What is the Lakota Nation?

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  • Written By: Amanda Piontek
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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The Lakota Nation is a tribe of Native American people and one of three groups that make up the Great Sioux Nation. The Sioux Nation of American Indians stretches across a large area of the western and midwestern United States, and includes portions of South and North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and Kansas. Linguistic and geographic differences separate the three tribes that make up the Sioux Nation: the Lakota, the Nakota, and the Dakota. The Lakota Nation is further divided into seven subgroups, including Sicangu, Oglala, Hunkpapa, and more.

Treaties between the United States government and the Lakota Nation acknowledge their legal standing as a semi-autonomous group of people. They have their own government and constitution, and most subgroups and reservations follow a similar tribal council structure. In most cases, the president or chairman of the reservation is elected by voters and works in conjunction with other elected officials of the council. Assistance with government and community is also available to the Lakota Nation through the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The treaties that Native American tribes hold with the United States government often exempt the reservation from the obligation of state and local laws. This provides them with the freedom to handle their own affairs as well as the ability to run facilities that host Indian gaming. Many of the Lakota subgroups, including the Hunkpapa and the Oglala, own and operate casinos on their reservations.


Life on the reservation of the Lakota Nation can be a struggle. The Lakota, as well as other Sioux tribes, suffer from extreme poverty and extraordinarily high unemployment rates. Living conditions on the reservation are reported to be substandard and possibly hazardous. Life expectancy on the reservation is much lower than the surrounding United States, and tragic circumstances like infant mortality and teen suicide occur at a higher rate. Diseases like alcoholism, heart disease, and diabetes affect many Lakota families.

Many Native American groups are dissatisfied with the relationship that has existed between the tribe and the United States government, and the Sioux are no exception. The Lakota Freedom Delegation has worked for years to restore the independence of their tribe. This group of activists forged ahead without the support of elected tribal officials in 2007, when they met in Washington D.C. and declared the Lakota's intention to officially renounce all treaties between the Lakota and the United States of America.


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