Collection: The Siouan Indians

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;


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

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


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

The Development of Mythology

As explained by Powell, philosophies and beliefs may be seriated in four stages: The first stage is hecastotheism; in this stage extranatural or mysterious potencies are imputed to objects both animate and inanimate. The second stage is zootheism; within it the powers of animate forms are exaggerated and amplified into the realm of the supernal, and certain animals are deified. The third stage is that of physitheism, in which the agencies of nature are personified and exalted unto omnipotence. The fourth stage is that of psychotheism, which includes the domain of spiritual concept. In general the development of belief coincides

Siouan Migration

On reviewing the records of explorers and pioneers and the few traditions which have been preserved, the course of Siouan migration and development becomes clear. In general the movements were westward and northwestward. The Dakota tribes have not been traced far, though several of them, like the Yanktonnai, migrated hundreds of miles from the period of first observation to the end of the eighteenth century; then came the Mandan, according to their tradition, and as they ascended the Missouri left traces of their occupancy scattered over 1,000 miles of migration; next the ȼegiha descended the Ohio and passed from the

Sioux Lands

The Siouan Indians

Out of some sixty aboriginal stocks or families found in North America above the Tropic of Cancer, about five-sixths were confined to the tenth of the territory bordering Pacific ocean; the remaining nine-tenths of the land was occupied by a few strong stocks, comprising the Algonquian, Athapascan, Iroquoian, Shoshonean, Siouan, and others of more limited extent. The Indians of the Siouan stock occupied the central portion of the continent. They were preeminently plains Indians, ranging from Lake Michigan to the Rocky mountains, and from the Arkansas to the Saskatchewan, while an outlying body stretched to the shores of the Atlantic.