What is a Native Sioux?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2019
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Native Sioux is a term used to describe any ethnic group within the entire Great Sioux Nation. The Sioux are comprised primarily of three bands or divisions based on Sioux dialect. The Santee, Yankton and the Lakota are the three bands that make up the Sioux Nation. One of the best known of the Native Sioux leaders was a chief known as Sitting Bull.

The Santee or Eastern Dakota reside in the extreme east of the Dakotas, Minnesota and northern Iowa. The Yankton or Yanktonai or the Western Dakota reside in the Minnesota River area; these tribes are typically referred to as the Middle Sioux. The Lakota are the western most Sioux and are known for hunting and warrior culture. Today the Native Sioux are comprised of many separate tribal governments scattered across several reservations and reserves in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Minnesota, as well as Montana in the United States. In Canada, Native Sioux reside in Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan.

The native Sioux Indians choose leaders by nobility or right of birth. This means that any son of a previous leader might be chief one day. Traits such as bravery, wisdom and virtue were also used to decide the merits of a leader. Tribal leaders decide on tribal hunts, movement of the various camps and war. Within the tribe, young men join societies to enhance their standing in the tribe.


The earliest European record of the Native Sioux identified them in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Once introduced to the horse in the 18th Century, the Native Sioux were able to spread out. The Sioux dominated expansive tracts of land. The areas of Central Canada to the Platte River and from Minnesota to the Yellowstone River including the Powder River territory were all controlled by the Native Sioux Warriors.

The Sioux Indians were very skilled at hunting and at making war. They subsisted on Buffalo meat and corn and stretched their control all the way to the eastern Rocky Mountains. They were feared by settlers and were often hunted by the United States Calvary. Much of the early U.S. history reflects the conflict of the Sioux.

The Dakota War of 1862 resulted from a failed crop and the late payment by the U.S. government to the Indians. The local white creditors refused to allow any credit to the Indians, who were starving. The Indians revolted in an attempt to feed themselves. As a result of those uprisings, President Abraham Lincoln signed off on the greatest mass execution in U.S. history. In Mankato, Minn., 38 Sioux men were hanged stemming from the rape and murder of whites. No witnesses or lawyers were allowed to speak for the Sioux and most were found guilty in less than five minutes before a judge.


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