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Lakota
Lakota portraits.jpg
Total population
115,000+ enrolled members (2015 census)
Regions with significant populations
United States
(North Dakota and South Dakota)
Languages
English, Lakota
Religion
traditional tribal religion
Related ethnic groups
other Sioux peoples (Santee, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, Yankton, Yanktonai)

The Lakota are a Native American tribe. Also known as the Teton Sioux (from Thítȟuŋwaŋ), they are one of the three prominent subcultures of the Sioux people. Their current lands are in North and South Dakota. They speak Lakȟótiyapi—the Lakota language, the westernmost of three closely related languages that belong to the Siouan language family.

The seven bands or "sub-tribes" of the Lakota are:

  • Sičháŋǧu (Brulé, Burned Thighs)
  • Oglála ("They Scatter Their Own")
  • Itázipčho (Sans Arc, Without Bows)
  • Húŋkpapȟa (Hunkpapa, "End Village", Camps at the End of the Camp Circle)
  • Mnikȟówožu (Miniconjou, "Plant Near Water", Planters by the Water)
  • Sihásapa ("Blackfeet” or “Blackfoot")
  • Oóhenuŋpa (Two Kettles)

Notable Lakota persons include Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake (Sitting Bull) from the Húnkpapȟa band; Touch the Clouds from the Miniconjou band, Heȟáka Sápa (Black Elk) from the Oglála band, Maȟpíya Lúta (Red Cloud), Billy Mills, Tȟašúŋke Witkó (Crazy Horse) from the Oglala and Miniconjou bands, and Siŋté Glešká (Spotted Tail) from the Brulé's.

History

VOALoguetipidetail300
Scenes of battle and horse raiding decorate a muslin Lakota tipi from the late 19th or early 20th century

Siouan language speakers may have originated in the lower Mississippi River region and then migrated to or originated in the Ohio Valley. They were agriculturalists and may have been part of the Mound Builder civilization during the 9th–12th centuries CE. Lakota legend and other sources state they originally lived near the Great Lakes: "The tribes of the Dakota before European contact in the 1600 lived in the region around Lake Superior. In this forest environment, they lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering wild rice. They also grew some corn, but their locale was near the limit of where corn could be grown." This may be conflation with the Algonquian groups typically in that region, though Siouan peoples probably migrated there later. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Dakota-Lakota speakers lived in the upper Mississippi Region in present-day Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas. Conflicts with Anishnaabe and Cree peoples pushed the Lakota west onto the Great Plains in the mid- to late-17th century.

Early Lakota history is recorded in their winter counts (Lakota: waníyetu wówapi), pictorial calendars painted on hides, or later recorded on paper. The Battiste Good winter count records Lakota history back to 900 CE when White Buffalo Calf Woman gave the Lakota people the White Buffalo Calf Pipe.

Around 1730, Cheyenne people introduced the Lakota to horses, called šuŋkawakaŋ ("dog [of] power/mystery/wonder"). After they adopted horse culture, Lakota society centered on the buffalo hunt on horseback. The total population of the Sioux (Lakota, Santee, Yankton, and Yanktonai) was estimated at 28,000 by French explorers in 1660. The Lakota population was first estimated at 8,500 in 1805, growing steadily and reaching 16,110 in 1881. Thus, the Lakota were one of the few Native American tribes to increase in population in the 19th century. The number of Lakota has now expanded to more than 170,000, of whom about 2,000 still speak the Lakota language (Lakȟótiyapi).

After 1720, the Lakota branch of the Seven Council Fires split into two major sects, the Saône, who moved to the Lake Traverse area on the South Dakota–North Dakota–Minnesota border, and the Oglála-Sičháŋǧu who occupied the James River valley. However, by about 1750 the Saône had moved to the east bank of the Missouri River, followed 10 years later by the Oglála and Brulé (Sičháŋǧu).

The large and powerful Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa villages had long prevented the Lakota from crossing Missouri. However, the great smallpox epidemic of 1772–1780 destroyed three-quarters of these tribes. The Lakota crossed the river into the drier, short-grass prairies of the High Plains. These newcomers were the Saône, well-mounted and increasingly confident, who spread out quickly. In 1765, a Saône exploring and raiding party led by Chief Standing Bear discovered the Black Hills (the Paha Sapa), then the territory of the Cheyenne. Ten years later, the Oglála and Brulé also crossed the river. The Cheyenne then moved west to the Powder River country, and the Lakota made the Black Hills their home.

P15390 Peace Negotiations Fort Laramie
Indian peace commissioners in council with the Northern Cheyenne and Northern Arapaho, Fort Laramie, Wyoming

Initial United States contact with the Lakota during the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804–1806 was marked by a standoff. Lakota bands refused to allow the explorers to continue upstream, and the expedition prepared for battle, which never came.

Some bands of Lakotas became the first Indians to help the United States Army in an Indian war west of the Missouri during the Arikara War in 1823.

In 1843, the southern Lakotas attacked Pawnee Chief Blue Coat's village near the Loup in Nebraska, killing many and burning half of the earth lodges. Next time the Lakotas inflicted a blow so severe on the Pawnee would be in 1873, during the Massacre Canyon battle near Republican River.

Lakota 1851 treaty territory. (Area 408, 516, 584, 597, 598 and 632)
Lakota 1851 treaty territory (Area 408, 516, 584, 597, 598 and 632).

Nearly half a century later, after Fort Laramie had been built without permission on Lakota land, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was negotiated to protect travelers on the Oregon Trail. The Cheyenne and Lakota had previously attacked emigrant parties in a competition for resources, and also because some settlers had encroached on their lands. The Fort Laramie Treaty acknowledged Lakota sovereignty over the Great Plains in exchange for free passage on the Oregon Trail for "as long as the river flows and the eagle flies".

The United States government did not enforce the treaty restriction against unauthorized settlement. Lakota and other bands attacked settlers and even emigrant trains, causing public pressure on the U.S. Army to punish the hostiles. On September 3, 1855, 700 soldiers under American General William S. Harney avenged the Grattan Massacre by attacking a Lakota village in Nebraska, killing about 100 men, women, and children. A series of short "wars" followed, and in 1862–1864, as refugees from the "Dakota War of 1862" in Minnesota fled west to their allies in Montana and Dakota Territory. Increasing illegal settlement after the American Civil War caused war once again.

The Black Hills were considered sacred by the Lakota, and they objected to mining. Between 1866 and 1868 the U.S. Army fought the Lakota and their allies along the Bozeman Trail over U.S. Forts built to protect miners traveling along the trail. Oglala Chief Red Cloud led his people to victory in Red Cloud's War. In 1868, the United States signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, exempting the Black Hills from all white settlement forever. Four years later gold was discovered there, and prospectors descended on the area.

The attacks on settlers and miners were met by military force conducted by army commanders such as Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. General Philip Sheridan encouraged his troops to hunt and kill the buffalo as a means of "destroying the Indians' commissary."

The allied Lakota and Arapaho bands and the unified Northern Cheyenne were involved in much of the warfare after 1860. They fought a successful delaying action against General George Crook's army at the Battle of the Rosebud, preventing Crook from locating and attacking their camp, and a week later defeated the U.S. 7th Cavalry in 1876 at the Battle of the Greasy Grass in the Crow Indian Reservation of 1868. Custer attacked a camp of several tribes, much larger than he realized. Their combined forces, led by Chief Crazy Horse killed 258 soldiers, wiping out the entire Custer battalion in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and inflicting more than 50% casualties on the regiment.

Their victory over the U.S. Army would not last, however. The U.S. Congress authorized funds to expand the army by 2,500 men. The reinforced US Army defeated the Lakota bands in a series of battles, finally ending the Great Sioux War in 1877. The Lakota were eventually confined onto reservations, prevented from hunting buffalo and forced to accept government food distribution.

Young-Man-Afraid-of-His-Horses (Tashun-Kakokipa), an Oglala Sioux, standing in front of his lodge, Pine Ridge, South Dak - NARA - 530813
January 17, 1891: Young Man Afraid of His Horses at Camp of Oglala tribe of Lakota at Pine Ridge, South Dakota, 3 weeks after Wounded Knee Massacre, when 150 scattered as 153 Lakota Sioux and 25 U.S. soldiers died.
Pine Ridge Flag
Oglala Sioux tribal flag.

In 1877, some of the Lakota bands signed a treaty that ceded the Black Hills to the United States; however, the nature of this treaty and its passage were controversial. The number of Lakota leaders that actually backed the treaty is highly disputed. Low-intensity conflicts continued in the Black Hills. Fourteen years later, Sitting Bull was killed at Standing Rock reservation on December 15, 1890. The U.S. Army attacked Spotted Elk (aka Bigfoot), Mnicoujou band of Lakota at the Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890, at Pine Ridge.

Today, the Lakota are found mostly in the five reservations of western South Dakota:

Lakota also live on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeastern Montana, the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation of northwestern North Dakota, and several small reserves in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Their ancestors fled to "Grandmother's [i.e. Queen Victoria's] Land" (Canada) during the Minnesota or Black Hills War.

Large numbers of Lakota live in Rapid City and other towns in the Black Hills, and in metro Denver. Lakota elders joined the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) to seek protection and recognition for their cultural and land rights.

Government

United States

Legally and by treaty a semi-autonomous "nation" within the United States, the Lakota Sioux are represented locally by officials elected to councils for the several reservations and communities in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska. They are represented on the state and national level by the elected officials from the political districts of their respective states and Congressional Districts. Band or reservation members living both on and off the individual reservations are eligible to vote in periodic elections for that reservation. Each reservation has a unique local government style and election cycle based on its own constitution or articles of incorporation. Most follow a multi-member tribal council model with a chairman or president elected directly by the voters.

Canada

There are nine bands of Dakota and Lakota in Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan, with a total of 6,000 registered members. They are recognized as First Nations but are not considered "treaty Indians". As First Nations they receive rights and entitlements through the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada department. However, as they are not recognized as treaty Indians, they did not participate in the land settlement and natural resource revenues. The Dakota rejected a $60-million land-rights settlement in 2008.

Reservations

AktaLakotaMuseum
Akta Lakota Museum in Chamberlain, South Dakota.

Today, one half of all enrolled Sioux live off the Reservation.

Lakota reservations recognized by the U.S. government include:

  • Oglala (Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota and Nebraska)
  • Sicangu (Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota)
  • Hunkpapa (Standing Rock Reservation North Dakota and South Dakota)
  • Miniconjou (Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, South Dakota)
  • Itazipco (Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, South Dakota)
  • Siha Sapa (Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, South Dakota)
  • Ooinunpa (Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, South Dakota)

Some Lakota also live on other Sioux reservations in eastern South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska:

  • Santee Indian Reservation, in Nebraska
  • Crow Creek Indian Reservation in Central South Dakota
  • Yankton Indian Reservation in Central South Dakota
  • Flandreau Indian Reservation in Eastern South Dakota
  • Lake Traverse Indian Reservation in Northeastern South Dakota and Southeastern North Dakota
  • Lower Sioux Indian Reservation in Minnesota
  • Upper Sioux Indian Reservation in Minnesota
  • Shakopee-Mdewakanton Indian Reservation in Minnesota
  • Prairie Island Indian Reservation in Minnesota

In addition, several Lakota live on the Wood Mountain First Nation reserve, near Wood Mountain Regional Park in Saskatchewan, Canada.

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