Dakota Indians

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Dakota Indians. Signifying “allies” in the Santee or eastern dialect; in Yankton and in Assiniboin it is Nakota; in Teton, Lakota. They are more often known as Sioux, an abbreviation of Nadouessioux, the name applied to them by the Chippewa, as transmitted through French; it signifies “adders,” and by derivation “enemies.” Also called:

  • Ab-boin-ug, Boinug or Obwahnug, Wanak, Chippewa name, meaning “roasters” from their custom of torturing foes.
  • Ba-akush’, Caddo name.
  • Ba-ra-shu-p’-gi-o, Crow name.
  • Chah’-ra-rat, Pawnee name.
  • Coupe-gorges, French rendering of a name given them in the sign language.
  • Cut-throats, English equivalent of same.
  • Hand Cutters, translation of Ute name.
  • Its ha’tski, Hidatsa name, meaning “long arrows.”
  • Kaispa, Sarsi name.
  • K’odalpa-Kiñago, Kiowa name, meaning “necklace people.”
  • Mar-an-sho-bish-ko, Crow name, meaning “cutthroats.”
  • Minishúpsko, Crow name of opprobrious meaning.
  • Nadouessioux, general Algonquian name received through the French.
  • Natni or Natnihina, Arapaho, meaning “cutthroats.”
  • Na’-to-wo-na, Cheyenne name for easternmost bands of Sioux.
  • Nuktusem or Nktusein, Salish name.
  • Ocheti shakowin, own nanie, meaning “the seven council fires.”
  • O-o’-ho-mo-i’-o, Cheyenne name, meaning “those on the outside.”
  • Oshahak, Fox name.
  • Pambizimina, Shoshoni name, meaning “beheaders.”
  • Pámpe Chyimina, Ute name, meaning “Hand Cutters.”
  • Papitsinima, Comanche name, meaning “beheaders.”
  • Píshakulk, Yakima name, meaning “beheaders.”
  • Poualak or Pouanak, name given in early French records, for Ab-boin-ug.
  • Sáhagi, Shawnee name.
  • Shahañ, Osage, Kansa, and Oto name.
  • Shánana, Kiowa Apache name.
  • Tsaba’kosh, or Ba-akush’, Caddo name, meaning “cutthroats.”
  • Túye(chíske(, Comanche name, meaning “cutthroats.”
  • Wä-sä-sa-o-no, Iroquois name.
  • Yunssáha, Wyandot name, meaning “birds.”

Dakota Connections. The Dakota belonged to the Siouan linguistic family, their closest relations being the Hidatsa.

Dakota Location. The earliest known home of this tribe was on and near the Mississippi in southern Minnesota, northwestern Wisconsin, and neighboring parts of Iowa. In 1825, after they had spread somewhat farther west, Long (1791) gives their boundaries thus: They were bounded by a curved line extending east of north from Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi, so as to include all the eastern tributaries of the Mississippi, to the first branch of Chippewa River; thence by a line running west of north to Spirit Lake; thence westwardly to Crow Wing River, Minn., and up that stream to its head; thence westwardly to Red River and down that stream to Pembina; thence southwestwardly to the eastern bank of the Missouri near the Mandan villages; thence down the Missouri to a point probably not far from Soldiers River; thence east of north to Prairie du Chien. At a later time they occupied less territory toward the east but extended much farther westward between the Yellowstone and Platte Rivers. (See also Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Canada.)

Dakota Subdivisions

Early explorers usually distinguished an Eastern or Forest and a Western or Prairie division, but the following is a more accurate classification:

  • (1) Mdewakanton
  • (2) Wahpeton
  • (3) Wahpekute
  • (4) Sisseton
  • (5) Yankton
  • (6) Yanktonai
    • (a) Upper Yanktonai
    • (b) Lower Yantonai or Hunkpatina, from whom also the Assiniboin are said to have separated.
  • (7) Teton
    • (a) Brule (Upper and Lower)
    • (b) Hunkpapa
    • (c) Miniconjou
    • (d) Oglala
    • (e) Oohenonpa or Two Kettle
    • (f) San Arcs
    • (g) Sihasapa or Blackfoot

Numbers 1 to 4 constituted the Santee or Eastern division.

Dakota Villages

  • Black Tiger, near Fort Peck Agency.
  • Broken Arrows, possibly the Cazazhita.
  • Casarba, 35 leagues up St. Peters River in 1804.
  • Cazazhita, probably Tetons and perhaps the same as the Wannawega.
  • Chansuushka, unidentified.
  • Chasmuna, unidentified.
  • Cheokhba, a band of the Hunkpapa Teton.
  • Congewichacha, a Dakota division, perhaps Teton.
  • Farmers Band, probably a band of the Mdewakanton, below Lake Traverse, Minn.
  • Fire Lodge, below Lake Traverse.
  • Flandreau Indians, a part of the Santee who settled at Flandreau, S. Dak. Grey Eagle Band, below Lake Traverse, Minn.
  • Lake Comedu, unidentified.
  • Lean Bear, below Lake Traverse, Minn.
  • Long Sioux, near Fort Peck.
  • Magayuteshni, a Mdewakanton division.
  • Menostamenton, unidentified.
  • Micacoupsiba, on the upper St. Peters, Minn.
  • Minisha, an Oglala band.
  • Neecoweegee, unidentified, possibly Minneconjou.
  • Nehogatawonahs, near St. Croix River in Minnesota or Wisconsin.
  • Newastarton, an unidentified band on the Mississippi above the St. Peters
  • (Minnesota) River; probably the Mdewakanton.
  • Ocatameneton, an eastern Dakota band.
  • Ohanhanska, a band of the Magayuteshni division of the Mdewakanton on Minnesota River.
  • Oughetgeodatons, a village or subdivision of one of the western bands.
  • Oujatespouitons, west of the Mississippi.
  • Peshlaptechela, an Oglala Teton band.
  • Pineshow, a band of Wahpeton, on Minnesota River, 15 miles from its mouth.
  • Psinchaton, belonging to the Western Dakota in Minnesota.
  • Psinoumanitons, a division of the Eastern Dakota, probably in Wisconsin.
  • Psinoutanhinhintons, a band of Western Dakota in Minnesota.
  • Rattling Moccasin Band, a band of Mdewakanton Dakota on Minnesota River below Lake Traverse, Minn.
  • Red Leg’s Band, a Wahpekute band in Minnesota. Redwood, location uncertain.
  • Star Band, a hand of Mdewakanton.
  • Takini, an Upper Yanktonai band.
  • Talonapin, a Hunkpapa band.
  • Tashunkeota, a Sihasapa band.
  • Tateihombu’s Band, location uncertain.
  • Touchouasintons, a band of the Western Dakota, perhaps the Wazikute.
  • Traverse de Sioux, a part of the Sisseton formerly on Minnesota River, Minn.
  • Waktonila, unidentified.
  • Wazikute, a band of Upper Yanktonai.
  • White Cap Indians, on the south Saskatchewan River, in Assiniboia, Canada.
  • White Eagle Band, location unknown.
  • Wiattachechah, an unidentified village.

Dakota History

The first historical mention of the Dakota is in the Jesuit Relation for 1640 when they were probably in the eastern part of the territory indicated above. Rev. A. L. Riggs, for many years a missionary among them, claims that their traditions pointed to the northeast as the place of their origin and that they once lived about the Lake of the Woods. There are, however, strong grounds for believing that they pushed their way up into the present Minnesota from the southeast, though there is no doubt that the Chippewa forced them back in later times from some of the most easternmost lands they occupied and their expulsion from Mille Lacs is an historical event. It is thought that few Dakota crossed the Missouri before 1750, yet it is claimed that some of them reached the Black Hills by 1765. In 1862 the Eastern Dakota under Little Crow rose upon the Whites and in the war which followed 700 settlers and 100 soldiers were killed, while the hostile bands lost all of the rest of their lands in Minnesota and were forced to move to Dakota and Nebraska. On the discovery of gold in the Black Hills the rush of miners to that region became the occasion for a war with the Western Dakota rendered famous by the cutting off of General Custer and five companies of cavalry on the Little Bighorn, June 25, 1876. An incipient rising at Wounded Knee Creek, resulting from the spread of the Ghost Dance religion, was the last scene of the struggles between the Dakota and the Whites, and the tribe is now allotted lands in severalty, principally in South Dakota, but in part in North Dakota and Nebraska.

Dakota Population. Mooney (1928) estimated that in 1780 there were 25,000 Dakota of all divisions, exclusive of the Assiniboin. In 1904 their distribution on agencies and their numbers were as follows: Cheyenne River (Minniconjou, Sans Arcs, and Oohenonpa), 2,477; Crow Creek (Lower Yanktonai), 1,025; Fort Totten School (Sisseton, Wahpeton, and Yanktonai), 1,013; Riggs Institute (Santee), 279; Fort Peck (Yankton), 1,116; Lower Brule (Lower Brul6), 470; Pine Ridge (Oglala), 6,690; Rosebud (Brul6, Waglukhe, Lower Brul6, Northern, Oohenonpa, and Wazhazha), 4,977; Santee (Santee), 1,075; Sisseton (Sisseton and Wahpeton), 1,908; Standing Rock (Sihasapa, Hunkpapa, and Yanktonai), 3,514; Yankton (Yankton), 1,702; under no agency (Mdewakanton in Minnesota) 929; total, 27,175. The census of 1930 returned 25,934, of whom 20,918 were in South Dakota, 2,307 in North Dakota, 1,251 in Montana, 690 in Nebraska, and the remainder in more than 22 other States. The Report of the United States Office of Indian Affairs for 1937 gave 33,625, including 27,733 in South Dakota, 2,797 in North Dakota, 1,292 in Nebraska, 1,242 in Minnesota, and 561 in Montana.

Connections in which the Dakota have become noted. The Dakota are one of the most famous tribes of North America, thanks to their numbers and prowess, their various wars with the Whites and the spectacular character of one of the last encounters with them, the celebrated “Custer massacre,” not to mention the conspicuous nature of their connection with the Ghost Dance cult and the tragic affray at Wounded Knee Creek which grew out of it. The name is preserved in two of the States of our Union, North and South Dakota; by a river which flows through them; by counties in Minnesota and Nebraska; and by places in Stephenson County, Ill.; Winona County, Minn.; in Wisconsin and Nebraska; and as Dakota City in Humboldt County, Iowa, and Dakota County, Nebr. The other popular name for this tribe, Sioux, has been given to Sioux City, Iowa, and Sioux Falls, S. Dak.; to counties in Iowa and Nebraska; and small places in Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota; as Sioux in Yancey County, N. C.; Sioux Center in Sioux County, Iowa; Sioux Rapids in Buena Vista County, Iowa; and Sioux Pass in Richland County, Mont. It appears as Lacota (the Teton form of the name) in Marion County, Fla., and Van Buren County, Mich., and with the spelling Lakota in Kossuth County, Iowa; Nelson County, N. Dak.; and Culpeper County, Va.



MLA Source Citation:

Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 28 July 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/dakota-indians.htm - Last updated on Jun 9th, 2012


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