Standing Rock Indian Reservation

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Standing Rock Indian Reservation
Standing Rock Indian Reservation straddles the border between North and South Dakota
Standing Rock Indian Reservation straddles the border between North and South Dakota
Standing Rock logo

The Standing Rock Indian Reservation is a Lakota, Yanktonai and Dakota Indian reservation in North Dakota and South Dakota in the United States. The sixth-largest reservation in land area in the United States, it comprises all of Sioux County, North Dakota, and all of Corson County, South Dakota, plus slivers of northern Dewey and Ziebach counties in South Dakota, along their northern county lines at Highway 20.

The reservation has a land area of 9,251.2 square kilometers (3,571.9 sq mi) and a population of 8,250 as of the 2000 census.[1] The largest communities on the reservation are Fort Yates, Cannon Ball and McLaughlin. Other communities within the reservation include[citation needed]: Wakpala, Little Eagle, Bullhead, Porcupine, Kenel, McIntosh, Morristown, Selfridge, Solen.


The Yanktonai and Dakota live in North Dakota; the Lakota live in South Dakota. The Upper Yanktonai people used a language called Ihanktonwana, which translates as "Little End Village." The Lower Yanktonai were called Hunkpatina in their language, meaning "Campers at the Horn" or "End of the Camping Circle". Thunder Butte, a prominent landmark, is along the border between the Standing Rock Reservation and the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. The Cheyenne River Lakota Nation were a nomadic people who lived in teepees year round. Their Plains Indian culture was based strongly upon horses and buffalo.

In the late 19th century, Sitting Bull was a highly respected Lakota war chief and medicine man who led the Lakota in years of resistance to the United States. He commanded forces, with the assistance of other leaders including Gall, that defeated General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. Not long after the battle, however, many of the Lakota and their allies moved to Canada. A group (including Gall) returned to the United States in 1881 after splitting with Sitting Bull, and were resettled on this reservation. After touring with a Wild West show, Sitting Bull returned to this reservation in 1890, but was shot dead at Fort Yates by a tribal policeman in a bungled confrontation possibly involving the Ghost Dance movement, and was buried there. In 1953 his remains were exhumed and reinterred on the reservation near his birthplace, at a site overlooking the Missouri River at present-day Mobridge, South Dakota. The tribal college, Sitting Bull College, established in the 1970s, was named in his honor. His people, the Hunkpapa (Húŋkpapȟa), mainly reside on this reservation. Húŋkpapȟa means "Head of the Circle", due to the tradition of their setting their lodges at the entryway to the circle during Sioux council.

Originally having a territory of 4 million acres (16,000 km2) when established in 1864, the reservation was reduced in size after the Indian Wars of the 19th century. This made more land available for sale to and development by American settlers.

Governance and districts[edit]

Standing Rock Administrative Service building, Fort Yates

According to its constitution,[2] Standing Rock's governing body is the elected 17-member Tribal Council, including the Tribal Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, and 14 representatives: six at-large and eight from its regional districts:

In 2014, President Barack Obama accompanied by Michelle Obama made his first visit to an Indian reservation during the annual Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration.[3] It was one of the few visits by a sitting American President to an Indian reservation.[4] His visit was met with mixed feelings by the reservation, with concerns that specifics on treaty issues and government appropriations were not addressed.[5]


In the 1960s, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation built five large dams on the Missouri River, and implemented the Pick–Sloan Missouri Basin Program, forcing Native Americans to relocate from flooded areas. Over 200,000 acres on the Standing Rock Reservation and the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota were flooded by the Oahe Dam alone. As of 2015, poverty remains a problem for the displaced populations in the Dakotas, who are still seeking compensation for the loss of the towns submerged under Lake Oahe, and the loss of their traditional ways of life.[6]

Mascot issue with University of North Dakota[edit]

The athletic teams of the University of North Dakota (UND) were known as the Fighting Sioux. Controversy surrounding the use of Native American mascots prompted the NCAA to ban the use of "hostile and abusive" Native American mascots in August 2005.[7] An exception was made to allow the use of tribal names if they are approved by that tribe.[8] Since the Tribal Council of the Standing Rock Sioux has not approved UND's use of "Fighting Sioux",[9][10] the ban applied to UND. After years with no mascot, UND became the Fighting Hawks in 2015.

Dakota Access Pipeline[edit]

Further information: ReZpect our Water

In the summer of 2016, a group of young activists from Standing Rock ran from North Dakota to Washington, D.C., to present a petition in protest of the construction of Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access Pipeline, which is part of the Bakken pipeline, and have launched an international campaign called ReZpect our Water.[11] The pipeline which goes from North Dakota to Illinois, the activists argue, would jeopardize the water source of the reservation, the Missouri River.[12][13] The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has filed an injunction against the US Army Corps of Engineers to stop building the pipeline.[14][15] In April 2016, three federal agencies -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Interior, and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation—requested full Environmental Impact Statement of the pipeline.[16] In August 2016 protests were held, halting a portion of the pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.[17]

Notable tribal members[edit]


  1. ^ "Standing Rock Reservation, South Dakota/North Dakota". Census 2000 Summary File 1 (SF 1) 100-Percent Data. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  2. ^ "Standing Rock Constitution, approved 1958, with amendments through 2008" (PDF). Standing Rock Tribe. Retrieved 2015-10-01. 
  3. ^ Zezima, Katie (13 June 2014). "As Obama makes rare presidential visit to Indian reservation, past U.S. betrayals loom" (Includes video of President's address). The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  4. ^ Thiele, Raina (20 June 2014). "The President and First Lady's Historic Visit to Indian Country". Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  5. ^ Montagne, Renee; Kent, Jim (13 June 2014). "Sioux Reservation Has Mixed Feelings About Obama Visit". Morning Edition. NPR. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  6. ^ Lee, Trymaine. "No Man's Land: The Last Tribes of the Plains. As industry closes in, Native Americans fight for dignity and natural resources". MSNBC - Geography of Poverty Northwest. Retrieved 2015-09-28. >
  7. ^ "NCAA Bans Indian Mascots". NewsHour. PBS. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  8. ^ Powell, Robert Andrew (August 25, 2005). "Florida State wins its battle to remain the Seminoles". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  9. ^ Kolpack, Dave (2009-09-21). "Chairman says tribe won't approve Fighting Sioux". Native American Times. Retrieved 2014-10-12. 
  10. ^ Conlon, Kevin (August 14, 2011). "North Dakota, NCAA spar over mascot". CNN. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  11. ^ Amundson, Barry (29 July 2016). "Standing Rock tribe sues over Dakota Access pipeline permits". Grand Forks Herald. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  12. ^ Dunlap, Tiare (5 August 2016). "These Native American Youths Are Running 2,000 Miles to Protect Their Water". People. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  13. ^ MacPherson, James (30 July 2016). "Standing Rock Sioux sues Corps over Bakken pipeline permits". The Des Moines Register. The Associated Press. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  14. ^ Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (27 July 2016). "Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief" (PDF). In the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (1:16-cv-01534-Document 1). Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  15. ^ Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (4 August 2016). "Memorandum in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction Expedited Hearing Requested" (PDF). In the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (1:16-cv-1534-JEB). Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  16. ^ ICTMN Staff (28 April 2016). "Dakota Access Pipeline: Three Federal Agencies Side With Standing Rock Sioux, Demand Review". Indian Country Today Media Network. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  17. ^ Healy, Jack (23 August 2016). "Occupying the Prairie: Tensions Rise as Tribes Move to Block a Pipeline". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 August 2016. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°45′N 101°12′W / 45.75°N 101.20°W / 45.75; -101.20