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Mdewakantonwan (currently pronounced Bdewákhathuŋwaŋ,[1] also M'DAY-wah-kahn-tahn) are one of the sub-tribes of the Isanti (Santee) Dakota (Sioux). Their historic home is Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota, which in the Dakota language was called Mde wakan (mystic/spiritual lake). Together with the Wahpekute (Waȟpékhute – “Shooters Among the Trees”), they form the so-called Upper Council of the Dakota or Santee Sioux (Isáŋyáthi – “Knife Makers”).


Their Siouan-speaking ancestors had migrated to the upper Midwest from the area of South Carolina in the present-day United States; colonists named the Santee River in present-day South Carolina after them.[2] Over the years they migrated up through present-day Ohio and into Wisconsin. Facing competition from the Chippewa and other eastern Native American tribes, the Santee moved further west into present-day Minnesota.[2]

In 1687 Greysolon du Lhut recorded his visit to the "great village of the Nadouecioux, called Izatys"[3] on the southwestern shore of the eponymous Mde Wakan [Lake Mystery/Holy], now called Mille Lacs Lake in north central Minnesota.

Originally the term Santee was applied only to the Mdewakanton and later the closely related and allied Wahpekute. (As it was a nomadic group, it was not identified by the suffixes of thuŋwaŋ – “settlers,” or towan – “village”).[2] Soon European settlers applied the name to all the tribes of the Eastern Dakota.

In the fall of 1837, the Mdewakantonwan negotiated a lucrative deal with the US government under an "Indian Removal" treaty, whereby they were paid nearly one million dollars for the remainder of their lands in western Wisconsin. Because the Mdewakantonwan had earlier abandoned the lands due to intrusion by the Chippewa and various ecological reasons, and were effectively living in Minnesota, they effectively gained payment for land they no longer occupied.[4]

Seven Sioux tribes formed an alliance, which they called Oceti Sakowin or Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (“The Seven Council Fires”),[5] consisting of the four tribes of the Eastern Dakota, two tribes of the Western Dakota (erroneously classified, for a very long time, as "Nakota"),[6] as well as the largest group, the Lakota (often referred to as Teton, derived from Thítȟuŋwaŋ – “Dwellers of the Plains”). Tradition has it that the Mdewakanton were the leading tribe of Očhéthi Šakówiŋ. As a consequence of their defeat by the United States in the Dakota War of 1862 and heavy losses in warriors, they lost their leading position within the Council Fires to the more numerous and powerful Lakota.

US tribes with Mdewakanton descendants[edit]

The Mdewakantonwan are no longer a single unified Tribe. Their descendants ensure their Mdewakanton components survive within their respective communities. In the United States, the Mdewakanton survive with other federally recognized Dakota and Yankton-Yanktonai bands as Dakota peoples:

South Dakota[edit]


Some Mdewakanton in Minnesota live among Ojibwe people on the Mille Lacs Reservation as Mille Lacs Band of Mdewakanton Dakota, forming one of the historical bands that were amalgamated to become the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.


First Nations with Mdewakanton descendants[edit]

In Canada, the Mdewakanton live with members of other Dakota and Yanktonai band governments as Dakota peoples:


  • Sioux Valley Dakota Nation on Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Reserve and Fishing Station 62A Reserve (Sisseton, Wahpeton, some Mdewakanton and Wahpekute)
  • Birdtail Sioux First Nation on Birdtail Creek 57 Reserve, Birdtail Hay Lands 57A Reserve, and on Fishing Station 62A Reserve (Mdewakanton, Wahpekute and some Yanktonai)

Some may live also within the White Bear First Nations, which consists mostly of members of the Plains Cree, Western Saulteaux and Assiniboine.

Historic tribes of the Mdewakanton[edit]

  • Kiyuska ("violators of custom," "rule breakers")[7]
  • Kaposia or Kapozha kodozapuwa
  • Pinisha
  • Reyata otonw
  • Matantonwan
  • Kheyataotonwe
  • Taoapa
  • Wakpaatonwedan
    • Oyateshicha
    • Titonwan or Tintaotonwe
  • Ohanhanska
    • Tacanhpisapa
    • Anoginajin
  • Khemnichan
  • Magayuteshni
  • Mahpiyamaza
  • Mahpiyawichasta
  • Khemnichan

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ullrich, Jan (2008). New Lakota Dictionary (Incorporating the Dakota Dialects of Yankton-Yanktonai and Santee-Sisseton). Lakota Language Consortium. p. 6. ISBN 0-9761082-9-1. 
  2. ^ a b c Jessica Dawn Palmer (2011), The Dakota Peoples: A History of the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota Through 1863, McFarland & Co Inc; ISBN 978-0-7864-6621-4
  3. ^ Memoir of Greysolon du Luht pp 375–6, in Louis Hennepin, Description de la Louisiane (Paris, 1683), translated from the edition of 1683, and compared with the Novella Decouverte, the La Salle Documents and other Contemporaneous Papers, New York, by John G Shea 1880
  4. ^ James A. Clifton, "Wisconsin Death March: Explaining the Extremes in Old Northwest Indian Removal", in Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 1987, 5:1–40, p. 3, accessed 3 Mar 2010
  5. ^ History of the Council Fires
  6. ^ Jan Ullrich: New Lakota Dictionary (Incorporating the Dakota Dialects of Yankton-Yanktonai and Santee-Sisseton), S. 2, Lakota Language Consortium 2008, ISBN 0-9761082-9-1
  7. ^ only the first four bands survive as organized groups today


  • Williamson, John P. An English-Dakota Dictionary (New York: American Tract Society, 1902)

External links[edit]