating account tells what the Sioux were like when they first came to their reservation and how their reaction to the new system eventually led to the last confrontation between the Army and the Sioux at the Battle of Wounded Knee Creek. A classic work, it is now available with a new preface by the author that discusses his current thoughts about a tragic episode in American history that has raised much controversy through the years.

Praise for the earlier edition:

"History as lively and gripping as good fiction."

"One of the finest books on the Indian wars of the West."--Montana

"A well-told, easily read account that will be the standard reference for this phase of the Indian 'problem.'"--American Historical Review

"A major job . . . magnificently researched."--San Francisco Chronicle

"By far the best treatment of the complex and controversial relationship between the Sioux and their conquerors yet presented and should be must reading for serious students of Western Americana."--St. Louis Dispatch (on the earlier edition)


The Last Days of the Sioux Nation

View Inside Format: Paper
Price: $34.00

“One of the finest books on the Indian wars of the West.”--Montana (on the original edition)

This fascinating account tells what the Sioux were like when they first came to their reservation and how their reaction to the new system eventually led to the last confrontation between the Army and the Sioux at the Battle of Wounded Knee Creek. The Second Edition of this classic work features a new preface by the author that discusses his current thoughts about this tragic episode in American history.

Praise for the earlier edition:

"History as lively and gripping as good fiction.”—Christian Science Monitor

“A well-told, easily read account that will be the standard reference for this phase of the Indian ‘problem.’”--American Historical Review

“A major job . . . magnificently researched.”--San Francisco Chronicle

“By far the best treatment of the complex and controversial relationship between the Sioux and their conquerors yet presented and should be must reading for serious students of Western Americana.”--St. Louis Dispatch (on the earlier edition)

Winner of the Buffalo Award

"Utley gives us an extensively researched and ably written volume that fully explains the extraordinary influence of the Ghost Dance on the events that shaped the change in the American West."—John S. Hill, Texas Books in Review

“By far the best treatment of the complex and controversial relationship between the Sioux and their conquerors yet presented and should be must reading for serious students of Western Americana.”—St. Louis Dispatch (Praise for the earlier edition)

“One of the finest books on the Indian wars of the West.”—Montana (Praise for the earlier edition)


Sioux has three major regional varieties, with other sub-varieties:

  1. Lakota ( AKA Lakȟóta, Teton, Teton Sioux)
  2. Western Dakota ( AKA Yankton-Yanktonai or Dakȟóta, and erroneously classified, for a very long time, as "Nakota" [7] )
    • Yankton (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋ)
    • Yanktonai (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna)
  3. Eastern Dakota ( AKA Santee-Sisseton or Dakhóta)
    • Santee (Isáŋyáthi: Bdewákhathuŋwaŋ, Waȟpékhute)
    • Sisseton (Sisíthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ)

Yankton-Yanktonai (Western Dakota) stands between Santee-Sisseton (Eastern Dakota) and Lakota within the dialect continuum. It is phonetically closer to Santee-Sisseton but lexically and grammatically, it is much closer to Lakota. For this reason Lakota and Western Dakota are much more mutually intelligible than each is with Eastern Dakota. The assumed extent of mutual intelligibility is usually overestimated by speakers of the language. While Lakota and Yankton-Yanktonai speakers understand each other to a great extent, they each find it difficult to follow Santee-Sisseton speakers.

Closely related to the Sioux language are the Assiniboine and Stoney languages, whose speakers use the self-designation term (autonym) Nakhóta or Nakhóda. Speakers of Lakota and Dakota have more difficulty understanding each of the two Nakoda languages (Assiniboine and Stoney). [8]

Comparison of Sioux and Nakota languages and dialects Edit

Phonetic differences Edit

The following table shows some of the main phonetic differences between the regional varieties of the Sioux language. The table also provides comparison with the two closely related Nakota languages (Assiniboine and Stoney) which are no longer mutually intelligible with the Sioux language. [8] [9]

Sioux Assiniboine Stoney gloss
Lakota Western Dakota Eastern Dakota
Yanktonai Yankton Sisseton Santee
Lakȟóta Dakȟóta Dakhóta Nakhóta Nakhóda self-designation
lowáŋ dowáŋ dowáŋ nowáŋ to sing
assertion
čísčila čísčina čístina čúsina čúsin small
hokšíla hokšína hokšína hokšída hokšína hokšín boy
gnayáŋ gnayáŋ knayáŋ hnayáŋ knayáŋ hna to deceive
glépa gdépa kdépa hdépa knépa hnéba to vomit
kigná kigná kikná kihná kikná gihná to soothe
slayá sdayá sdayá snayá snayá to grease
wičháša wičháša wičhášta wičhášta wičhá man
kibléza kibdéza kibdéza kimnéza gimnéza to sober up
yatkáŋ yatkáŋ yatkáŋ yatkáŋ yatkáŋ to drink
žé žé that

Lexical differences Edit

There are also numerous lexical differences among the Sioux dialects as well as between the sub-dialects. Yankton-Yanktonai is lexically closer to the Lakota language than it is to Santee-Sisseton. The following table gives some examples: [8]

English gloss Santee-Sisseton Yankton-Yanktonai Lakota
Northern Lakota Southern Lakota
child šičéča wakȟáŋyeža wakȟáŋyeža
knee hupáhu čhaŋkpé čhaŋkpé
knife isáŋ / mína mína míla
kidneys phakšíŋ ažúŋtka ažúŋtka
hat wapháha wapȟóštaŋ wapȟóštaŋ
still hináȟ naháŋȟčiŋ naháŋȟčiŋ
man wičhášta wičháša wičháša
hungry wótehda dočhíŋ ločhíŋ
morning haŋȟ’áŋna híŋhaŋna híŋhaŋna híŋhaŋni
to shave kasáŋ kasáŋ kasáŋ glak’óǧa

In 1827, John Marsh and his wife, Marguerite (who was half Sioux), wrote the first dictionary of the Sioux language. They also wrote a "Grammar of the Sioux Language." [10] [11]

Life for the Dakota changed significantly in the nineteenth century as the early years brought increased contact with white settlers, particularly Christian missionaries. The goal of the missionaries was to introduce the Dakota to Christian beliefs. To achieve this, the missions began to transcribe the Dakota language. In 1836, brothers Samuel and Gideon Pond, Rev. Stephen Return Riggs, and Dr. Thomas Williamson set out to begin translating hymns and Bible stories into Dakota. By 1852, Riggs and Williamson had completed a Dakota Grammar and Dictionary (Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Center). Eventually, the entire Bible was translated.

Today, it is possible to find a variety of texts in Dakota. Traditional stories have been translated, children's books, even games such as Pictionary and Scrabble. Despite such progress, written Dakota is not without its difficulties. The Pond brothers, Rev. Riggs, and Dr. Williamson were not the only missionaries documenting the Dakota language. Around the same time, missionaries in other Dakota bands were developing their own versions of the written language. Since the 1900s, professional linguists have been creating their own versions of the orthography. The Dakota have also been making modifications. "Having so many different writing systems is causing confusion, conflict between our [the Dakota] people, causing inconstancy in what is being taught to students, and making the sharing of instructional and other materials very difficult" (SICC).

Prior to the introduction of the Latin alphabet, the Dakota did have a writing system of their own: one of representational pictographs. In pictographic writing, a drawing represents exactly what it means. For example, a drawing of a dog literally meant a dog. Palmer writes that,

As a written language, it [pictographs] was practical enough that it allowed the Lakota to keep a record of years in their winter counts which can still be understood today, and it was in such common usage that pictographs were recognized and accepted by census officials in the 1880s, who would receive boards or hides adorned with the head of the household’s name depicted graphically. (pg. 34) [ full citation needed ]

For the missionaries, however, documenting the Bible through pictographs was impractical and presented significant challenges.


Contents

Etymology Edit

The Sioux people refer to the Great Sioux Nation as the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (pronounced [oˈtʃʰetʰi ʃaˈkowĩ] , meaning "Seven Council Fires"). Each fire is a symbol of an oyate (people or nation). Today the seven nations that comprise the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ are the Thítȟuŋwaŋ (also known collectively as the Teton or Lakota), Bdewákaŋthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpékhute, and Sisíthuŋwaŋ (also known collectively as the Santee or Eastern Dakota) and Iháŋkthuŋwaŋ and Iháŋkthuŋwaŋna (also known collectively as the Yankton/Yanktonai or Western Dakota). [3] [4] They are also referred to as the Lakota or Dakota as based upon dialect differences. [3] [4] In any of the dialects, Lakota or Dakota translates to mean "friend" or "ally" referring to the alliances between the bands. [3] [4]

The name "Sioux" was adopted in English by the 1760s from French. It is abbreviated from Nadouessioux, first attested by Jean Nicolet in 1640. [3] The name is sometimes said to be derived from an Ojibwe exonym for the Sioux meaning "little snakes" (compare nadowe "big snakes", used for the Iroquois). [5] The spelling in -x is due to the French plural marker. [6] The Proto-Algonquian form *na·towe·wa, meaning "Northern Iroquoian", has reflexes in several daughter languages that refer to a small rattlesnake (massasauga, Sistrurus). [7] An alternative explanation is derivation from an (Algonquian) exonym na·towe·ssiw (plural na·towe·ssiwak), from a verb *-a·towe· meaning "to speak a foreign language". [6] The current Ojibwe term for the Sioux and related groups is Bwaanag (singular Bwaan), meaning "roasters". [8] [9] Presumably, this refers to the style of cooking the Sioux used in the past.

In recent times, some of the tribes have formally or informally reclaimed traditional names: the Rosebud Sioux Tribe is also known as the Sičháŋǧu Oyáte, and the Oglala often use the name Oglála Lakȟóta Oyáte, rather than the English Oglala Sioux Tribe or OST. The alternative English spelling of Ogallala is considered improper. [3]

Traditional social structure Edit

The traditional social structure of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ strongly relied on kinship ties that extend beyond human interaction and includes the natural and supernatural worlds. [10] Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ ("all are related") represents a spiritual belief of how human beings should ideally act and relate to other humans, the natural world, the spiritual world, and to the cosmos. [11] The thiyóšpaye represents the political and economic structure of traditional society.

Thiyóšpaye (community) kinship Edit

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the different Očhéthi Šakówiŋ villages (oyáte, "tribe/nation") consisted of many thiyóšpaye ("camp circles"), which were large extended families united by kinship (thiwáhe, "immediate family"). [12] Thiyóšpaye varied in size, were led by a leader appointed by an elder council and were nicknamed after a prominent member or memorable event associated with the band. Dakota ethnographer Ella Cara Deloria noted the kinship ties were all-important, they dictated and demanded all phrases of traditional life:

"I can safely say that the ultimate aim of Dakota life, stripped of accessories, was quite simple: one must obey kinship rules one must be a good relative. No Dakota who participated in that life will dispute that… every other consideration was secondary—property, personal ambition, glory, good times, life itself. Without that aim and constant struggle to attain it, the people would no longer be Dakotas in truth. They would no longer even be human. To be a good Dakota, then, was to be humanized, civilized. And to be civilized was to keep the rules imposed by kinship for achieving civility, good manners, and a sense of responsibility toward every individual dealt with". [12]

During the fur trade era, the thiyóšpaye refused to trade only for economic reasons. Instead the production and trade of goods was regulated by rules of kinship bonds. [13] Personal relationships were pivotal for success: in order for European-Americans to trade with the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, social bonds had to be created. [13] The most successful fur traders would marry into the kinship society, which also raised the status of the family of the woman through access to European goods. [14] Outsiders are also adopted into the kinship through the religious Huŋkalowaŋpi ceremony. Early European explorers and missionaries who lived among the Dakota were sometimes adopted into the thiyóšpaye (known as "huŋka relatives"), such as Louis Hennepin who noted, "this help’d me to gain credit among these people". [15] During the later reservation era, districts were often settled by clusters of families from the same thiyóšpaye. [16]

Religion Edit

The traditional social system extended beyond human interaction into the supernatural realms. [11] It is believed that Wakȟáŋ Tháŋka ("Great Spirit/Great Mystery") created the universe and embodies everything in the universe as one. [10] The preeminent symbol of Sioux religion is the Čhaŋgléska Wakȟaŋ ("sacred hoop"), which visually represents the concept that everything in the universe is intertwined. [17] The creation stories of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ describe how the various spirits were formed from Wakȟáŋ Tháŋka. [18] Black Elk describes the relationships with Wakȟáŋ Tháŋka as:

"We should understand well that all things are the works of the Great Spirit. We should know that He is within all things: the trees, the grasses, the rivers, the mountains, and all the four-legged animals, and the winged peoples and even more important, we should understand that He is also above all these things and peoples. When we do understand all this deeply in our hearts, then we will fear, and love, and know the Great Spirit, and then we will be and act and live as He intends". [17]

It is believed prayer is the act of invoking relationships with one's ancestors or spiritual world [12] the Lakota word for prayer, wočhékiye, means "to call on for aid," "to pray," and "to claim relationship with". [10] Their primary cultural prophet is Ptesáŋwiŋ, White Buffalo Calf Woman, who came as an intermediary between Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka and humankind to teach them how to be good relatives by introducing the Seven Sacred Rites and the čhaŋnúŋpa (sacred pipe). [17] The seven ceremonies are Inípi (purification lodge), Haŋbléčheyapi (crying for vision), Wiwáŋyaŋg Wačhípi (Sun Dance), Huŋkalowaŋpi (making of relatives), Išnáthi Awíčhalowaŋpi (female puberty ceremony), Tȟápa Waŋkáyeyapi (throwing of the ball) and Wanáǧi Yuhápi (soul keeping). [17] Each part of the čhaŋnúŋpa (stem, bowl, tobacco, breath, and smoke) is symbolic of the relationships of the natural world, the elements, humans and the spiritual beings that maintain the cycle of the universe. [19]

Dreams can also be a means of establishing relationships with spirits and are of utmost importance to the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. [11] One can gain supernatural powers through dreams it is believed that dreaming of the Wakíŋyaŋ (thunder beings) would make someone involuntarily a Heyókȟa, a sacred clown. [20] Black Elk, a famous Heyókȟa said: "Only those who have had visions of the thunder beings of the west can act as heyokas. They have sacred power and they share some of this with all the people, but they do it through funny actions". [21]

Governance Edit

Historical leadership organization

The thiyóšpaye of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ would assemble each summer to hold council, renew kinships, decide tribal matters, and participate in the Sun Dance. [22] The seven divisions would select four leaders known as Wičháša Yatápika from among the leaders of each division. [22] Being one of the four leaders was considered the highest honor for a leader however, the annual gathering meant the majority of tribal administration was cared for by the usual leaders of each division. The last meeting of the Seven Council Fires was in 1850. [22] The historical political organization was based on individual participation and the cooperation of many to sustain the tribe's way of life. Leaders were chosen based upon noble birth and demonstrations of chiefly virtues, such as bravery, fortitude, generosity, and wisdom. [22]

  • Political leaders were members of the Načá Omníčiye society and decided matters of tribal hunts, camp movements, whether to make war or peace with their neighbors, or any other community action. [23]
  • Societies were similar to fraternities men joined to raise their position in the tribe. Societies were composed of smaller clans and varied in number among the seven divisions. [22] There were two types of societies: Akíčhita, for the younger men, and Načá, for elders and former leaders. [22]
  • Akíčhita (Warrior) societies existed to train warriors, hunters, and to police the community. [23] There were many smaller Akíčhita societies, including the Kit-Fox, Strong Heart, Elk, and so on. [23]
  • Leaders in the Načá societies, per Načá Omníčiye, were the tribal elders and leaders. They elected seven to ten men, depending on the division, each referred to as Wičháša Itȟáŋčhaŋ ("chief man"). Each Wičháša Itȟáŋčhaŋ interpreted and enforced the decisions of the Načá. [23]
  • The Wičháša Itȟáŋčhaŋ would elect two to four Shirt Wearers, who were the voice of the society. They settled quarrels among families and also foreign nations. [22] Shirt Wearers were often young men from families with hereditary claims of leadership. However, men with obscure parents who displayed outstanding leaderships skills and had earned the respect of the community might also be elected. Crazy Horse is an example of a common-born "Shirt Wearer". [22]
  • A Wakíčhuŋza ("Pipe Holder") ranked below the "Shirt Wearers". The Pipe Holders regulated peace ceremonies, selected camp locations, and supervised the Akíčhita societies during buffalo hunts. [23]

Gender roles Edit

Within the Sioux tribes, there were defined gender roles. The men in the village were tasked as the hunters, traveling outside the village. [24] The women within the village were in charge of making clothing and similar articles while also taking care of, and owning, the house. [24] [25] However, even with these roles, both men and women held power in decision-making tasks and sexual preferences were flexible and allowed. [24] [25] The terms wíŋtke and berdache would refer to men who partook in traditional feminine duties while witkówiŋ ("crazy woman") were given to women that rejected their roles as either mother or wife to be a prostitute. [24]

Funeral practices Edit

Traditional Funeral Practices

It is a common belief amongst Siouan communities that the spirit of the deceased travels to an afterlife. In traditional beliefs, this spiritual journey was believed to start once funeral proceedings were complete and spanned over a course of four days. Mourning family and friends would take part in that four-day wake in order to accompany the spirit to its resting place. [26] In the past, bodies were not embalmed and put up on a burial scaffold for one year before a ground burial. A platform to rest the body was put up on trees or, alternately, placed on four upright poles to elevate the body from the ground. [27] The bodies would be securely wrapped in blankets and cloths, along with many of the deceased personal belongings and were always placed with their head pointed towards the south. Mourning individuals would speak to the body and offer food as if it were still alive. [28] This practice, along with the Ghost Dance helped individuals mourn and connect the spirits of the deceased with those who were alive. [29] The only time a body was buried in the ground right after their death was if the individual was murdered: the deceased would be placed in the ground with their heads towards the south, while faced down along with a piece of fat in their mouth. [29]

Contemporary Funeral Practices

According to Pat Janis, director of the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Burial Assistance Program, funeral practices of communities today are often a mix of traditions and contemporary Christian practices. While tree burials and scaffold burials are not practiced anymore, it is also now rare to see families observe a four-day wake period. Instead, the families opt for one- or two-day wake periods which include a funeral feast for all the community. Added to the contemporary funeral practices, it is common to see prayers conducted by a medicine man along with traditional songs often sung with a drum. One member of the family is also required to be present next to the body at all times until the burial. [26] Gifts are placed within the casket to aid with the journey into the afterworld, which is still believed to take up to four days after death. [26]

Music Edit

Ancestral Sioux Edit

The ancestral Sioux most likely lived in the Central Mississippi Valley region and later in Minnesota, for at least two or three thousand years. [30] The ancestors of the Sioux arrived in the northwoods of central Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin from the Central Mississippi River shortly before 800 AD. [30] Archaeologists refer to them as the Woodland Blackduck-Kathio-Clam River Continuum. [30] Around 1300 AD, they adopted the characteristics of a northern tribal society and became known as the Seven Council Fires. [30]

First contact with Europeans Edit

The Dakota are first recorded to have resided at the source of the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes during the seventeenth century. [31] They were dispersed west in 1659 due to warfare with the Iroquois. During the 1600s, the Lakota began their expansion westward into the Plains, taking with them the bulk of people of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. [32] [33] By 1700 the Dakota were living in Wisconsin and Minnesota. As the Sioux nation began expanding with access to horses, the Dakota were put in a weakened position to defend the eastern border: new diseases (smallpox and malaria) and increased intertribal warfare between the migration of tribes fleeing the Iroquois into their territory of present-day Wisconsin, put a strain on their ability to maintain their territory. [33] In the Mississippi valley, their population is believed to have declined by one-third between 1680 and 1805 due to those reasons. [33]

French trade and intertribal warfare Edit

Late in the 17th century, the Dakota entered into an alliance with French merchants. [34] The French were trying to gain advantage in the struggle for the North American fur trade against the English, who had recently established the Hudson's Bay Company. The Ojibwe, Potawatomi and Ottawa bands were among the first to trade with the French as they migrated into the Great Lakes region. [33] Upon their arrival, Dakota were in an economic alliance with them until the Dakota were able to trade directly for European goods with the French. [33] The first recorded encounter between the Sioux and the French occurred when Radisson and Groseilliers reached what is now Wisconsin during the winter of 1659–60. Later visiting French traders and missionaries included Claude-Jean Allouez, Daniel Greysolon Duluth, and Pierre-Charles Le Sueur who wintered with Dakota bands in early 1700. [35]

The Dakota began to resent the Ojibwe trading with the hereditary enemies of the Sioux, the Cree and Assiniboine. [33] Tensions rose in the 1720s into a prolonged war in 1736. [33] The Dakota lost their traditional lands around Leech Lake and Mille Lacs as they were forced south along the Mississippi River and St. Croix River Valley as a result of the battles. [33] These intertribal conflicts also made it dangerous for European fur traders: whichever side they traded with, they were viewed as enemies from the other. [33] For example, in 1736 a group of Sioux killed Jean Baptiste de La Vérendrye and twenty other men on an island in Lake of the Woods for such reasons. [36] However, trade with the French continued until the French gave up North America in 1763. Europeans repeatedly tried to make truce between the warring tribes in order to protect their interests. [33]

One of the larger battles between the Dakota and Ojibwe took place in 1770 fought at the Dalles of the St. Croix. According to William Whipple Warren, a Métis historian, the fighting began when the Meskwaki (Fox) engaged the Ojibwe (their hereditary enemies) around St. Croix Falls. [37] The Sioux were the former enemies of the Meskwaki and were enlisted to make a joint attack against the Ojibwe. [37] The Meskwaki were first to engage with the large Ojibwe war party led by Waubojeeg: the Meskwaki allegedly boasted to the Dakota to hold back as they would make short work of their enemies. When the Dakota joined the battle, they had the upper hand until Sandy Lake Ojibwe reinforcements arrived. [37] The Dakota were driven back and Warren states: "Many were driven over the rocks into the boiling floods below, there to find a watery grave. Others, in attempting to jump into their narrow wooden canoes, were capsized into the rapids". [37] While Dakota and Ojibwe suffered heavy losses, the Meskwaki were left with the most dead and forced to join their relatives, the Sauk people. [37] The victory for the Ojibwe secured control of the Upper St. Croix and created an informal boundary between the Dakota and Ojibwe around the mouth of the Snake River. [37]

As the Lakota entered the prairies, they adopted many of the customs of the neighboring Plains tribes, creating new cultural patterns based on the horse and fur trade. [30] Meanwhile, the Dakota retained many of their Woodlands features. [30] By 1803, the three divisions of the Sioux (Western/Eastern Dakota and Lakota) were established in their different environments and had developed their own distinctive lifeways. [30] However, due to the prevalent cultural concept of thiyóšpaye (community), the three divisions maintained strong ties throughout the changing times to present day. [38]

Treaties and reservation period beginnings Edit

In 1805, the Dakota signed their first treaty with the American government. Zebulon Pike negotiated for 100,000 acres of land at the confluence of the St. Croix River about what now is Hastings, Minnesota and the confluence of the Minnesota River and Mississippi River about what now is St Paul, Minnesota. [39] The Americans wanted to establish military outposts and the Dakota wanted a new source of trading. An American military post was not established at the confluence of the St. Croix with the Mississippi, but Fort Snelling was established in 1819 along the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. [30] In return, Dakota were promised the ability to "pass and repass, hunt, or make other uses of the said districts as they have formerly done". [40]

In an attempt to stop intertribal warfare and to better able to negotiate with tribes, the American government signed the 1825 Treaty of Prairie du Chien with the Dakota, Ojibwe, Menominee, Ho-Chunk, Sac and Fox, Iowa, Potawatomi, and Ottawa tribes. [39] In the 1830 Treaty of Prairie de Chien, the Western Dakota (Yankton, Yanktonai) ceded their lands along the Des Moines river to the American government. Living in what is now southeastern South Dakota, the leaders of the Western Dakota signed the Treaty of April 19, 1858, which created the Yankton Sioux Reservation. Pressured by the ongoing arrival of Europeans, Yankton chief Struck by the Ree told his people, "The white men are coming in like maggots. It is useless to resist them. They are many more than we are. We could not hope to stop them. Many of our brave warriors would be killed, our women and children left in sorrow, and still we would not stop them. We must accept it, get the best terms we can get and try to adopt their ways." [41] Despite ceding their lands, the treaty allowed the Western Dakota to maintain their traditional role in the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ as the caretakers of the Pipestone Quarry, which is the cultural center of the Sioux people. [41]

With the creation of Minnesota Territory by the United States in 1849, the Eastern Dakota (Sisseton, Wahpeton, Mdewakanton, and Wahpekute) people were pressured to cede more of their land. The reservation period for them began in 1851 with the signing of the Treaty of Mendota and the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux. [42] The Treaty of Mendota was signed near Pilot Knob on the south bank of the Minnesota River and within sight of Fort Snelling. The treaty stipulated that the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands were to receive US$1,410,000 in return for relocating to the Lower Sioux Agency on the Minnesota River near present-day Morton, Minnesota along with giving up their rights to a significant portion of southern Minnesota. [42] In the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of the Dakota ceded 21 million acres for $1,665,000, or about 7.5 cents an acre. [39] However, the American government kept more than 80% of the funds with only the interest (5% for 50 years) being paid to the Dakota. [39]

The US set aside two reservations for the Sioux along the Minnesota River, each about 20 miles (30 km) wide and 70 miles (110 km) long. Later the government declared these were intended to be temporary, in an effort to force the Sioux out of Minnesota. [39] The Upper Sioux Agency for the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands was established near Granite Falls, Minnesota, while the Lower Sioux Agency for the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands was established about thirty miles downstream near what developed as Redwood Falls, Minnesota. The Upper Sioux were not satisfied with their reservation because of low food supplies, but as it included several of their old villages, they agreed to stay. The Lower Sioux were displaced from their traditional woodlands and were dissatisfied with their new territory of mostly prairie.

The US intended the treaties to encourage the Sioux to convert from their nomadic hunting lifestyle into more European-American settled farming, offering them compensation in the transition. By 1858, the Dakota only had a small strip of land along the Minnesota River, with no access to their traditional hunting grounds. [39] They had to rely on treaty payments for their survival, which were often late. [39] The forced change in lifestyle and the much lower than expected payments from the federal government caused economic suffering and increased social tensions within the tribes. By 1862, many Dakota were starving and tensions erupted in the Dakota War of 1862. [39]

Dakota War of 1862 and the Dakota diaspora Edit

By 1862, shortly after a failed crop the year before and a winter starvation, the federal payment was late. The local traders would not issue any more credit to the Dakota. One trader, Andrew Myrick, went so far as to say, "If they're hungry, let them eat grass." [43]

On August 16, 1862, the treaty payments to the Dakota arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota, and were brought to Fort Ridgely the next day. However, they arrived too late to prevent the war. On August 17, 1862, the Dakota War began when a few Santee men murdered a white farmer and most of his family. They inspired further attacks on white settlements along the Minnesota River. On August 18, 1862, Little Crow of the Mdewakanton band led a group that attacked the Lower Sioux (or Redwood) Agency and trading post located there. Later, settlers found Myrick among the dead with his mouth stuffed full of grass. [44] Many of the upper Dakota (Sisseton and Wahpeton) wanted no part in the attacks [45] [46] with the majority of the 4,000 members of the Sisseton and Wahpeton opposed to the war. Thus their bands did not participate in the early killings. [47] Historian Mary Wingerd has stated that it is "a complete myth that all the Dakota people went to war against the United States" and that it was rather "a faction that went on the offensive". [46]

Most Dakota fighters surrendered shortly after the Battle of Wood Lake at Camp Release on September 26, 1862. Little Crow was forced to retreat sometime in September 1862. He stayed briefly in Canada but soon returned to the Minnesota area. He was killed on July 3, 1863, near Hutchinson, Minnesota while gathering raspberries with his teenage son. The pair had wandered onto the land of white settler Nathan Lamson, who shot at them to collect bounties. Once it was discovered that the body was of Little Crow, his skull and scalp were put on display in St. Paul, Minnesota. The city held the trophies until 1971 when it returned the remains to Little Crow's grandson. For killing Little Crow, the state granted Lamson an additional $500 bounty.

On November 5, 1862 in Minnesota, in courts-martial, 303 Dakota were found guilty of rape and murder of hundreds of American settlers. They were sentenced to be hanged. No attorneys or witnesses were allowed as a defense for the accused, and many were convicted in less than five minutes of court time with the judge. [48] President Abraham Lincoln commuted the death sentences of 284 of the warriors, while signing off on the hanging of 38 Santee men on December 26, 1862 in Mankato, Minnesota. It was the largest mass-execution in U.S. history, on US soil. [49] The men remanded by order of President Lincoln were sent to a prison in Iowa, where more than half died. [48]

Afterwards, the US suspended all treaty rights to the Dakota and expelled the Dakota with the Forfeiture Act of February 16, 1863, meaning all lands held by the Dakota, and all annuities due to them, were forfeited to the US government. [30] [50] During and after the revolt, many Dakota and their kin fled Minnesota and Eastern Dakota to Canada, or settled in the James River Valley in a short-lived reservation before being forced to move to Crow Creek Reservation on the east bank of the Missouri. [48] There were as few as 50 Dakota left in Minnesota by 1867. [30] Many had fled to reservations out west including the Santee Sioux Reservation in Nebraska (created 1863), the Flandreau Reservation (created 1869 from members who left the Santee Reservation), the Lake Traverse and Spirit Lake Reservations (both created 1867). [50] Those who fled to Canada throughout the 1870s now have descendants residing on nine small Dakota Reserves, five of which are located in Manitoba (Sioux Valley, Dakota Plain, Dakota Tipi, Birdtail Creek, and Canupawakpa Dakota) and the remaining four (Standing Buffalo, White Cap, Round Plain [Wahpeton], and Wood Mountain) in Saskatchewan. A few Dakota joined the Yanktonai and moved further west to join with the Lakota bands to continue their struggle against the United States military, later settling on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana. [48]

Westward expansion of the Lakota Edit

Prior to the 1650s, the Thítȟuŋwaŋ division of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ known as the Lakota was noted as being located east of the Red River, [51] and living on the fringes of the prairies and woods of the prairies of southern Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas by at least 1680. [30] According to Baptiste Good's winter count, the Lakota had horses by 1700. [51] While the Dakota continued a subsistence cycle of corn, wild rice and hunting woodland animals, the Lakota increasing became reliant on bison for meat and its by-products (housing, clothing, tools) as they expanded their territory westward with the arrival of the horse. [30] After their adoption of horse culture, Lakota society centered on the buffalo hunt on horseback.

By the 19th century, the typical year of the Lakota was a communal buffalo hunt as early in spring as their horses had recovered from the rigors of the winter. In June and July, the scattered bands of the tribes gathered together into large encampments, which included ceremonies such as the Sun Dance. These gatherings afforded leaders to meet to make political decisions, plan movements, arbitrate disputes, and organize and launch raiding expeditions or war parties. In the fall, people would split up into smaller bands to facilitate hunting to procure meat for the long winter. Between the fall hunt and the onset of winter was a time when Lakota warriors could undertake raiding and warfare. With the coming of winter snows, the Lakota settled into winter camps, where activities of the season, ceremonies and dances as well as trying to ensure adequate winter feed for their horses. [52]

They began to dominate the prairies east of the Missouri river by the 1720s. At the same time, the Lakota branch split into two major sects, the Saône who moved to the Lake Traverse area on the South Dakota–North Dakota–Minnesota border, and the Oglála-Sičháŋǧu who occupied the James River valley. However, by about 1750 the Saône had moved to the east bank of the Missouri River, followed 10 years later by the Oglála and Brulé (Sičháŋǧu). By 1750, they had crossed the Missouri River and encountered Lewis and Clark in 1804. Initial United States contact with the Lakota during the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804–1806 was marked by a standoff. Lakota bands refused to allow the explorers to continue upstream, and the expedition prepared for battle, which never came. [53] In 1776, the Lakota defeated the Cheyenne for the Black Hills, who had earlier taken the region from the Kiowa. [54] The Cheyenne then moved west to the Powder River country, [54] and the Lakota made the Black Hills their home.

As their territory expanded, so did the number of rival groups they encountered. They secured an alliance with the Northern Cheyenne and Northern Arapaho by the 1820s as intertribal warfare on the plains increased amongst the tribes for access to the dwindling population of buffalo. [30] The alliance fought the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara for control of the Missouri River in North Dakota. [30] By the 1840s, their territory expanded to the Powder River country in Montana, in which they fought with the Crow. Their victories over these tribes during this time period were aided by the fact those tribes were decimated by European diseases. Most of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara were killed by smallpox and almost half the population of the Crow were killed due to smallpox, cholera and other diseases. [30] In 1843, the southern Lakotas attacked Pawnee Chief Blue Coat's village near the Loup in Nebraska, killing many and burning half of the earth lodges, [55] and 30 years later, the Lakota again inflicted a blow so severe on the Pawnee during the Massacre Canyon battle near Republican River. [56] By the 1850s, the Lakota would be known as the most powerful tribe on the Plains. [30]

Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 Edit

The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was signed on September 17, 1851, between United States treaty commissioners and representatives of the Cheyenne, Sioux, Arapaho, Crow, Assiniboine, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations. The treaty was an agreement between nine more or less independent parties. The treaty set forth traditional territorial claims of the tribes as among themselves. [57] The United States acknowledged that all the land covered by the treaty was Indian territory and did not claim any part of it. The boundaries agreed to in the Fort Laramie treaty of 1851 would be used to settle a number of claims cases in the 20th century. [58] The tribes guaranteed safe passage for settlers on the Oregon Trail and allowed roads and forts to be built in their territories in return for promises of an annuity in the amount of fifty thousand dollars for fifty years. The treaty should also "make an effective and lasting peace" among the eight tribes, each of them often at odds with a number of the others. [59]

The treaty was broken almost immediately after its inception by the Lakota and Cheyenne attacking the Crow over the next two years. [60] In 1858, the failure of the United States to prevent the mass immigration of miners and settlers into Colorado during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush, also did not help matters. They took over Indian lands in order to mine them, "against the protests of the Indians," [61] and founded towns, started farms, and improved roads. Such immigrants competed with the tribes for game and water, straining limited resources and resulting in conflicts with the emigrants. The U.S. government did not enforce the treaty to keep out the immigrants. [61]

The situation escalated with the Grattan affair in 1854 when a detachment of U.S. soldiers illegally entered a Sioux encampment to arrest those accused of stealing a cow, and in the process sparked a battle in which Chief Conquering Bear was killed. [62]

Though intertribal fighting had existed before the arrival of white settlers, some of the post-treaty intertribal fighting can be attributed to mass killings of bison by white settlers and government agents. The U.S. Army did not enforce treaty regulations and allowed hunters onto Native land to slaughter buffalo, providing protection and sometimes ammunition. [63] One hundred thousand buffalo were killed each year until they were on the verge of extinction, which threatened the tribes' subsistence. These mass killings affected all tribes thus the tribes were forced onto each other's hunting grounds, where fighting broke out. [64] [65] [66]

On July 20, 1867, an act of Congress created the Indian Peace Commission "to establish peace with certain hostile Indian tribes". [67] The Indian Peace Commission was generally seen as a failure, and violence had reignited even before it was disbanded in October 1868. Two official reports were submitted to the federal government, ultimately recommending that the U.S. cease recognizing tribes as sovereign nations, refrain from making treaties with them, employ military force against those who refused to relocate to reservations, and move the Bureau of Indian Affairs from the Department of the Interior to the Department of War. The system of treaties eventually deteriorated to the point of collapse, and a decade of war followed the commission's work. It was the last major commission of its kind.

From 1866–1868, the Lakota fought the United States Army in the Wyoming Territory and the Montana Territory in what is known as Red Cloud's War (also referred to as the Bozeman War). The war is named after Red Cloud, a prominent Lakota chief who led the war against the United States following encroachment into the area by the U.S. military. The Sioux victory in the war led to their temporarily preserving their control of the Powder River country. [68] The war ended with the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868.

Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 Edit

The Treaty of Fort Laramie (also the Sioux Treaty of 1868 [a] ) was an agreement between the United States and the Oglala, Miniconjou, and Brulé bands of Lakota people, Yanktonai Dakota and Arapaho Nation, following the failure of the first Fort Laramie treaty, signed in 1851. It established the Great Sioux Reservation including ownership of the Black Hills, and set aside additional lands as "unceded Indian territory" in areas of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska, and possibly Montana. [b] It established that the US government would hold the authority to punish not only white settlers who committed crimes against the tribes but also tribe members who committed crimes and who were to be delivered to the government rather than face charges in tribal courts. It stipulated that the government would abandon forts along the Bozeman Trail, and included a number of provisions designed to encourage a transition to farming, and move the tribes "closer to the white man's way of life." The treaty protected specified rights of third parties not partaking in the negotiations, and effectively ended Red Cloud's War.

The treaty overall, and in comparison with the 1851 agreement, represented a departure from earlier considerations of tribal customs, and demonstrated instead the government's "more heavy-handed position with regard to tribal nations, and . desire to assimilate the Sioux into American property arrangements and social customs." [70] According to one source, "animosities over the treaty arose almost immediately" when a group of Miniconjou were informed they were no longer welcome to trade at Fort Laramie, being south of their newly established territory. This was notwithstanding that the treaty did not make any stipulation that the tribes could not travel outside their land, only that they would not permanently occupy outside land. The only travel expressly forbidden by the treaty was that of white settlers onto the reservation. [71]

The government eventually broke the terms of the treaty following the Black Hills Gold Rush and an expedition into the area by George Armstrong Custer in 1874 and failed to prevent white settlers from moving onto tribal lands. Rising tensions eventually lead again to open conflict in the Great Sioux War of 1876. [72] [73] [74] : 46 The 1868 treaty would be modified three times by the US Congress between 1876 and 1889, each time taking more land originally granted, including unilaterally seizing the Black Hills in 1877. [70] The treaty formed the basis of the 1980 Supreme Court case, United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, in which the court ruled that tribal lands covered under the treaty had been taken illegally by the US government, and the tribe was owed compensation plus interest. As of 2018, this amounted to more than $1 billion. The Sioux have refused the payment, demanding instead the return of their land.

Great Sioux War of 1876 and the Wounded Knee Massacre Edit

The ongoing raids and battles on the northern Plains that lasted from 1850-1890 are collectively known as the Sioux Wars. Included are the Dakota War of 1862 (1862-1864), Red Cloud's War (1866-1868) and the Black Hills War which includes the Battle of the Little Bighorn(1876-1877) the Massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 is considered the end of the Sioux wars and the beginning of a new era for Dakota and Lakota people.

The Great Sioux War of 1876, also known as the Black Hills War, was a series of battles and negotiations that occurred in 1876 and 1877 between the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and the United States. The cause of the war was the desire of the U.S. government to obtain ownership of the Black Hills. Gold had been discovered in the Black Hills and settlers began to encroach onto tribal lands, and the Sioux and Cheyenne refused to cede ownership to the United States. [54] The earliest engagement was the Battle of Powder River, and the final battle was the Wolf Mountain. Included are the Battle of the Rosebud, Battle of Warbonnet Creek, Battle of Slim Buttes, Battle of Cedar Creek, and the Dull Knife Fight.

Among the many battles and skirmishes of the war was the Battle of the Little Bighorn, often known as Custer's Last Stand, the most storied of the many encounters between the U.S. army and mounted Plains tribes. The Battle of the Little Bighorn, known to the Lakota as the Battle of the Greasy Grass [75] and also commonly referred to as Custer's Last Stand, was an armed engagement between combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The battle, which resulted in the defeat of US forces, was the most significant action of the Great Sioux War of 1876. It took place on June 25–26, 1876, along the Little Bighorn River in the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana Territory. [76]

The fight was an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, who were led by several major war leaders, including Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, and had been inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull. The US 7th Cavalry, a force of 700 men, suffered a major defeat while under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. Five of the 7th Cavalry's twelve companies were annihilated and Custer was killed. The total US casualty count included 268 dead and 55 severely wounded (six died later from their wounds), [77] including four Crow scouts and at least two Arikara scouts. The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument honors those who fought on both sides. That victory notwithstanding, the U.S. leveraged national resources to force the tribes to surrender, primarily by attacking and destroying their encampments and property. The Great Sioux War took place under the presidencies of Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes. The Agreement of 1877 (19 Stat. 254, enacted February 28, 1877) officially annexed Sioux land and permanently established Indian reservations.

The Wounded Knee Massacre was the last major armed conflict between the Lakota and the United States. It was described as a massacre by General Nelson A. Miles in a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. [78] On December 29, 1890, five hundred troops of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, supported by four Hotchkiss guns (a lightweight artillery piece capable of rapid fire), surrounded an encampment of the Lakota bands of the Miniconjou and Hunkpapa [79] with orders to escort them to the railroad for transport to Omaha, Nebraska. By the time it was over, 25 troopers and more than 150 Lakota Sioux lay dead, including men, women, and children. It remains unknown which side was responsible for the first shot some of the soldiers are believed to have been the victims of "friendly fire" because the shooting took place at point-blank range in chaotic conditions. [80] Around 150 Lakota are believed to have fled the chaos, many of whom may have died from hypothermia. [81]

Following a three-day blizzard, the military hired civilians to bury the dead Lakota. The burial party found the deceased frozen they were gathered up and placed in a mass grave on a hill overlooking the encampment from which some of the fire from the Hotchkiss guns originated. It was reported that four infants were found alive, wrapped in their deceased mothers' shawls. In all, 84 men, 44 women, and 18 children reportedly died on the field, while at least seven Lakota were mortally wounded. [82]

For this 1890 offensive, the American army awarded twenty Medals of Honor, its highest commendation. Contemporary Native American activists have urged the medals to be withdrawn, calling them "medals of dishonor". According to Lakota William Thunder Hawk, "The Medal of Honor is meant to reward soldiers who act heroically. But at Wounded Knee, they didn't show heroism they showed cruelty". In 2001, the National Congress of American Indians passed two resolutions condemning the Medals of Honor awards and called on the U.S. government to rescind them. [83]

1890–1920s: Assimilation era Edit

Land allotment Edit

By the 1880s, the Dakota and Lakota tribes were fragmented onto reservations which would eventually diminish in size, losing hundreds of thousands of acres by the 1920s. In 1887, the United States Congress passed the General Allotment Act (Dawes Act), which began the assimilation of Dakota and Lakota people by forcing them to give up their traditional way of life. The Dawes Act ended traditional systems of land tenure, forcing tribes to adapt government-imposed systems of private property and to "assume a capitalist and proprietary relationship with property" that did not previously exist. [84] In 1889, North Dakota and South Dakota were holding statehood conventions and demanded reduction of the Great Sioux Reservation, which was established by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. [85] Just months before those states were admitted to the Union in November 1889, Congress had passed an act which partitioned the Great Sioux Reservation into five smaller reservations,. [85] Tribal leaders such as John Grass, Gall, and Sitting Bull opposed the bill, which created the following five reservations:

    with its agency at Fort Yates , with its agency on the Missouri River near the Cheyenne River confluence (later moved to Eagle Butte following the construction of Oahe Dam) , with its agency near Fort Thompson , with its agency near Mission, South Dakota and (Oglala Lakota), with its agency at Pine Ridge, South Dakota near the Nebraska border.

After the boundaries of these five reservations was established, the government opened up approximately 9 million acres (36,000 km²), one-half of the former Great Sioux Reservation, for public purchase for ranching and homesteading. [86] Much of the area was not homesteaded until the 1910s, after the Enlarged Homestead Act increased allocations to 320 acres (1.3 km 2 ) for "semi-arid land". [87]

Boarding schools Edit

Besides the loss of land, the Dawes Act would also "outlawed Native American culture and established a code of Indian offenses regulating individual behavior according to Euro-American norms of conduct." Any violations of this code were to be "tried in a Court of Indian Offenses on each reservation." Included with the Dawes Act were "funds to instruct Native Americans in Euro-American patterns of thought and behavior through Indian Service schools" which forced many of the tribes into sending their children to boarding schools.

Boarding schools were intended to "kill the Indian to save the man", which meant the destruction of Dakota and Lakota societies: children were taken away from their families, their traditional culture and kinship roles. [88] [89] They were dressed in Eurocentric clothing, given English names, had their hair cut and were forbidden to speak their languages. [89] [90] Their religions and ceremonies were also outlawed and forbidden. [90] The goal was to teach academic studies in English, vocational skills suited to Euro-American society such as farming inorder to replace traditional lifeways. [89] These schools were overcrowded and had poor sanitary conditions, which led to infectious diseases and students running away or dying while at the schools. [90] [88] The schools achieved mixed outcomes of traumatic experiences for many while others such as Charles Eastman, Ella Cara Deloria, Luther Standing Bear and Zitkala-Sa were able to use the education to their advantage to help their people.

1930s–1960s: Reorganization Act and Relocation Act Edit

The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) sought to overturn many of the policies of the Dawes Act by reversing the traditional goal of cultural assimilation of the tribes into American society. The IRA "ended land allotment, prohibited non-consensual land seizure, recognized tribal governments, encouraged the writing of tribal constitutions, and empowered Native people to manage their own resources". [91] Between 1934 and 1945, the tribes would vote on their government constitutions. The Yankton Sioux Tribe is the only tribe in South Dakota that did not comply with the IRA and chose to keep its traditional government, whose constitution was ratified in 1891. [92] The Spirit Lake Tribe and Standing Rock Tribe would also vote against the IRA. [93] Because their constitution are not written under the authority of the IRA, they had to established tribal corporations which are managed separately from the tribal government in order to apply for loans. [93] In Minnesota, the IRA recognized the Dakota tribes as communities, allowing them to reestablish their reservations and to repurchase land lost during the Dakota War of 1862. The Lower Sioux and Prairie Island reservations formed constitutions in 1936, the Upper Sioux formed as a community in 1938 and wrote a constitution in 1995, and the Shakopee Mdewakanton officially formed an IRA government in 1969. [91]

Despite the IRA giving more land rights to the tribes, the federal government seized thousands of acres of land through the Flood Control Act of 1944 by creating the Oahe Dam. As a result of the dam's construction the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation lost 150,000 acres (61,000 hectares) bringing it down to 2,850,000 acres (1,150,000 ha) today. Standing Rock Reservation lost 55,993 acres (22,660 ha) leaving it with 2,300,000 acres (930,000 ha). Much of the land was taken by eminent domain claims made by the Bureau of Reclamation. Over and above the land loss, most of the reservations' prime agricultural land was included in the loss. Most of the land was unable to be harvested (to allow the trees to be cut down for wood) before the land was flooded over with water. [94] One visitor to the reservations later asked why there were so few older Indians on the reservations and was told that "the old people had died of heartache" after the construction of the dam and the loss of the reservations' land. [95] As of 2015, poverty remains a problem for the displaced populations in the Dakotas, who are still seeking compensation for the loss of the towns submerged under Lake Oahe, and the loss of their traditional ways of life. [96]

The Indian Relocation Act of 1956 encouraged many tribal members to leave their reservations for urban areas. Some tribes had a dramatic loss of population: the Yankton Sioux Tribe would fall to only 1,000 members living on the reservation in the 1950s the Santee Sioux Reservation would lose 60 percent of its population (by 1962, only 2,999, mostly elderly people remained). [30] Roosevelt's New Deal and Johnson's War on poverty would bring new schools, roads, health clinics and new housing to the reservations. [30]

1970s: Wounded Knee incident Edit

Conflicting political values from "traditionalists" against the new form of government promoted through the Indian Reorganization Act would create long-lasting tensions on the reservations. [97] The accusations of corruption by tribal leaders would lead to the Wounded Knee incident which began on February 27, 1973, when the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota was seized by followers of the American Indian Movement (AIM). The occupiers controlled the town for 71 days while various state and federal law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Marshals Service laid siege.

The members of AIM were protesting what they said was the local corrupt government, along with federal issues affecting Indian reservation communities, as well as the lack of justice from border counties. Native Americans from many other communities, primarily urban areas, mobilized to come and join the occupation. The FBI dispatched agents and US Marshals to cordon off the site. Later a higher-ranking DOJ representative took control of the government's response. Through the resulting siege that lasted for 71 days, twelve people were wounded, including an FBI agent left paralyzed. In April at least two people died of gunfire, after which the Oglala Lakota called an end to the occupation). Additionally, two other people, one of them an African American civil rights activist, Ray Robinson, went missing, and are believed to have been killed during the occupation, though their bodies have never been found. [98] [99] Afterward, 1200 American Indians were arrested. Wounded Knee drew international attention to the plight of American Indians and AIM leaders were tried in a Minnesota federal court. The court dismissed their case on the basis of governmental prosecutorial misconduct. [100] However, Leonard Peltier was convicted of murdering two FBI agents in a June 26, 1975, shooting on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

1980s–present: Self-determination Edit

After the Wounded Knee Incident, the Dakota and Lakota would continue to push for their tribal rights and self-determination.

Black Hills Land claims Edit

The Sioux never accepted the legitimacy of the forced deprivation of their Black Hills reservation. [101] Throughout the 1920s–1950s, they would push their Black Hills land claim into federal court. After 60 years of litigation in the Court of Claims, the Indian Claims Commission, the U.S. Congress, the Supreme Court heard the case in 1980 and ruled that the federal government had illegally taken the Black Hills and awarded more than $100 million in reparations to the tribes. Stating that the land was never for sale, the tribes have refused to accept the money which is now over one billion dollars. [102]

Republic of Lakotah Edit

After the Wounded Knee Incident in 1973, the International Indian Treaty Council was formed to support grassroots Indigenous struggles for human rights, self-determination and environmental justice through information dissemination, networking, coalition building, advocacy and technical assistance. This would influence the creation of the Republic of Lakotah in 2007. The Lakota Freedom Delegation, a group of controversial Native American activists, declared on December 19, 2007, the Lakota were withdrawing from all treaties signed with the United States to regain sovereignty over their nation. One of the activists, Russell Means, claimed that the action is legal and cites natural, international and US law. [103] The group considers Lakota to be a sovereign nation, although as yet the state is generally unrecognized. The proposed borders reclaim thousands of square kilometres of North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana. [104] Not all leaders of the Lakota Tribal Governments support or recognize the declaration.

Foster care system Edit

Throughout the decades, thousands of Native American children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools with a primary objective of assimilating Native American children and youth into Euro-American culture, while at the same time providing a basic education in Euro-American subject matters. Many children lost knowledge of their culture and languages, as well as faced physical and sexual abuse at these schools. In 1978, the government tried to put an end to these boarding schools (and placement into foster families) with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which says except in the rarest circumstances, Native American children must be placed with their relatives or tribes. It also says states must do everything it can to keep native families together.

In 2011, the Lakota made national news when NPR's investigative series called Lost Children, Shattered Families aired. [105] It exposed what many critics consider to be the "kidnapping" of Lakota children from their homes by the state of South Dakota's Department of Social Services. [105] The NPR investigation found South Dakota has the most cases which fail to abide by the ICWA. In South Dakota, Native American children make up less than 15 percent of the child population, yet they make up more than half of the children in foster care. [105] The state receives thousands of dollars from the federal government for every child it takes from a family, and in some cases, the state gets even more money if the child is Native American. [105]

Lakota activists Madonna Thunder Hawk and Chase Iron Eyes worked with the Lakota People's Law Project as they sought to end what they claimed were unlawful seizures of Native American Lakota children in South Dakota and to stop the state practice of placing these children in non-Native homes. [106] They are currently working to redirect federal funding away from the state of South Dakota's Department of Social Systems to a new tribal foster care programs. [106] In 2015, in response to the investigative reports by NPR, the Lakota People's Law Project as well as the coalition of all nine Lakota/Dakota reservations in South Dakota, the Bureau of Indian Affairs updated the ICWA guidelines to give more strength to tribes to intervene on behalf of the children, stating, "The updated guidelines establish that an Indian child, parent or Indian custodian, or tribe may petition to invalidate an action if the Act or guidelines have been violated, regardless of which party’s rights were violated. This approach promotes compliance with ICWA and reflects that ICWA is intended to protect the rights of each of these parties." [107] The new guidelines also not only prevent courts from taking children away based on socioeconomic status but give a strict definition of what is to be considered harmful living conditions. [107] Previously, the state of South Dakota used "being poor" as harmful. [107]

Protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline Edit

In the summer of 2016, Sioux Indians and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began a protest against construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, also known as the Bakken pipeline, which, if completed, is designed to carry hydrofracked crude oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to the oil storage and transfer hub of Patoka, Illinois. [108] The pipeline travels only half a mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and is designed to pass underneath the Missouri River and upstream of the reservation, causing many concerns over the tribe's drinking water safety, environmental protection, and harmful impacts on culture. [109] [110] The pipeline company claims that the pipeline will provide jobs, reduce American dependence on foreign oil and reduce the price of gas. [111]

The conflict sparked a nationwide debate and much news media coverage. Thousands of indigenous and non-indigenous supporters joined the protest, and several camp sites were set up south of the construction zone. The protest was peaceful, and alcohol, drugs and firearms were not allowed at the campsite or the protest site. [112] On August 23, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe released a list of 87 tribal governments who wrote resolutions, proclamations and letters of support stating their solidarity with Standing Rock and the Sioux people. [113] Since then, many more Native American organizations, environmental groups and civil rights groups have joined the effort in North Dakota, including the Black Lives Matter movement, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka, and many more. [114] The Washington Post called it a "National movement for Native Americans." [115]

The Sioux comprise three closely related language groups:

  1. Eastern Dakota (also known as Santee-Sisseton or Dakhóta)
    • Santee (Isáŋyáthi: Bdewákhathuŋwaŋ, Waȟpékhute)
    • Sisseton (Sisíthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ)
  2. Western Dakota (or Yankton-Yanktonai or Dakȟóta)
    • Yankton (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋ)
    • Yanktonai (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna)
  3. Lakota (or Lakȟóta, Teton, Teton Sioux)

The earlier linguistic three-way division of the Sioux language identified Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota as varieties of a single language, where Lakota = Teton, Dakota = Santee-Sisseton and Nakota = Yankton-Yanktonai. [7] However, the latest studies [4] [116] show that Yankton-Yanktonai never used the autonym Nakhóta, but pronounced their name roughly the same as the Santee (i.e. Dakȟóta).

These later studies identify Assiniboine and Stoney as two separate languages, with Sioux being the third language. Sioux has three similar dialects: Lakota, Western Dakota (Yankton-Yanktonai) and Eastern Dakota (Santee-Sisseton). Assiniboine and Stoney speakers refer to themselves as Nakhóta or Nakhóda [4] (cf. Nakota).

The term Dakota has also been applied by anthropologists and governmental departments to refer to all Sioux groups, resulting in names such as Teton Dakota, Santee Dakota, etc. This was mainly because of the misrepresented translation of the Ottawa word from which Sioux is derived. [22]


Precontact Sioux culture

Sioux men acquired status by performing brave deeds in warfare horses and scalps obtained in a raid were evidence of valour. Sioux women were skilled at porcupine-quill and bead embroidery, favouring geometric designs they also produced prodigious numbers of processed bison hides during the 19th century, when the trade value of these “buffalo robes” increased dramatically. Community policing was performed by men’s military societies, the most significant duty of which was to oversee the buffalo hunt. Women’s societies generally focused on fertility, healing, and the overall well-being of the group. Other societies focused on ritual dance and shamanism.

Religion was an integral part of all aspects of Sioux life, as it was for all Native American peoples. The Sioux recognized four powers as presiding over the universe, and each power in turn was divided into hierarchies of four. The buffalo had a prominent place in all Sioux rituals. Among the Teton and Santee the bear was also a symbolically important animal bear power obtained in a vision was regarded as curative, and some groups enacted a ceremonial bear hunt to protect warriors before their departure on a raid. Warfare and supernaturalism were closely connected, to the extent that designs suggested in mystical visions were painted on war shields to protect the bearers from their enemies. The annual Sun Dance was the most important religious event.


Watch the video: The Last of the Sioux (January 2023).

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