Thayer Watkins

The tribes of the Dakota before European contact in the 1600's lived in the region around Lake Superior. In this forest environment they lived by hunting, fishing and gathering wild rice. They also grew some corn but their locale was near the limit of where corn could be grown.

They fought with the Ojibwa (Chippewa) tribes for control of their region. They Ojibwa obtained guns from the French in the early part of the 18th century and the Dakota tribes were driven to the area immediately west of Lake Michigan and south of Lake Superior in what is now Minnesota. Some of the Dakotas began migrating west into the Great Plains region. The Dakota tribes are often referred to by the name Sioux. This is based upon the name given to them by their enemies the Objibwa. Sioux is a French corruption of the Objibwa word Nadoussioux which meant Adder snakes and thus enemy.

The names used by the Dakotas themselves for the various tribal dialect groups were Dakota, Nakota and Lakota. The outsider names for these three groups were Santee, Wiciyela and Teton. In the Santee dialect the word dakota meant allies.

When the Lakotas left the Minnesota area they adopted a more nomadic life based upon horses, teepees and hunting buffaloes instead of bark houses and gathering wild rice. The Lakotas however did also take control of the Black Hills. The Santee or Dakota tribes were still living in the Minnesota in the middle of the 19th century. An uprising by the Santees resulted in defeat by the U.S. Army. Some of the surviving Santee fled to Canada, others were placed in reservations in Nebraska by the U.S. Army.

The Lakota or Tetons, who had transformed themselves from a sedentary forest people into roaming buffalo hunters. The Lakota fought in the U.S. Army in what are known as the Sioux Wars, 1866-68 and 1876-77. It was the Lakota who wiped out General George Custer unit in 1876 at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Montana. After the Lakota were subdued they were settled in reservations in North and South Dakota and elsewhere.

History of the Dakota Tribes

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