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Wašícu is the Lakota and Dakota word for people of European descent.[1] It expresses the indigenous population's perception of the non-natives' relationship with the land and the indigenous population. Typically it refers to white people[2] but does not specifically mention skin color or race.[3]


The etymology of wašíču is unknown but some of the Northern Plains tribes use terms for Europeans that are cognates with wašíču. For example, the Hidatsa word for white people is maší (clearly a cognate with wašíču because Hidatsa m corresponds to w in Lakota).[4] This suggests that wašíču could be a borrowing from another language. A common folk etymology claims that wašíču originates from wašíŋ ičú "he takes fat"[2] and this is used by natives in puns to refer to non-Natives who collectively rob tribes of their resources.[1]

In Dakota, Wašicu also means the English language.[5] The Lakota word for the English language is Wašíču iyápi.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

"Wasichu" is a fifth-season episode of the television series Law & Order: Criminal Intent, about a lobbyist and Indian gambling.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Setting the Record Straight About Native Languages: Wasicu. Native Languages of the Americas. (retrieved 23 January 2011)
  2. ^ a b Simcikova, 88
  3. ^ Staub 62
  4. ^ Ullrich, 2016: 520
  5. ^ LaFontaine and McKay, 145
  6. ^ Ullrich, 2008
  7. ^ "Wasichu (#5.14)." Internet Movie Database. (retrieved 23 Jan 2011)
  • LaFontaine, Harlan and Neil McKay. 550 Dakota Verbs. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-87351-524-5.
  • Simcikova, Karla. To live fully, here and now: the healing vision in the works of Alice Walker. Lexington Books, 2006. ISBN 978-0-7391-1160-4.
  • Staub, Michael E. Voices of Persuasion: Politics of Representation in 1930s America. Cambridge, UK: University of Cambridge Press, 1994. ISBN 0-521-45390-9.
  • Ullrich, Jan. Lakota Grammar Handbook, Lakota Language Consortium, 2016. (ISBN 978-1-941461-11-2)
  • Ullrich, Jan. New Lakota Dictionary, Lakota Language Consortium, 2018. (ISBN 0-9761082-9-1)

External links[edit]