Siouan Family. The most populous
linguistic family North of Mexico, next to the Algonquian. The name is
taken from a 'term applied to the largest and best known tribal group or
confederacy belonging to the family, the Sioux or Dakota, which, in turn,
is an abbreviation of Nadowessioux, a French corruption of Nadowe-is-iw,
the appellation given them by the Chippewa. It signifies 'snake,' 'adder,'
and, by metaphor, 'enemy.' See Dakota.
Before changes of domicile took place among them,
resulting from contact with whites, the principal body extended from the
west bank of the Mississippi northward from the Arkansas nearly to the
Rocky Mountains, except for certain sections held by the Pawnee,
Arapaho, Blackfeet, Comanche, and
Kiowa. The Dakota proper also
occupied territory on the east side of the river, from the mouth of the
Wisconsin to Mille Lacs, and the Winnebago were about the lake of that
name and the head of Green bay. Northward Siouan tribes extended some
distance into Canada, in the direction of Lake Winnipeg. A second group of
Siouan tribes, embracing the Catawba, Sara or Cheraw, Saponi, Tutelo, and
several others, occupied the central part of North Carolina and South
Carolina and the piedmont region of Virginia (see Mooney, Siouan Tribes of
the East, Bull. B. A. E., 1894), while the Biloxi dwelt in Mississippi
along the Gulf coast, and the Ofo on Yazoo river in the same state.
According to tradition the Mandan and Hidatsa reached
the upper Missouri from the northeast, and, impelled by the Dakota, moved
slowly upstream to their present location. Some time after the Hidatsa
reached the Missouri internal troubles broke out, and part, now called the
Crows, separated and moved westward to the neighborhood of Yellowstone
river. The Dakota formerly inhabited the forest region of south Minnesota,
and do not seem to have gone out upon the plains until hard pressed by the
Chippewa, who had been supplied with guns by the French.
According to all the evidence available, traditional
and otherwise, the so-called Chiwere tribes, Iowa, Oto, and Missouri,
separated front the Winnebago or else moved westward to the Missouri f
roan the same region. The five remaining tribes of this group,
Omaha, Ponca, Osage,
Quapaw, which have been called Dhegiha by Dorsey, undoubtedly lived
together as one tribe at some former time and were probably located on the
Mississippi. Part moving farther down became known as "downstream people,"
Quapaw, while those who went up were the "upstream people," Omaha. These
latter moved northwest along the river and divided into the Osage, Kansa,
Ponca, and Omaha proper. As to the more remote migrations that must have
taken place in such a widely scattered stock, different theories are held.
By some it is supposed that the various sections of the family have become
dispersed from a district near that occupied by the Winnebago, or, on the
basis of traditions recorded by Gallatin and Long, from some point on the
north side of the Great Lakes. By others a region close to the eastern
Siouans is considered their primitive home, whence the Dhegiha moved
westward down the Ohio, while the Dakota, Winnebago, and cognate tribes
kept a more northerly course near the Great Lakes.
The tribes of the Manahoac confederacy were encountered
by Capt. John Smith in 1608, but after that time all of the eastern
Siouans decreased rapidly in numbers through
Iroquois attacks and European
aggression. Finally the remnants of the northern tribes, consisting
chiefly of Tutelo and Saponi, accompanied the Tuscarora northward to the
Iroquois and were adopted by the Cayuga in 1753. On the destruction of
their village by Sullivan in 1779 they separated, the Saponi remaining
with the Cayuga in New York, while the Tutelo fled to Canada with other
Cayuga. From the few survivors of the latter tribe, Hale and J. O. Dorsey
obtained sufficient material to establish their Siouan connections, but
they are now almost extinct. The fate of the Saponi is probably the same.
The southern tribes of this eastern Siouan group consolidated with the
Catawba, and continued to decrease steadily in numbers, so that at the
present time there are only about 100 remaining of the whole confederated
body. Some of the eastern Siouan tribes may have been reached by De Soto;
they are mentioned by the Spanish captain Juan Pardo, who conducted an
expedition into the interior of South Carolina in 1567.
The Biloxi were first noted by Iberville, who found
them in 1699 on Pascagoula river, Miss. In the next century they moved
northwest and settled on Red river, La., where the remnant was found by
Gatschet in 1886 and their affinities determined. These people reported
that another section had moved into Texas and joined the Choctaw.
The Ofo, called Ushpi by their neighbors, are first
mentioned by Iberville in 1699, but were probably encountered the year
preceding by the missionaries De Montigny, Davion, La Source, and St
Cosine, though not specifically mentioned. Unlike the other Yazoo tribes,
they sided with the French in the great Natchez war and continued to live
near the Tunica Indians. Their Siouan affinity was demonstrated by Swanton
in 1908 through a vocabulary collected from the last survivor.
The first known meeting between any western Siouans and
the whites was in 1541, when De Soto reached the Quapaw villages in east
Arkansas. The earliest notice of the main northwestern group is probably
that in the Jesuit Relation of 1640, where mention is made of the
Winnebago, Dakota, and Assiniboin. As early as 1658 the Jesuit
missionaries had heard of the existence of 30 Dakota villages in the
region north from the Potawatomi mission at St Michael, about the head of
Green bay, Wis. In 1680 Father Hennepin was taken prisoner by the same
In 1804-05 Lewis and Clark passed through the center of
this region and encountered most of the Siouan tribes. Afterward
expeditions into and through their country were numerous; traders settled
among them in numbers, and were followed in course of time by permanent
settlers, who pressed them into narrower and narrower areas until they
were finally removed to Indian Territory or confined to reservations in
the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Montana.
Throughout all this period the Dakota proved themselves
most consistently hostile to the intruders. In 1862 occurred a bloody
Santee uprising in Minnesota that resulted in the removal of all of the
eastern Dakota from that state, and in 1876 the outbreak among the western
Dakota and the cutting off of Custer's command. Later still the
Ghost-dance religion spread among the Sioux proper, culminating in the
affair of Wounded Knee, Dec. 29, 1890.
It is impossible to make statements of the customs and
habits of these people that will be true for the entire group. Nearly all
of the eastern tribes and most of the southern tribes belonging to the
western group raised corn, but the Dakota (except some of the eastern
bands) and the Crows depended almost entirely on the buffalo and other
game animals, the buffalo entering very deeply into the economic and
religious life of all the tribes of this section. In the east the
habitations were, bark and mat wigwams, but on the plains earth lodges and
skin tipis were used. Formerly they had no domestic animals except dogs,
which were utilized in transporting the tipis and all other family
belongings, including children (see Travois), but later their place was
largely taken by horses, the introduction of which constituted a new epoch
in the life of all Plains tribes, facilitating their migratory movements
and the pursuit of the buffalo, and doubtless contributing largely to the
ultimate extinction of that animal.
Taking the reports of the United States and Canadian
Indian offices as a basis and making a small allowance for bands or
individuals not here enumerated, the total number of Indians of Siouan
stock may be placed at about 40,800.
The Tutelo, Biloxi, and probably the rest of the
eastern Siouan tribes were organized internally into clans with maternal
descent; the Dakota, Mandan, and Hidatsa consisted of many non-totemic
bands or villages, the Crows of non-totemic gentes, and the rest of the
tribes of totemic gentes.
The Siouan family is divided as
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of American Indians, 1906
Index of Tribes or Nations