Great Sioux Nation

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Great Sioux Nation
Oceti Sakowin
Sioux social structure council fires.jpg
The Sioux people were united in a confederacy of seven members, called the Seven Fires Council
(the map still misnames the Yankton-Yanktonai grouping as Nakota)
Main bodySubdivisions of dedicated tribes

The Great Sioux Nation is the traditional political structure of the Sioux in North America. The peoples who speak the Sioux language are considered to be members of the Oceti Sakowin (Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, pronounced [oˈtʃʰetʰi ʃaˈkowĩ]) or Seven Council Fires. The seven-member communities are sometimes grouped into three regional/dialect sub-groups (Lakota, Western Dakota, and Eastern Dakota), but these mid-level identities are not politically institutionalized. The seven communities are all individual members of the historic confederacy. In contemporary culture, the designation is primarily a linguistic, cultural, and for some, political grouping.

Since 2019, Sioux language has been an official language of South Dakota.[1][2]


The Great Sioux Nation is divided into three linguistically and regionally based groups and several subgroups. Linguistically, all three language groups belong to the Sioux language.[3]

  1. Lakota (also known as Lakȟóta, Thítȟuŋwaŋ, Teton, and Teton Sioux)
    • Northern Lakota (Húŋkpapȟa, Sihásapa)
    • Central Lakota (Mnikȟówožu, Itázipčho, Oóhenuŋpa)
    • Southern Lakota (Oglála, Sičháŋǧu)
  2. Western Dakota
    • Yankton (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋ)
    • Yanktonai (Iháŋktȟuŋwaŋna)
  3. Eastern Dakota (also known as Santee-Sisseton or Dakhóta)
    • Santee (Isáŋyáthi: Bdewákhathuŋwaŋ, Waȟpékhute)
    • Sisseton (Sisíthuŋwaŋ, Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ)

The term "Great Sioux Nation" is also sometimes applied to the region (and hypothetical state) of the western and midwestern United States which, while not a legal designation, includes the following recognized Indian reservations:

This region also includes the defunct Great Sioux Reservation, which was divided into smaller portions in the 19th century, and other "unceded Indian territory" in four states, as well as parts of the following states:

The Great Sioux Nation occupies only parts of the United States where Sioux tribes have some legal claim with regard to treaties with the federal government, e.g., Treaty of Fort Laramie.

Historically, the Great Sioux Nation and the United States have had a turbulent relationship. The last of the great American Indian battles – the Battle of Little Bighorn and the Wounded Knee Massacre – were fought between these two peoples.


In one of the oldest unresolved cases in U.S. legal history, United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians 448 U.S. 371 (1980), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the United States was wrong in breaking the terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which forever exempted the Black Hills from all white settlement. When European Americans discovered gold there in 1874, miners swept into the area in a gold rush. The U.S. government reassigned the Lakota, against their wishes, to other reservations in western South Dakota, breaking up the Great Sioux Reservation into smaller portions.

The Supreme Court awarded eight Sioux tribes $106 million in compensation—the 1877 value of $17.5 million, plus interest. The Sioux Nation has refused to accept the award, saying they want their land returned. The money is held in accounts at the Treasury Department, accruing interest. As of 2011, the accounts are estimated to be valued at over $1 billion.[4]


The Assiniboine (Nakota), who live to the North of most of the Sioux peoples, speak a Siouan language closely related to the Sioux language but are not considered part of the modern Oceti Sakowin. The Assiniboine were the first of the Siouan-speaking peoples to leave the Eastern Woodlands and move onto the Great Plains.[5] They had developed as a separate people sometime before 1640, when they were first documented as a tribe by French missionaries. Because of this, other Sioux-speakers referred to them as the Hohe, or "rebels". The Canadian Nakoda (Stoney) possibly began as the westernmost band of the Assiniboine, but were referred to as a separate people after about 1744. Later, in the nineteenth century, further bands belonging to the Dakota peoples and to a lesser extent to the Lakotas, also moved to Canada and their descendants still live in several of the Canadian First Nations.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "South Dakota recognizes official indigenous language".
  2. ^ "SD Senate Bill 126". South Dakota Legislature. Retrieved August 16, 2022.
  3. ^ See, as examples, Frederick W. Hodge (ed.), Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, 2 Pts./vols., Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 30, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, U.S. GPO, 1907/1910 (1:376), and Robert H. Lowie, Indians of the plains, American Museum of Natural History. Anthropological Handbook 1, New York: McGraw Hill, 1954 (8)
  4. ^ Pratt, Timothy; Maria Streshinsky (February 9, 2011). "Saying No to $1 Billion". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2013-12-28.
  5. ^ Vickers, C. (1951–1952). "The Assiniboines of Manitoba". MHS Transactions. Manitoba Historical Society (3). Retrieved 7 December 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • Decker, Doug. An Analysis of "The Bradley Bill" Proposing to Return the Black Hills to the Great Sioux Nation. [Pierre, S.D.]: South Dakota Legislative Research Council, 1987.
  • Hans, Frederic Malon. The Great Sioux Nation; A Complete History of Indian Life and Warfare in America. Minneapolis: Ross & Haines, 1964.
  • Ortiz, Roxanne Dunbar. The Great Sioux Nation Sitting in Judgment on America. San Francisco: American Indian Treaty Council Information Center, Moon Books, 1977.
  • Pommersheim, Frank, and John P. LaVelle. 2002. "Toward a Great Sioux Nation Judicial Support Center and Supreme Court: An Interim Planning and Recommendation Report for the Wakpa Sica Historical Society's Reconciliation Place Project". Wíčazo Ša Review. 17, no. 1: 183-232.
  • South Dakota. The Great Sioux Nation. [Pierre, S.D.]: South Dakota Office of Tourism, 2006.

External links[edit]