Dakota Tribe

Dakota Indians (‘allies’). The largest division of the Siouan family, known commonly as Sioux, according to Hewitt a French Canadian abbreviation of the Chippewa Nadowe-is-iw, a diminutive of nadowe, ‘an adder,’ hence ‘an enemy.’ Nadoweisiw-eg is the diminutive plural. The diminutive singular and plural were applied by the Chippewa to the Dakota, and to the Huron to distinguish them from the Iroquois proper, the true ‘adders’ or ‘enemies.’ According to Chippewa tradition the name was first applied to a body of Indians living on an island somewhere east of Detroit.

Dakota, Nakota, Lakota are the names used by themselves, in the Santee, Yankton, and Teton dialects respectively. J. O. Dorsey, in his classification of the Siouan languages, divides the Dakota group into 4 dialects: Santee, Yankton, Assiniboin, and Teton. The Assiniboin, however, constitute a separate tribe. The close linguistic relation of the divisions the differences being largely dialectic indicates that they are branches of an original group, the development probably being augmented by incorporations. At the time of Long’s expedition (1825), when the bands were still near their respective localities, the country inhabited by the group was, according to him, bounded by a curved line extending east of north from Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi, so as to include all the east tributaries of the Mississippi, to the first branch of Chippewa river; thence by a line running west of north to Spirit lake; thence west wardly to Crow Wing river, Minn., and up that stream to its head; thence west wardly to Red river, and down that stream to Pembina; thence south west wardly to the east bank of the Missouri near the Mandan villages; thence down the Missouri to a point probably not far from Soldiers river; thence east of north to Prairie du Chien, Wis. This tract includes the territory between lat. 42° to 49°, and long. 90° 30′ to 99° 30′, but omits entirely the vast region occupied by the various bands of the Teton Sioux west of the Missouri from the Yellowstone southward to the Platte.

The first positive historical mention of this people is found in the Jesuit Relation for 1640, where it is said that in the vicinity of the “Nation des Puans” (Winnebago) are the “Nadvesiv” (Nadowes Sioux), “Assinipour” (Assiniboin), etc. In the Jesuit Relation for 1642 it is stated that the Nadouessis are situated some 18 days’ journey northwest or west of Sault Ste Marie, “18 days farther away.” According to their tradition, the Chippewa first encountered the Dakota at Sault Ste Marie. Dr Thomas S. Williamson, who spent several years among the Dakota of the Mississippi, says 1 that they claimed to have resided near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. for several generations; that before they came to the Mississippi they lived at Mille lac, which they call Isantamde, ‘knife lake,’ from which is probably derived the name Isanyati, ‘dwelling at the knife, by which the Dakota of the Missouri call those who lived on Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Rev. A. L. Riggs asserts that Isanyati, from which Santee is derived, was properly applied only to the Mdewakanton, which would seem to identify this tribe with Hennepin’s Issati. He also remarks that most of these Indians with whom he conversed could trace their history no further back than to Mille lac, but that some could tell of wars they had with the Chippewa before they went thither and trace their history back to Lake of the Woods. He adds that all their traditions show that they came from the northeast and have been moving toward the southwest, which would imply that they came from some point north of the lakes. DuLuth (1678) and Hennepin (1680) found some of the Dakota at and in the region of Mille lac, named by the latter in his text Lake Issati, and in his autograph map Lake Buade.

These included the Mdewakanton, part of the Sisseton, part if not all of the Wahpeton, and probably the Wahpekute. Hennepin’s map places the Issati (Mdewakanton) close to Lake Buade, the Ofia de Battons (Wahpeton) a little to the northeast of the lake, the Hanctons (Yankton or Yanktonai) some distance to the north, and the Tinthonha or Gens des Prairies (Teton) to the west, on the upper Mississippi. If this may be considered even approximately correct, it indicates that parts at least of some of the western tribes still lingered in the region of the upper Mississippi, and indeed it is well known that very few of the Sioux crossed the Missouri before 1750. Mallery’s winter count 2 places their entrance into the Black Hills, from which they dispossessed the Cheyenne and the Kiowa, at about 1765. Referring to their location in the latter part of the 17th century, Hennepin 3 says: ” Eight leagues above St. Anthony of Padua’s falls on the right, you find the river of the Issati or Nadoussion [Rum river], with a very narrow mouth, which you can ascend to the north for about 70 leagues to Lake Buade [Mille lac] or of the Issati where it rises. In the neighborhood of Lake Buade are many other lakes, whence issue several rivers, on the banks of which live the Issati, Nadouessans, Tinthonha (which means ‘prairiemen’), Ouadebathon River People, Chongaskethon Dog, or Wolf tribe (for chonga among these nations means dog or wolf), and other tribes, all which we comprise under the name Nadonessiou.” Here the Issati are distinguished from the Tinthonha (Teton), Ouadebathon (Wahpeton), Chongaskethon (Sisseton), and Nadouessans (perhaps the Wahpekute). From the time of Le Sueur’s visit (1700) the Dakota became an important factor in the history of the northwest. Their gradual movement westward was due chiefly to tile persistent attacks of the Chippewa, who received firearms from the French, while they themselves were forced to rely almost wholly on bows and arrows.

Lieut. Gorrell, an English officer, mentions their condition in this respect as late as 1763 4: “This day, 12 warriors of the Sous came here [Green Bay, Wis.]. It is certainly the greatest nation of Indians ever yet found. Not above 2,000 of them were ever armed with fire-arms, the rest depending entirely on bows and arrows and darts, which they use with more skill than any other Indian nation in North America. They can shoot the wildest and largest beasts in the woods at 70 or 100 yards distance. They are remarkable for their dancing; the other nations take the fashion from them.” He mentions that they were always at war with the Chippewa. On the fall of the French dominion the Dakota at once entered into friendly relations with the English. It is probable that the erection of trading posts on Lake Pepin enticed them from their old residence on Rum river and Mille lac, for it was in this section that Carver (1766) found those of the eastern group. He says 5 : “Near the river St. Croix reside three bands of the Naudowessie Indians, called the River bands. This nation is composed, at present, of 11 bands. They were originally 12, but the Assinipoils [Assiniboin] some years ago, revolting, and separating themselves from the others, there remain only at this, time 11. Those I met here are termed the River bands, because they chiefly dwell near the banks of this river: the other 8 are generally distinguished by the title, Naudowessies of the Plains, and inhabit a country that lies more to the westward. The names of the former are Nehogatawonahs, the Mawtawbauntowahs, and Shahsweentowahs.” During an investigation by Congress in 1824 of the claim by Carver’s heirs to a supposed grant of land, including the site of St Paul, made to Carver by the Sioux, Gen. Leavenworth stated that the Dakota informed him that the Sioux of the Plains never owned any land east of the Mississippi.

During the Revolution and the War of 1812 the Dakota adhered to the English. There was, however, one chief who sided with the United States in 1812; this was Tohami, known to the English as Rising Moose, a chief of the Mdewakanton who joined the Americans at St Louis, where he was commissioned by Gen. Clark. By the treaty of July, 1815, peace between the Dakota and the United States was established, and by that of Aug., 1825, the boundary lines between them and the United States and between them and the various tribes in the northwest were defined. The boundaries of the Sioux and other northwestern tribes were again defined by the treaty of Sept. 17, 1851. Their most serious outbreak against the whites occurred in Minnesota under Little Crow in 1862, when about 700 white settlers and 100 soldiers lost their lives and some of the most horrible cruelties known to history were committed by the Indiana; but the entire Dakota group never participated unitedly in any of the modern wars or outbreaks. The hands engaged in the uprising mentioned were the Mdewakanton, Wahpekute, Wahpeton, and Sisseton. Although this revolt was quelled and the Sioux were compelled for a time to submit tot he terms offered them, a spirit of unrest continued to prevail. By the treaty of 1867 they agreed to relinquish to the United States all their territory south of Niobrara river, west of long. 104°, and north of lat. 46°, and promised to retire to a large reservation in southwest Dakota before Jan. 1, 1876. On the discovery of gold in the Black Hills the rush of miners thither became the occasion of another outbreak. This war was participated in by such well known chiefs as Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Spotted Tail, Rain-in-the-face, Red Cloud, American Horse, Gall, and Crow King, and was rendered famous by the cutting off of Maj. Gen. George A. Custer and five companies of cavalry on the Little Bighorn, June 25, 1876. A final rising during the Ghost dance excitement of 1890-91 was subdued by Gen N. A. Miles.

The Dakota are universally conceded to be of the highest type, physically, mentally, and probably morally, of any of the western tribes. Their bravery has never been questioned by white or Indian, and they conquered or drove out every rival except the Chippewa. They are educated in their own language, and through the agency of missionaries of the type of Riggs, Williamson, Cleveland, and Cook, many books in the Dakota language have been printed, and papers in Dakota are issued regularly. 6

Socially, the Dakota originally consisted of a large number of local groups or bands, and, although there was a certain tendency to encourage marriage outside the band, these divisions were not true gentes, remembered blood relationship, according to Clark, being the only bar to marriage. Personal fitness and popularity determined cieftainship more than heredity, but were decent played any part it was usually from father to son. The tipi might belong to either parent and was obtained by that parent through some ancestor who had had its character revealed in a dream or who had captured it in war. The authority of the chief was limited by the band council, without whose approbation little or nothing could be accomplished. War parties were recruited by individuals who had acquired reputation as successful leaders, while the shamans formulated ceremonial dances and farewells for them. Polygamy Was common, the wives occupying different sides of the tipi. Remains of the dead were usually, though not invariably, placed on scaffolds.

In 1904 the Dakota were distributed among the following agencies and school superintendencies:

  • Cheyenne River (Miniconjou, Sans Arcs, and Two Kettle), 2,477;
  • Crow Creek (Lower Yanktonai), 1,025;
  • Ft Totten school (Sisseton, Wahpeton, and Pabaksa), 1,013;
  • Riggs Institute (Santee), 279; Ft Peck (Yankton), 1,116;
  • Lower Brutes (Lower Brgle), 470;
  • Pine Ridge (Oglala), 6,690;
  • Rosebud (Brulé, Waglukhe, Lower Brulé, Northern, Two Kettle, and Wazhazha), 4,977;
  • Santee (Santee), 1,075;
  • Sisseton (Sisseton and Wahpeton), 1,908;
  • Standing Rock (Sihasapa, Hunkpapa, and Yanktonai), 3,514;
  • Yankton (Yankton), 1,702;

under no agency

  • (Mdewakanton in Minnesota), 929;

total, 26,175.

Including the Assiniboin the total for those speaking the Dakota languages 28,780. A comparison of these figures with those taken in previous years indicates a gradual decline in numbers, but not so rapid a decrease as among most North American tribes.Citations:

  1. Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, 1, 247, 1851[]
  2. Mallery, 10th Rep. B. A. E., 266, 1894[]
  3. Hennepin, Descr. La., Shea trans., 201, 1880[]
  4. Gorrell, Wis. Hist. Soc. Coll., 1, 36,1855[]
  5. Carver, Travels, 37, 1796[]
  6. See Pilling, Bibliog. Siouan Lang., Bull. B. A. E., 1887.[]

Dakota, Siouan,

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

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