Sisseton Sioux Tribe

Sisseton Sioux Indians, Sisseton Indians, Sisseton Tribe (‘lake village’). One of the seven original tribes of the Dakota. They appear to have formed a link between the eastern and western tribes, though generally included in the eastern division, with which they seem to have the closest affinity. Riggs says that the intercourse between the Mdewakanton on the Mississippi and lower Minnesota rivers. and the Wahpeton, Wahpekute, and a part of the Sisseton has been so constant that but slight differences are discoverable in their manner of speaking, though the western Sisseton show greater difference in their speech. This tribe was in existence at the coming of the whites. Rev. T. S. Williamson, who was well acquainted with the history, traditions, languages, and customs of the eastern Dakota, says: “From what was written on this subject by Hennepin, La Hontan, Le Sueur, and Charlevoix, and from the maps published under the superintendence of these authors, it is sufficiently clear that in the latter part of the 17th century the principal residence of the Isanyati Sioux [Mdewakanton, Wahpeton, Wahpekute, and Sisseton] was about the headwaters of Rum river, whence they extended their hunts to St Croix and Mississippi rivers, and down the latter nearly or quite as far as the mouth of the Wisconsin.” 1 .

The first recorded mention of the tribe is probably that of Hennepin 2 , who said that in the neighborhood of Mille Lacs were many other lakes, whence issue several rivers, on the banks of which live the Issati, Nadouessans Tinthonha (Teton), Oudebathon (Wahpeton) River people, Chongaskethon (Sisseton), and other tribes, all comprised under the name Nadouessiou. This locates the tribe in 1680 in the vicinity of Mille Lacs, not in the region of Rainy lake, as Hennepin’s map appears to place them. In the Prise de Possession of May 1689, they are mentioned as living, the greater part of them, in the neighborhood of the Mdewakanton, in the interior northeast of the Mississippi. Du Luth, who was in that region as early as July 1679, found them in the vicinity of the Wahpeton. The statement that apart of the tribe was in the vicinity of Mille Lacs at the time of Hennepin’s visit (1680) indicates that the division into the two bands had already taken place. Pike states that the two divisions, the Kahra and the Sisseton proper, hunted eastward to the Mississippi and up that river as far as Crow Wing river. Long 3 names the divisions the Miakechakesa and Kahra, giving as the number of the latter 1,500, and that of the former 1,000. Lewis and Clark (1804) located them on the headwaters of Minnesota river. Schermerhorn, following Pike, said they were on the upper parts of Red river of Lake Winnipeg, and that they roved on the Mississippi and also on Crow Wing river, which was the boundary between them and the Chippewa. Brown (1817) gave their habitat as on Minnesota river up to Big Stone lake. According to Ramsey (1849) they then claimed all the lands west of Blue Earth river to James river, South Dakota.

Their principal village was located near Lake Traverse. In 1854 the distributing point of annuities for the Sisseton and Wahpeton was then at Yellow Medicine river. Subsequently they were gathered on a reservation.

Lewis and Clark estimated the number of warriors in 1804 at 200, and a total population of about 800. According to Neill they numbered 2,500 in 1853. The combined population of the Sisseton and Wahpeton at Lake Traverse Reservation in 1886 was 1,496. In 1909 there were 1,936 of both tribes at the Sisseton agency, South Dakota, and in North Dakota 980 Sisseton, Wahpeton, and Pabaksa, representing bands that fled thither after the Minnesota massacre of 1862.

Two subdivisions were mentioned by Pike (1811) and Long (1824), the Miakechakesa, or Sisseton proper, and the Kahra. Rev. S. R. Riggs, in a letter to Dorsey (1882), gives the following bands:

  • Chanshdachikana
  • Tizaptan
  • Okopeya
  • Amdowapuskiyapi
  • Basdecheslini
  • Kapozha
  • Ohdihe

Rev. E. Ashley, in a letter to Dorsey (1884), gives these, with the exception of the first, name from chief Sleepyeye, and adds the following:

  • Witawaziyataotina
  • Itokakhtina
  • Kakhmiatonwan
  • Maniti
  • Keze
  • Chankute

Bands that can not be identified with any of these are the Grail and Little Rock bands, Mechemeton, Red Iron band, and the Traverse des Sioux and Wabey bands.

The Sisseton made or joined in the following treaties with the United States:

  • Prairie du Chien, Michigan Territory, July 15, 1830;
  • St Peters, Minnesota, Nov. 30, 1836;
  • Traverse des Sioux, Minn. Territory, July 23, 1851;
  • Washington, D. C., June 19, 1858; Feb. 19, 1867;
  • Lake Traverse res., Dakota Territory, Sept. 20, 1872 (unratified);
  • agreement at Lac Traverse agency, Dakota Territory, May 2, 1873.

By resolution of the Senate, June 27, 1860, the right and title of certain bands of Sioux, including the Sisseton, to lands embraced in the reservation on Minnesota river, were confirmed.


  1. Minn. Hist. Soc. Coll, I, 295, 1872[]
  2. Descr. La., 1683[]
  3. Exped. St Peters River, 1824[]

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

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