The Sioux People or the Sioux Nation includes several related Native American tribes that speak languages that are part of the Siouan linguistic family. The Sioux People are typically subdivided into three tribes that include several smaller bands each. The trio of principal Sioux tribes consists of the Lakota or Teton, the Nakota or Yankton and the Dakota or Santee.
The Lakota tribe was the largest with seven bands such as the Oglala, Sicangu and the Itazipacola. The Dakota was comprised of four bands including the Wahpeton, and the Nakota were an alliance of three bands like the Upper and Lower Yankton. The Siouan tribes originally roamed throughout the Great Plains region of the United States hunting bison and were quick to master the horse introduced by the Spanish in the late 16th century.
The diversity among the Sioux People makes it challenging to generalize about this Native American nation. Prior to contact with European and American settlers, the Dakota inhabited the Lake Superior region and survived by gathering wild rice, hunting buffalo and deer and spear fishing. Conflict with the neighboring Ojibwa people forced the Dakota to move westward into Minnesota where they encountered and eventually drove out the agriculturally inclined Lakota and Nakota who moved into North and South Dakota. The Lakota and Nakota became skilled horsemen and transitioned from an agricultural society to hunting bison on horseback. In general, the Sioux People were nomadic Plains Indians who lived in tepees and relied heavily on the buffalo for food and clothing.
In Sioux society, status was acquired by displaying bravery in war and collecting horses and scalps. Women were healers as well as skilled embroiderers who worked with porcupine quills and beads. Buffalo hides were often traded for corn and other foodstuffs cultivated by neighboring tribes that still practiced agriculture. Over time, the Sioux people made enemies of several of these agricultural tribes that retaliated by forming alliances with the U.S. government. The tribe was openly hostile to white settlers and travelers passing through Sioux territory on their way west and military conflict erupted.
The Sioux People fought a series of wars with the United States throughout the 18th century. In some cases, the Sioux were victorious such as when the Lakota lead by Red Cloud were able to maintain control over the Powder River region. The Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 is another well-known Lakota victory. Under the leadership of Sitting Bull, Native American forces killed more than 268 U.S. soldiers including Gen. George Armstrong Custer. Ultimately, the Sioux were routed by the U.S. military at Wounded Knee Creek in 1890 when 500 troops opened fire on a Lakota encampment killing at least 150 Native Americans.
After the Wounded Knee Massacre, the extermination of the buffalo began as did the forced relocation of many of the Sioux People. The Sioux tribes were relocated to several different reservations in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin. There are additional Sioux reservations in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Approximately half of the Sioux People currently live on reservations.