25 Facts: The Sioux

Sioux Maiden

The Sioux

  1. The word Sioux is thought to be an abbreviation of the (possibly French) word Nadouessioux, meaning Little Snakes or Enemies.
  2. They historically call themselves The Seven Council Fires or The Seven Nations.
  3. The Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota Tribes are separated by three main languages.
  4. The Sioux originated from the source of the Mississippi River and then later migrated to the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana, and Western Canada.  Now they are also based in Nebraska.
  5. Dakota Sioux were traditionally woodland people who thrived on fishing, farming, and hunting.
  6. Lakota Sioux were introduced to horses by the Cheyenne and lived a nomadic life on the prairies, surviving on bison and corn.
  7. Nakota Sioux also lived as Plains Indians.
  8. In the late Seventeenth Century the Dakota Sioux entered into an alliance with French fur-traders, competing against the English Hudson Bay Company.
  9. The Treaty of Fort Laramie established the Great Sioux Reservation in 1888.
  10. Sioux warriors often allied with the Cheyenne to fight their traditional enemies – the Pawnee.  Later they also banded together against the United States military.
  11. Leaders are chosen based on their noble birth.  They have to demonstrate bravery, fortitude, generosity, and wisdom.
  12. Warriors have two fraternal society structures – one for young men (like the Kit-Fox, Elk, and Dog Soldiers), and one for the elders.
  13. Family is the center of Sioux life and children are held sacred.
  14. The Sioux are a very spiritual people who worship Wakan Tanka (The Great Mystery).
  15. Mystical visions are accessed through ritual, prayer, music, dance, and self-sacrifice.
  16. Medicine Men are their holy leaders.  The most important religious ceremony is the annual Sun Dance, held at the time of the Summer Solstice when the moon is full.
  17. Symbolism is also important in Sioux culture.  For example, the Medicine Wheel represents the Circle of Life, and unity with the Great Spirit.
  18. The Sioux once practiced The Ghost Dance, based on the promise of a return to the old ways by the Indian prophet Wovoka.
  19. One of their most famous leaders was Chief Red Cloud who fought the US government for control of the Powder River County in Wyoming.
  20. Chief Sitting Bull was another great warrior.  He led the charge at the Battle of the Little Bighorn that helped defeat George Armstrong Custer.
  21. Crazy Horse was one of the most feared Sioux war leaders.
  22. The large number of First Nation people were massacred at Wounded Knee Creek in 1890. This signaled a formal end to the Great Sioux Nation.
  23. Today, the largest Sioux presence lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
  24. Although there is widespread unemployment on the reservation, the Sioux are engaged in farming and ranching, including the raising of bison.  The area held by the Oglala Lakota is said to be the poorest place in the country.
  25. Black Elk recorded the Sioux’s passing in his famous book Black Elk Speaks.

Want to know more?  Watch this wonderful documentary about how the Battle of the Little Bighorn led to The Last of the Sioux:

http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/native-american-cultures/videos/the-last-of-the-sioux

 

Sources:

Curtis, Edwards S. The North American Indian: The Complete Portfolios.  Koln: Taschen, 1997.

Debo, Angie. A History of the Indians of the United States.  London: Folio Society, 2003.

Mooney, James. The Ghost-Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

Neihardt, John G. Black Elk Speaks. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1988.

Wikipedia, “Sioux” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sioux

 

Chief Sitting Bull (c.1831-1890)

Chief Sitting Bull

“The Great Spirit has given our enemies to us.  We are to destroy them.”

sitting-bull

  • Sitting Bull was named Jumping Badger at birth, but was nicknamed Slow because of his thoughtful nature.
  • This warrior was a Hunkpapa Lakota holy man, famous for resisting the U.S. government and its Manifest Destiny expansion.
  • During the Red Cloud war of 1866-1868 he led numerous war parties against the military.  He also made guerrilla attacks on prospectors and settlers encroaching on sacred Sioux lands.
  • This chief did not agree with the Treaty of Fort Laramie and refused to sign.
  • His continued resistance throughout the Great Sioux War (1876) at one point halted construction on the Northern Pacific Railway.
  • In a sun dance ceremony before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull predicted the defeat of the Seventh Cavalry.
  • His leadership inspired this major victory against George Armstrong Custer’s troops.
  • To avoid the inevitable backlash, Sitting Bull fled to Canada, where he claimed political asylum until 1881.
  • This chief became a household name after starring in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.  Here, he befriended Annie Oakley and named her Little Sure Shot.
  • Fearing he would join the dangerous Ghost Dance Movement, Sitting Bull was assassinated by Indian Agency Police in a botched attempt to arrest him.
  • His death was one of the precipitating factors that led to the Wounded Knee Massacre in South Dakota, 1890.  It marked the end of the Great Sioux Nation.

Sources:

History.com, “Ten Things You May Not Know About Sitting Bull” at http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-sitting-bull

Mooney, James, The Ghost-Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

Wikipedia, “Sitting Bull” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sitting_Bull