Collection: The Siouan Indians

Siouan Tribal Nomenclature

In the Siouan stock, as among the American Indians generally, the accepted appellations for tribes and other groups are variously derived. Many of the Siouan tribal names were, like the name of the stock, given by alien peoples, including white men, though most are founded on the descriptive or other designations used in the groups to which they pertain. At first glance, the names seem to be loosely applied and perhaps vaguely defined, and this laxity in application and definition does not disappear, but rather increases, with closer examination. There are special reasons for the indefiniteness of Indian nomenclature: The aborigines were at the time of discovery, and indeed most of them remain today, in the prescriptorial stage of culture, i.e., the stage in which ideas are crystallized, not by means of arbitrary symbols, but by means of arbitrary associations, 1The leading culture stages are defined in the Thirteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, for 1891-92 (1896), p. xxiii et seq. and in this stage names are connotive or descriptive, rather than denotive as in the scriptorial stage. Moreover, among the Indians, as among all other prescriptorial peoples, the ego is paramount, and all things are described, much more largely than among cultured peoples, with reference to the describer and the position which he occupies – Self and Here, and, if need be, Now and Thus, are...

Read More


Linguistically the Winnebago Indians are closely related to the ŧΩiwe’re on the one side and to the Mandan on the other. They were first mentioned in the Jesuit Relation of 1636, though the earliest known use of the name Winnebago occurs in the Relation of 1640; Nicollet found them on Green bay in 1639. According to Shea, the Winnebago were almost annihilated by the Illinois (Algonquian) tribe in early days, and the historical group was made up of the survivors of the early battles. Chauvignerie placed the Winnebago on Lake Superior in 1736, and Jefferys referred to them and the Sac as living near the head of Green bay in 1761; Carver mentions a Winnebago village on a small island near the eastern end of Winnebago lake in 1778. Pike enumerated seven Winnebago villages existing in 1811; and in 1822 the population of the tribe was estimated at 5,800 (including 900 warriors) in the country about Winnebago lake and extending thence southwestward to the Mississippi. By treaties in 1825 and 1832 they ceded their lands south of Wisconsin and Fox rivers for a reservation on the Mississippi above the Oneota; one of their villages in 1832 was at Prairie la Grosse. They suffered several visitations of smallpox; the third, which occurred in 1836, carried off more than a quarter of the tribe. A part of the people long remained...

Read More

Siouan Principal Divisions

According to Dorsey, whose acquaintance with the Siouan Indians was especially close, the main portion of the Siouan stock, occupying the continental interior, comprised seven principal divisions (including the Biloxi and not distinguishing the Asiniboin), each composed of one or more tribes or confederacies, all defined and classified by linguistic, social, and mythologic relations; and he and Mooney recognize several additional groups, denned by linguistic affinity or historical evidence of intimate relations, in the eastern part of the country. So far as made out through the latest researches, the grand divisions, confederacies, and tribes of the stock, 1The subdivisions are set forth, in the following treatise on “Siouan Sociology.” with their present condition, are as follows: 1. Dakota-Asiniboin Dakota (“Friendly”) or Ot´-ce-ti ca-ko-win (“Seven council-fires”) confederacy, comprising— A. Santee, including Mde-wa-kan´-ton-wan (“Spirit Lake village”) and Wa-qpe´-ku-te (“Shoot among deciduous trees”), mostly located in Knox county, Nebraska, on the former Santee reservation, with some oa Fort Peck reservation, Montana.      B. Sisseton or Si-si´-ton-wan´ (“Fish-scale village”), mostly on Sisseton reservation, South Dakota, partly on Devils Lake reservation, North Dakota.      C. Wahpetou or Wa´-qpe´-ton-wan (“Dwellers among deciduous trees”), mostly on Devils Lake reservation, North Dakota.      D. Yankton or I-hank´-ton-wan (“End village”), in Yankton village, South Dakota.      E. Yanktonai or I-hank´-ton-wan-na (“Little End village”), comprising—                 a. Upper Yanktonai, on Standing Rock reservation, North Dakota, with the Pa´-ba-kse (“Cut...

Read More

The Siouan Mythology

It was partly through pioneer study of the Siouan Indians that the popular fallacy concerning the aboriginal “Great Spirit” gained currency; and it was partly through the work of Dorsey among the ȼegiha and Dakota tribes, first as a missionary and afterward as a linguist, that the early error was corrected. Among these tribes the creation and control of the world and the things thereof are ascribed to “wa-kan-da” (the term varying somewhat from tribe to tribe), just as among the Algonquian tribes omnipotence was assigned to “ma-ni-do” (“Manito the Mighty” of “Hiawatha”); yet inquiry shows that wakanda assumes various forms, and is rather a quality than a definite entity. Thus, among many of the tribes the sun is wakanda-not the wakanda or a wakanda, but simply wakanda; and among the same tribes the moon is wakanda, and so is thunder, lightning, the stars, the winds, the cedar, and various other things; even a man, especially a shaman, might be wakanda or a wakanda. In addition the term was applied to mythic monsters of the earth, air, and waters; according to some of the sages the ground or earth, the mythic under-world, the ideal upper-world, darkness, etc, were wakanda or wakandas. So, too, the fetiches and the ceremonial objects and decorations were wakanda among different tribes. Among some of the groups various animals and other trees besides the specially...

Read More

Siouan Somatology

Certain somatic features of the Siouan Indians, past and present, may be traced to their causes in custom and exercise of function; yet by far the greater number of the features are common to the American people or to all mankind, and are of ill-understood significance.

Read More

Chiwere Group

Ɉɔiwe’re is used in the following article to reference the Chiwere of the Handbook of American Indians. The ancestry and prehistoric movements of the tribes constituting the Ɉɔiwe’re group are involved in considerable obscurity, though it is known from tradition as well as linguistic affinity that they sprung from the Winnebago. Since the days of Marquette (1673) the Iowa have ranged over the country between the Mississippi and Missouri, up to the latitude of Oneota (formerly upper Iowa) River, and even across the Missouri about the mouth of the Platte. Chauvignerie located them in 1736 west of the Mississippi and (probably through error in identification of the waterway) south of the Missouri; and in 1761 Jefferys placed them between Missouri river and the headwaters of Des Moines river, above the Oto and below the Maha (Omaha). In 1805, according to Drake, they dwelt on Des Moines river, forty leagues above its mouth, and numbered 800. In 1811 Pike found them in two villages on Des Moines and Iowa rivers. In 1815 they were decimated by smallpox, and also lost heavily through war against the tribes of the Dakota confederacy. In 1829 Porter placed them on the Little Platte, some 15 miles from the Missouri line, and about 1853 Schoolcraft located them on Nemaha river, their principal village being near the mouth of the Great Nemaha. In 1848 they suffered another...

Read More


The Mandan had a vague tradition of emigration from the eastern part of the country, and Lewis and Clark, Prince Maximilian, and others found traces of Mandan house-structures at various points along the Missouri; thus they appear to have ascended that stream before the advent of the ȼegiha. During the historical period their movements were limited; they were first visited in the upper Missouri country by Sieur de la Verendrye in 1738. About 1750 they established two villages on the eastern side and seven on the western side of the Missouri, near the mouth of Heart river. Here they were assailed by the Asiniboin and Dakota and attacked by smallpox, and were greatly reduced; the two eastern villages consolidated, and the people migrated up the Missouri to a point 1,430 miles above its mouth (as subsequently determined by Lewis and Clark); the seven villages were soon reduced to five, and these people also ascended the river and formed two villages in the Arikara country, near the Mandan of the eastern side, where they remained until about 1766, when they also consolidated. Thus the once powerful and populous tribe was reduced to two villages which, in 1804, were found by Lewis and Clark on opposite banks of the Missouri, about 4 miles below Knife river. Here for a time the tribe waxed and promised to regain the early prestige, reaching...

Read More

Siouan Organization

The demotic organization of the Siouan peoples, so far as known, is set forth in considerable detail in Mr Dorsey’s treatises 1Chiefly “Omaha Sociology,” Third Ann. Rep. Bur. Eth., for 1881-82 (1884), pp. 205-370; “A study of Siouan cults,” Eleventh Ann. Rep. Bur. Eth., for 1889-90 (1894), pp. 351-544, and that printed on the following pages. and in the foregoing enumeration of tribes, confederacies, and other linguistic groups. Like the other aborigines north of Mexico, the Siouan Indians were organized on the basis of kinship, and were thus in the stage of tribal society. All of the best-known tribes had reached that plane in organization characterized by descent in the male line, though many vestiges and some relatively unimportant examples of descent in the female line have been discovered. Thus the clan system was obsolescent and the gentile system fairly developed; i. e., the people were practically out of the stage of savagery and well advanced in the stage of barbarism. Confederation for defense and offense was fairly defined and was strengthened by intermarriage between tribes and gentes and the prohibition of marriage within the gens; yet the organization was such as to maintain tribal autonomy in considerable degree; i.e., the social structure was such as to facilitate union in time of war and division into small groups adapted to hunting in times of peace. No indication of feudalism...

Read More

Siouan Phonetic and Graphic Arts

The Siouan stock is defined by linguistic characters. The several tribes and larger and smaller groups speak dialects so closely related as to imply occasional or habitual association, and hence to indicate community in interests and affinity in development; and while the arts (reflecting as they did the varying environment of a wide territorial range) were diversified, the similarity in language was, as is usual, accompanied by similarity in institutions and beliefs. Nearly all of the known dialects are eminently vocalic, and the tongues of the plains, which have been most extensively studied, are notably melodious; thus the leading languages of the group display moderately high phonetic development. In grammatic structure the better-known dialects are not so well developed; the structure is complex, chiefly through the large use of inflection, though agglutination sometimes occurs. In some cases the germ of organization is found in fairly definite juxtaposition or placement. The vocabulary is moderately rich, and of course represents the daily needs of a primitive people, their surroundings, their avocations, and their thoughts, while expressing little of the richer ideation of cultured cosmopolites. On the whole, the speech of the Siouan stock may be said to have been fairly developed, and may, with the Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Shoshonean, be regarded as typical for the portion of North America lying north of Mexico. Fortunately it has been extensively studied by Riggs,...

Read More

Siouan Institutions

Among civilized peoples, institutions are crystallized in statutes about nuclei of common law or custom; among peoples in the prescriptorial culture-stage statutes are unborn, and various mnemonic devices are employed for fixing and perpetuating institutions; and, as is usual in this stage, the devices involve associations which appear to be essentially arbitrary at the outset, though they tend to become natural through the survival of the fittest. A favorite device for perpetuating institutions among the primitive peoples of many districts on different continents is the taboo, or prohibition, which is commonly fiducial but is often of general application. This device finds its best development in the earlier stages in the development of belief, and is normally connected with totemism. Another device, which is remarkably widespread, as shown by Morgan, is kinship nomenclature. This device rests on a natural and easily ascertained basis, though its applications are arbitrary and vary widely from tribe to tribe and from culture-status to culture-status. A third device, which found much favor among the American aborigines and among some other primitive peoples, may be called ordination, or the arrangement of individuals and groups classified from the prescriptorial point of view of Self, Here, and Now, with respect to each other or to some dominant personage or group. This device seems to have grown out of the kin-name system, in which the Ego is the basis...

Read More

Siouan Habitat

Excepting the Asiniboin, who are chiefly in Canada, nearly all of the Siouan Indians are now gathered on the reservations indicated on earlier pages, most of these reservations lying within the aboriginal territory of the stock. At the advent of white men, the Siouan territory was vaguely defined, and its limits were found to vary somewhat from exploration to exploration. This vagueness and variability of habitat grew out of the characteristics of the tribesmen. Of all the great stocks south of the Arctic, the Siouan was perhaps least given to agriculture, most influenced by hunting, and most addicted to warfare; thus most of the tribes were but feebly attached to the soil, and freely followed the movements of the feral fauna as it shifted with climatic vicissitudes or was driven from place to place by excessive hunting or by fires set to destroy the undergrowth in the interests of the chase; at the same time, the borderward tribes were alternately driven and led back and forth through strife against the tribes of neighboring stocks. Accordingly the Siouan habitat can be outlined only in approximate and somewhat arbitrary fashion. The difficulty in defining the priscan home of the Siouan tribes is increased by its vast extent and scant peopling, by the length of the period intervening between discovery in the east and complete exploration in the west, and by the...

Read More


There has been much confusion concerning the definition and designation of the Hidatsa Indians. They were formerly known as Minitari or Gros Ventres of the Missouri, in distinction from the Gros Ventres of the plains, who belong to another stock. The origin of the term Gros Ventres is somewhat obscure, and various observers have pointed out its inapplicability, especially to the well-formed Hidatsa tribesmen. According to Dorsey, the French pioneers probably translated a native term referring to a traditional buffalo paunch, which occupies a prominent place in the Hidatsa mythology and which, in early times, led to a dispute and the separation of the Crow from the main group some time in the eighteenth century. The earlier legends of the Hidatsa are vague, but there is a definite tradition of a migration northward, about 1765, from the neighborhood of Heart river, where they were associated with the Mandan, to Knife river. At least as early as 1796, according to Matthews, there were three villages belonging to this tribe on Knife river-one at the mouth, another half a mile above, and the third and largest 3 miles from the mouth. Here the people were found by Lewis and Clark in 1804, and here they remained until 1837, when the scourge of smallpox fell and many of the people perished, the survivors uniting in a single village. About 1845 the Hidatsa...

Read More

Siouan Culture

Since the culture of primitive people reflect environmental conditions with close fidelity, and since the Siouan Indians were distributed over a vast territory varying in climate, hydrography, geology, fauna, and flora, their industrial and esthetic arts can hardly be regarded as distinctive, and were indeed shared by other tribes of all neighboring stocks. The best developed industries were hunting and warfare, though all of the tribes subsisted in part on fruits, nuts, berries, tubers, grains, and other vegetal products, largely wild, though sometimes planted and even cultivated in rude fashion. The southwestern tribes, and to some extent all of the prairie denizens and probably the eastern remnant, grew maize, beans, pumpkins, melons, squashes, sunflowers, and tobacco, though their agriculture seems always to have been subordinated to the chase. Aboriginally, they appear to have had no domestic animals except dogs, which, according to Carver – one of the first white men seen by the prairie tribes, – were kept for their flesh, which was eaten ceremonially, 1Op.cit., p.278. and for use in the chase. 2Op. cit., p. 445. Carver says, “The dogs employed by the Indians in hunting appear to be all of the same species; they carry their ears erect, and greatly resemble a wolf about the head. They are exceedingly useful to them in their hunting excursions and will attack the fiercest of the game they are in...

Read More


The Dakota are mentioned in the Jesuit Relations as early as 1639-40; the tradition is noted that the Ojibwa, on arriving at the Great Lakes in an early migration from the Atlantic coast, encountered representatives of the great confederacy of the plains. In 1641 the French voyageurs met the Potawatomi Indians flying from a nation called Nadawessi (enemies); and the Frenchmen adopted the alien name for the warlike prairie tribes. By 1658 the Jesuits had learned of the existence of thirty Dakota villages west-northwest from the Potawatomi mission St Michel; and in 1689 they recorded the presence of tribes apparently representing the Dakota confederacy on the upper Mississippi, near the mouth of the St Croix. According to Croghan’s History of Western Pennsylvania, the “Sue” Indians occupied the country southwest of Lake Superior about 1759; and Dr. T. S. Williamson, “the father of the Dakota mission,” states that the Dakota must have resided about the confluence of the Mississippi and the Minnesota or St Peters for at least two hundred years prior to 1860. According to traditions collected by Dorsey, the Teton took possession of the Black Hills region, which had previously been occupied by the Crow Indians, long before white men came; and the Yankton and Yanktonnai, which were found on the Missouri by Lewis and Clark, were not long removed from the region about Minnesota river. In 1862...

Read More


Free Genealogy Archives

It takes a village to grow a family tree!
Genealogy Update - Keeping you up-to-date!
101 Best Websites 2016

Pin It on Pinterest