Dakota people

Last updated
Charles eastman smithsonian gn 03462a.jpg
Charles Alex Eastman (1858–1939), physician, author, and co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America
Total population
20,460 (2010) [1]
Regions with significant populations
Flag of the United States.svg  United States (South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Montana, North Dakota),
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada (Manitoba, Saskatchewan)
Dakota, [1] English
Christianity (incl. syncretistic forms), traditional tribal religion, Native American Church, Wocekiye
Related ethnic groups
Lakota, Assiniboine, Stoney (Nakota), and other Sioux

The Dakota (pronounced [daˈkˣota] , Dakota language: Dakȟóta/Dakhóta) are a Native American tribe and First Nations band government in North America. They compose two of the three main subcultures of the Sioux people, and are typically divided into the Eastern Dakota and the Western Dakota.


The four bands of Eastern Dakota are the Bdewákaŋthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpékhute, and Sisíthuŋwaŋ and are sometimes referred to as the Santee (Isáŋyathi or Isáŋ-athi; "knife" + "encampment", "dwells at the place of knife flint"), who reside in the eastern Dakotas, central Minnesota and northern Iowa. They have federally recognized tribes established in several places.

The Western Dakota are the Yankton, and the Yanktonai (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋ and Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna; "Village-at-the-end" and "Little village-at-the-end"), who reside in the Upper Missouri River area. The Yankton-Yanktonai are collectively also referred to by the endonym Wičhíyena ("Those Who Speak Like Men"). They also have distinct federally recognized tribes. In the past the Western Dakota have been erroneously classified as Nakota, a branch of the Sioux who moved further west. The latter are now located in Montana and across the border in Canada, where they are known as Stoney. [2]


The word Dakota means "ally" in the Dakota language, and their autonyms include Ikčé Wičhášta ("Indian people") and Dakhóta Oyáte ("Dakota people"). [3]

Ethnic groups

Zitkala-Sa (1876-1938), Yankton author, photographed by Joseph Keiley Joseph T. Keiley Zitkala-Sa.jpg
Zitkala-Sa (1876–1938), Yankton author, photographed by Joseph Keiley

The Eastern and Western Dakota are two of the three groupings belonging to the Sioux nation (also called Dakota in a broad sense), the third being the Lakota (Thítȟuŋwaŋ or Teton). The three groupings speak dialects that are still relatively mutually intelligible. This is referred to as a common language, Dakota-Lakota, or Sioux. [4]

The Dakota include the following bands:


The Dakota language is a Mississippi Valley Siouan language, belonging to the greater Siouan-Catawban language family. It is closely related to and mutually intelligible with the Lakota language, and both are also more distantly related to the Stoney and Assiniboine languages. Dakota is written in the Latin script and has a dictionary and grammar. [1]

  1. Eastern Dakota (also known as Santee-Sisseton or Dakhóta)
    • Santee (Isáŋyáthi: Bdewákhathuŋwaŋ, Waȟpékhute)
    • Sisseton (Sisíthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ)
  2. Western Dakota (or Yankton-Yanktonai or Dakȟóta)
    • Yankton (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋ)
    • Yanktonai (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna)
      • Upper Yanktonai (Wičhíyena)


Before the 17th century, the Santee Dakota (Isáŋyathi; "Knife" also known as the Eastern Dakota) lived around Lake Superior with territories in present-day northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. They gathered wild rice, hunted woodland animals and used canoes to fish. Wars with the Ojibwe throughout the 1700s pushed the Dakota into southern Minnesota, where the Western Dakota (Yankton, Yanktonai) and Teton (Lakota) were residing. In the 1800s, the Dakota signed treaties with the United States, ceding much of their land in Minnesota. Failure of the United States to make treaty payments on time, as well as low food supplies, led to the Dakota War of 1862, which resulted in the Dakota being exiled from Minnesota to numerous reservations in Nebraska, North and South Dakota and Canada. After 1870, the Dakota people began to return to Minnesota, creating the present-day reservations in the state.

The Yankton and Yanktonai Dakota (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋ and Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna; "Village-at-the-end" and "Little village-at-the-end"), collectively also referred to by the endonym Wičhíyena, resided in the Minnesota River area before ceding their land and moving to South Dakota in 1858. Despite ceding their lands, their treaty with the U.S. government allowed them to maintain their traditional role in the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ as the caretakers of the Pipestone Quarry, which is the cultural center of the Sioux people. They are considered to be the Western Dakota (also called middle Sioux), and have in the past been erroneously classified as Nakota. [6] The actual Nakota are the Assiniboine and Stoney of Western Canada and Montana.

Santee (Isáŋyathi or Eastern Dakota)

Migrations of Ojibwe people from the east in the 17th and 18th centuries, who were armed with muskets supplied by the French and British, pushed the Dakota further into Minnesota and west and southward. The US gave the name "Dakota Territory" to the northern expanse west of the Mississippi River and up to its headwaters. [7]

After the Dakota War of 1862, the federal government expelled the Santee (who included the Mdewakanton) from Minnesota. Many were sent to Crow Creek Indian Reservation east of the Missouri River in what is now South Dakota. In 1864 some from the Crow Creek Reservation were sent to St. Louis and then traveled by boat up the Missouri River, ultimately to the Santee Sioux Reservation.

In the 21st century, the majority of the Santee live on reservations and reserves, and many in small and larger cities in Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Canada. They went to cities for more work opportunities and improved living conditions.

Iháŋkthuŋwaŋ-Iháŋkthuŋwaŋna (Yankton-Yanktonai or Western Dakota)

The Iháŋkthuŋwaŋ-Iháŋkthuŋwaŋna, also known by the anglicized spelling Yankton (Iháŋkthuŋwaŋ: "End village") and Yanktonai (Iháŋkthuŋwaŋna: "Little end village") divisions consist of two bands or two of the seven council fires. According to Nasunatanka and Matononpa in 1880, the Yanktonai are divided into two sub-groups known as the Upper Yanktonai and the Lower Yanktonai (Húŋkpathina). [7]

They were involved in quarrying pipestone. The Yankton-Yanktonai moved into northern Minnesota. In the 18th century, they were recorded as living in the Mankato (Maka To – Earth Blue/Blue Earth) region of southwestern Minnesota along the Blue Earth River. [8]

Most of the Yankton live on the Yankton Indian Reservation in southeastern South Dakota. Some Yankton live on the Lower Brule Indian Reservation and Crow Creek Reservation, which is also occupied by the Lower Yanktonai. The Upper Yanktonai live in the northern part of Standing Rock Reservation, and on the Spirit Lake Reservation, in areas within central North Dakota. Others live in the eastern half of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeastern Montana. In addition, they reside at several Canadian reserves, including Birdtail, Oak Lake, and Whitecap (formerly Moose Woods).

Modern geographic divisions

The Dakota maintain many separate tribal governments scattered across several reservations and communities in North America: in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Montana in the United States; and in Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan in Canada.

The earliest known European record of the Dakota identified them in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. After the introduction of the horse in the early 18th century, the Sioux dominated larger areas of land—from present day Central Canada to the Platte River, from Minnesota to the Yellowstone River, including the Powder River country. [9]

Modern reservations, reserves, and communities of the Sioux

Reserve/Reservation [10] CommunityBands residingLocation
Fort Peck Indian Reservation Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes Hunkpapa, Upper Yanktonai (Pabaksa), Sisseton, Wahpeton, and the Hudesabina (Red Bottom), Wadopabina (Canoe Paddler), Wadopahnatonwan (Canoe Paddlerrs Who Live on the Prairie), Sahiyaiyeskabi (Plains Cree-Speakers), Inyantonwanbina (Stone People) and Fat Horse Band of the Assiniboine Montana, United States
Spirit Lake Reservation

(Formerly Devil's Lake Reservation)

Spirit Lake Tribe

(Mni Wakan Oyate)

Wahpeton, Sisseton, Upper Yanktonai North Dakota, USA
Standing Rock Indian Reservation Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Lower Yanktonai, Sihasapa, Upper Yanktonai, HunkpapaNorth Dakota, South Dakota, USA
Lake Traverse Indian Reservation Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Sisseton, WahpetonSouth Dakota, USA
Flandreau Indian Reservation Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe Mdewakanton, Wahpekute, WahpetonSouth Dakota, USA
Crow Creek Indian Reservation Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Lower Yanktonai, MdewakantonSouth Dakota, USA
Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation Yankton Sioux Tribe YanktonSouth Dakota, USA
Upper Sioux Indian Reservation Upper Sioux Community

(Pejuhutazizi Oyate)

Mdewakanton, Sisseton, Wahpeton Minnesota, USA
Lower Sioux Indian Reservation Lower Sioux Indian Community Mdewakanton, WahpekuteMinnesota, USA
Shakopee-Mdewakanton Indian Reservation

(Formerly Prior Lake Indian Reservation)

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Mdewakanton, WahpekuteMinnesota, USA
Prairie Island Indian Community Prairie Island Indian Community Mdewakanton, WahpekuteMinnesota, USA
Santee Indian Reservation Santee Sioux Nation Mdewakanton, Wahpekute Nebraska, USA
Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Reserve, Fishing Station 62A Reserve* Sioux Valley First Nation Sisseton, Mdewakanton, Wahpeton, Wahpekute Manitoba, Canada
Dakota Plains Indian Reserve 6A Dakota Plains Wahpeton First Nation Wahpeton, SissetonManitoba, Canada
Dakota Tipi 1 Reserve Dakota Tipi First Nation WahpetonManitoba, Canada
Birdtail Creek 57 Reserve, Birdtail Hay Lands 57A Reserve, Fishing Station 62A Reserve* Birdtail Sioux First Nation Mdewakanton, Wahpekute, YanktonaiManitoba, Canada
Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation, Oak Lake 59A Reserve, Fishing Station 62A Reserve* Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation Wahpekute, Wahpeton, YanktonaiManitoba, Canada
Standing Buffalo 78 Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation Sisseton, Wahpeton Saskatchewan, Canada
Whitecap 94 Reserve Whitecap Dakota First Nation Wahpeton, SissetonSaskatchewan, Canada
Wahpaton 94A, Wahpaton 94B Wahpeton Dakota Nation WahpetonSaskatchewan, Canada
Wood Mountain 160 Reserve, Treaty Four Reserve Grounds Indian Reserve No. 77* Wood Mountain HunkpapaSaskatchewan, Canada

(* Reserves shared with other First Nations)

Notable Dakota people



Contemporary Sioux people are also listed under the tribes to which they belong:

By individual tribe

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Dakota." Ethnologue. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  2. For a report on the long-established blunder of misnaming the Yankton and the Yanktonai as "Nakota", see the article Nakota
  3. 1 2 3 4 Barry M. Pritzker, A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000; pg. 316
  4. Parks, Douglas R.; & Rankin, Robert L., "The Siouan languages"; in DeMallie, R.J. (ed) (2001). Handbook of North American Indians: Plains (Vol. 13, Part 1, pp. 94–114) [W. C. Sturtevant (Gen. Ed.)]. Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution: pp. 97 ff; ISBN   0-16-050400-7.
  5. not to be confused with the Oglala thiyóšpaye bearing the same name, "Húŋkpathila"
  6. for a report on the long-established blunder of misnaming as "Nakota", the Yankton and the Yanktonai, see the article Nakota
  7. 1 2 Riggs, Stephen R. (1893). Dakota Grammar, Texts, and Ethnography. Washington Government Printing Office, Ross & Haines, Inc. ISBN   0-87018-052-5.
  8. OneRoad, Amos E.; Skinner, Alanson (2003). Being Dakota: Tales and Traditions of the Sisseton and Wahpeton. Minnesota Historical Society. ISBN   0-87351-453-X.
  9. Mails, Thomas E. (1973). Dog Soldiers, Bear Men, and Buffalo Women: A Study of the Societies and Cults of the Plains Indians. Prentice-Hall, Inc. ISBN   0-13-217216-X.
  10. Johnson, Michael (2000). The Tribes of the Sioux Nation. Osprey Publishing Oxford. ISBN   1-85532-878-X.

Further reading

Related Research Articles

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