North Dakota Eclectics


The Sioux were perhaps the most colorful of the North Dakota tribes. Interestingly, they were also known as the Dakotas, for the two names are nearly opposite in meaning. Sioux is translated as enemies, while Dakota means allies, or friends. Of course, they were named the Sioux by the other tribes of the Northwest, with whom they were often a war. They knew themselves as the Dakotas, applying the term to the Sioux confederation of seven tribes, which were known as the Seven Council Fires of the Dakotas.

These divisions were the Mdewakanton, Wahpeton, Wapekute, Sisseton, Yankton, Yanktonai, and Teton, groups that were allies of one another, but governed independently. The Dakotas believed that they had the right to drive other tribes from their territories, and were subsequently often at war with other tribes.

The Sioux once lived along the Great Lakes in Wisconsin, an area that was shared, although not peacefully, with the Chippewas. The two tribes were continually at war, with the Sioux generally being on the winning side. However, the Chippewas were able to obtain firearms from French traders and, with that advantage, they were able to drive the Sioux from the region, into Minnesota, where they lived for several generations, eventually spreading westward into North Dakota.

In 1738, Verendrye found several Sioux living in the Devils Lake region, although their larger numbers were still in Minnesota. As the number of Chippewas in Wisconsin grew, they came into Minnesota, driving the Sioux further west, into North Dakota. Once in North Dakota, the Sioux encountered other tribes which they, in turn, drove out of their territories.

The Sioux dressed much the same as other North Dakota tribes. They wore ordinary leather shirts that were elaborately decorated with ornaments. With the possible exception of the Iroquois, in New England, the Sioux were the most active and warlike of the Native American tribes.

The Assiniboins were a branch of the Sioux.