Focus on Treaties for Native American Heritage Month
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Sioux

One of the most recognizable of all Indian tribal names, Sioux is actually a corruption of a French word, nadouessioux, meaning little snakes.

The Sioux comprised three major divisions: Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota, each of which is further subdivided into smaller entities. Of the three major divisions, the Dakota (Santee) occupied territory in the Upper Midwest—parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa—and was the division mainly involved in the 1862 Minnesota Sioux Uprising. The Nakota (Yankton and Yanktonai) lived farther west—the prairie country of western Minnesota and Iowa and the eastern portion of the Dakotas. The Lakota division (Teton Lakotas) lived on the northern Great Plains and is the branch best known to history. The consummate buffalo hunters of the Great Plains, the Lakotas battled off and on with whites for nearly a half century.

The Teton Lakota division was composed of seven bands or council fires: Brulé, Sans Arc, Hunkpapa, Oglala, Miniconjou, Blackfeet (no relation to the Blackfoot of Montana), and Two Kettles. Crazy Horse was Oglala; Sitting Bull was Hunkpapa. A powerful confederation, the Lakotas at first only occasionally annoyed and harassed wagon trains passing over the Great Platte River Trail, but as the advance of white civilization came increasingly to threaten their territory and way of life, they resisted fiercely and were the focus of military attention until the final, desperate tragedy of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. Unquestionably, the zenith of Sioux resistance came on June 25, 1876, when the great Indian coalition composed mainly of Sioux destroyed Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and nearly half of his regiment at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Jerry Keenan


Further Reading
Hassrick, Royal B. The Sioux; Life and Customs of a Warrior Society. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964; Hyde, George E. Red Cloud's Folk, a History of the Oglala Sioux Indians. Norman: University of Oklahoma press, 1957; Standing, Bear L. My People, the Sioux. Lincoln, Neb: University of Nebraska Press, 1975.
 

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