Yanktonai Tribe

Yanktonai Indians (ihanke ‘end,’ tonwan ‘village,’ na diminutive: ‘little-end village.’Riggs). One of the 7 primary divisions or subtribes of the Dakota, speaking the same dialect as the Yankton and believed to be the elder tribe. Long evidently obtained tradition from the Indians to this effect. He first apparent reference to one of the tribes in which the other is not included is that to the Yankton by La Sueur in 1700. It is not until noticed by Lewis and Clark in 1804 that they reappear. These explorers state that they roved on the headwaters of the Sioux, James, and Red rivers. The migration from their eastern home, north of Mille Lac, Minnesota, probably took place at the beginning of the 18th century. It is likely that they followed or accompanied the Teton, while the Yankton turned more and more toward the southwest. Long (1823) speaks of them as one of the most important of the Dakota tribes, their hunting grounds extending from Red river to the Missouri. Warren (1855) gives as their habitat the country between the James river and the Missouri, extending as far north as Devils lake, and states that they fought against the United States in the War of 1812, and that their chief at that time went to England. It does not appear that this tribe took any part in the Minnesota massacre of 1862.

In 1865 separate treaties of peace were made with the United States by the Upper and Lower Yanktonai, binding them to use their influence and power to prevent hostilities not only against citizens, but also between the Indian tribes in the region occupied or frequented by them. Subsequently they were gathered on reservations, the Upper Yanktonai mostly at Standing Rock, partly also at Devils Lake, North Dakota; the Lower Yanktonai (Hunkpatina) chiefly on Crow Creek Reservation, South Dakota, but part at Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota, and some at Fort Peck Reservation, Montana.

Their customs and characteristics are those common to the Dakota. Long (1823) states that they had no fixed residence, but dwelt in fine lodges of well dressed and decorated skins, and frequented, for the purpose of trade, Lake Traverse, Big Stone Lake, and Cheyenne River. Their chief, Wanotan, wore a splendid cloak of buffalo skins, dressed so as to be a fine white color, which was decorated with tufts of owl feathers and others of various hues. His necklace was formed of about 60 claws of the grizzly bear, and his leggings, jacket, and moccasins were of white skins profusely decorated with human hair, the moccasins being variegated with plumage from several birds. In his hair, secured by a strip of red cloth, he wore 9 sticks, neatly cut and smoothed and painted with vermilion, which designated the number of gunshot wounds he had received. His hair was plaited in two tresses, which hung forward; his face was painted with vermilion, and in his hand he carried a large fan of turkey feathers.

The primary divisions of the tribe are Upper Yanktonai and Hunkpatina. These are really subtribes, each having its organization. The first notice of subdivisions is that by Lewis and Clark, who mention the Kiyuksa, Wazikute, Hunkpatina, and the unidentified Hahatonwanna, Honetaparteenwaz, and Zaartar. Hayden (1862) mentions the Hunkpatina, Pabaksa, and Wazikute, and speaks of two other bands, one called the Santee, and probably not Yanktonai. J. O. Dorsey gives as subdivisions, which he calls gentes, of the Upper Yanktonai: Wazikute, Takini, Shikshichena, Bakihon, Kiyuksa, Pabaksa, and another whose name was not ascertained. His subdivisions of the Hunkpatina are Putetemini, Shungikcheka, Takhuhayuta, Sanona, Ihasha, Iteghu, and Pteyuteshni. English translations of names of hands of Yanktonai of which little else is known are `The band that wishes the life’ and The few that lived.’

The population as given at different dates varies widely. Lewis and Clark (1806) estimate the men at 500, equal to a total of about 1,750; Long (1823), 5,200; Rep. Ind. Aff. for 1842, 6,000; Warren in 1856, 6,400; in 1867, 4,500; Ind. Aff. Rep. for 1874,2,266; in 1885 returns from the agencies gave 6,618, while in 1886 the reported number was only 5,109. The Lower Yanktonai, or Hunkpatina, are chiefly under the Crow Creek school, South Dakota, where, together with some Lower Brules, Miniconjou, and Two Kettles, they numbered 1,019 in 1909. There are others under the Standing Rock agency, North Dakota, but their number is not separately enumerated. The Upper Yanktonai are chiefly under the Standing Rock agency, and while their number is not separately reported, there are probably about 3,500 at this place. The Pabaksa branch of the Upper Yanktonai are under the Ft Totten school, North Dakota, but their number is not known. The so-called “Yankton Sioux” under the Ft Peck agency, Mont., are in reality chiefly Yanktonai.. These, with several other Sioux tribes, numbered 1,082 in 1909.

Siouan, Yanktonai,

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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