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 European-American settlers.
Standing Rock Administrative Service building, Fort Yates
According to its constitution, 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:
The athletic teams of the University of North Dakota (UND) are 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. An exception was made to allow the use of tribal names if they are approved by that tribe. Since the Tribal Council of the Standing Rock Sioux has not approved UND's use of "Fighting Sioux", the ban applies. It prevents the university from hosting any championships and prohibits use of UND's team logo or nickname at any championship events.
"The intercollegiate athletic teams sponsored by the University of North Dakota shall be known as the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux....If the National Collegiate Athletic Association takes any action to penalize the University of North Dakota for using the Fighting Sioux nickname or logo, the attorney general shall consider filing a federal antitrust claim against that association."