Published on March 10, 2014 by Amy
The lifestyle, traditions, wins and losses of the Sioux Indians were pivotal to U.S. history. Loss of land and numbers is always a tragedy but their story of survival as a tribe speaks to the perseverance and strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Important facts about the Sioux link the tribe to their place in society.
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The Nadowessioux or Sioux received their name around 1640 from another tribe along the Mississippi River known as the Algonquians. The Sioux of the southern U.S. are composed of the Winnebago, the Assiniboines, the Minnetaree and the southern Sioux. The Winnebago lived among the Algonquians between the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan. The Minnetaree were localized to Minnesota. Sioux Assiniboines lived north of the Arkansas River near Lake Winnipeg. Southern Sioux inhabited areas between the Platte and Arkansas Rivers. They also hunted in the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
After the War of 1812, the Sioux ceded all of their land east of the Mississippi River and 35,000 acres west of it. Surviving Sioux fled into Dakota territory, which comprises North and South Dakota, With the migration, their names changed. Sioux who escaped into the prairie became known as Lakota or Teton. Members of the Lakota include Sihasapa, Oglala, Miniconjous, Itazipacola, Hunkpapa and Sicangu. The Nakota Sioux settled in what is now South Dakota. The Dakota group is made up of the Sisseton, Mdeakantonwon, Wahpekute and Wahpeton.
The Sioux used dance and music to communicate directly with the spirit world from which they believed wisdom and strength were procured. Annual 12-day summer dancing rituals were held to communicate with the dead and empower warriors with resistance to fear and physical pain. Tribal chiefs excelled in war and were considered great healers as well. Medicine man Black Elk credited his curing ability to supernatural powers. Chief and medicine man Sitting Bull supported a five-day “Ghost Dance,” and his warriors subsequently burned and pillaged areas surrounding Wounded Knee Creek.
According to Sioux tribe member and historian Snow Owl, before being forced onto reservations the Sioux consisted of approximately 20,000 nomads who traveled freely across the Great Plains. They used horses to move their tepees or portable homes and to hunt buffalo, deer and elk. Animal hides were used to construct tepees and provide dresses, shirts and heavy robes for cold weather. Hunted flesh was a principal food source but meals were accompanied with corn, fruit, potatoes and chokeberries. Men engaged in war while women held roles as household and family matriarchs.