Yankton Indian Tribe History
'village 'end village'). One of the 7 primary divisions of the Dakota,
constituting, with the closely related Yanktonai, the middle group. J. O.
Dorsey arranged the Dakota-Assiniboin in 4 dialectic groups: Santee,
Yankton, Teton, and Assiniboin, the Yankton dialect being spoken also by
the Yanktonai, for the 2 tribes were the outgrowth of one original stem.
Although the name Yankton was known earlier than Yanktonai, it does not
follow that the Yankton were the elder tribe. Long (Exped. St. Peter's R.,
1, 378, 1824) speaks of the Yankton as descendants of the Yanktonai. The
Assiniboin, who were an offshoot from the Yanktonai, are mentioned in the
Jesuit Relation for 1640 as a tribe; hence the Yanktonai must have been in
existence as a tribe before that time. This fact serves as an aid in
tracing back the Yankton both historically and geographically. However,
the name Yankton and some of its synonyms appear early to have been used
to include the 2 tribes, the distinction probably not then being known.
The first mention of them is on Hennepin's map (1683), on which they are
placed directly north of Mille Lac, Minn., in the region of Leech lake or
Red lake. This position would accord geographically with the withdrawal of
the Assiniboin to the Cree.
In the account of Hennepin's expedition attributed to
Tonti (1697), they are mentioned in connection with the Santee, Teton, and
Sioux, located about the headwaters of the Mississippi. Both these
references would seem to apply as well to the Yanktonai as to the Yankton;
it is probable that both are referred to under one general name. La
Chesnaye (1697) included them among the tribes that dwelt north of Mille
Lac, and placed them north of the Santee and other Sioux. Le Sueur (1700),
however, speaks of a village or tribe of the western Sioux (Margry, Dec.,
vi, 87, 1887), the Hinhanetons, identified by Shea, probably correctly,
with the Yankton, which he calls the "village of the quarry of red stone."
If this refers, as is maintained by Williamson, to the pipestone quarry in
extreme southwest Minnesota, it would indicate a sudden change of
residence, unless the references are in one place to one and in another to
the other tribe, or apply to different villages or bands. Williamson
(Minn. Hist. Coll., 1, 296, 1860) considered the Hinhanetons a part only
of the Yankton. There are indications that a westward movement took place
about the time Le Sueur visited that region.
On De l'Isle's map of 1708 the Yankton are placed on
the east bank of the Missouri, about the site of Sioux City, Iowa. For
about a century they dropped almost entirely from history, there being
scarcely a notice of them except as included in the general term Sioux.
When they were again brought to notice by Lewis and Clark (1804) they had
shifted but little from the position they occupied at the beginning of the
previous century. According to these explorers they roamed over the
regions of the James, Big Sioux, and Des Moines rovers. Lewis, in his
Statistical View, locates them on James, Big and Little Sioux, Floyd, and
Des Moines rivers., an area that includes the district of the pipestone
quarry, where Le Sueur placed them. From this time they became an
important factor in the history of the northwest Long (1823) says that
they are in every respect similar to the Yanktonai and had probably
separated from them. They frequented the Missouri and generally trafficked
with the traders on that river. Their hunting rounds were east of the
Missouri. Drake (1848) located them in 1836 about the headwaters of Red
river of the North.
According to the Report on Indian Affairs for 1842 and
a statement by Ramsey in 1849 they lived along Vermillion river, South
Dakota. At the time of the Minnesota outbreak in 1862 their head chief,
Palaneapape, wisely kept them from joining the hostiles, and sent warning
to the white people in Dakota to flee to the forts, thereby saving
hundreds of lives. By the treaty of Washington Apr. 19, 1858, they ceded
all their lands in South Dakota, excepting a reservation on the north bank
of Missouri river, where they have since remained in peace with the
whites. Immediately after the allotment act of 1887 the process of
allotments in severalty began on this reservation and was completed before
the close of 1890.
Lewis, in his Statistical View (1807), says the Yankton
are the best disposed Sioux who rove on the banks of the Missouri, but
they would not suffer any trader at that date to ascend the river if they
could prevent it. Lewis and Clark describe them as being in person stout,
well proportioned, and exhibiting a certain air of dignity and boldness.
Their dress is described as differing in no respect from that of other
bands encountered. They had then only a few guns, being generally armed
with bows and arrows, in the use of which they did not appear as expert as
the more northerly Indians. Pike describes them and the Yanktonai as never
stationary, but, like the Teton, as more erratic than other Sioux. Lewis
(1807) estimated their number at 700. Pike (1807) estimated the population
of the Yankton and Yanktonai at 4,300. The Report on Indian Affairs for
1842 gives the Yankton a population of 2,500; in 1862 the estimate was
3,000; in 1867, 2,530; in1886,1,776. Their present number is not
definitely known, the Yankton and the Yanktonai being seemingly confused
on the different Sioux reservations. Most of the Indians under the Yankton
school, South Dakota, are Yankton, and numbered in all 1,739 in 1909.
There were also about 100 under the Fort Totten school, North Dakota, a
few under the Crow Creek school, South Dakota, and a few others under the
Lower Brule school, South Dakota. The so-called Yankton on the Fort Peck
reservation, Mont., are really Yanktonai.
The bands as given by J. O. Dorsey (1878) are as
Culbertson (Smithson. Rep. 1850, 141, 1851) mentions a
"Band who do not cook," and another " Who eat no geese," which can not be
identified with any of these divisions; and Schoolcraft (Ind. Tribes, III,
612, 1853) incorrectly makes Wahnaataa, the name of one of the Yankton
The books presented are for their
historical value only and are not the
opinions of the Webmasters of the site.
of American Indians, 1906
Index of Tribes or Nations