The Sioux

Sitting Bull

Name(s) of Tribe:    Sioux, Dakota, Lakota, or Nakota (based on dialect).

Minnesota Reservations Currently located:  Shakopee, Lower Sioux, Prairie Island, Upper Sioux.

Background Info:    The name "sioux" is short for Nadowessioux, meaning "little snakes", which was a spiteful nickname given to them by the Ojibwe, their longtime foe. The fur traders abbreviated this name to Sioux and is now commonly used.   But the tribe prefers Dakota, Lakota, or Nakota, depending on the dialect they speak. The Sioux were the dominant tribe in Minnesota in the 17th century.  They remained the dominant tribe in Minnesota until the Ojibwe migrated into the arrowhead of Minnesota.   After going into debt when fur traders got them buying on credit, the Sioux were almost locked into a treaty relinquishing all of their land West of the Mississippi.  In turn they would receive a reservation, yearly rations of food, farms, and payments of gold.  After signing the treaty, food rations and gold payments were smaller and later then promised.  They did not receive proper training in farming, nor did they receive proper schooling.  Every year after 1858, conditions got worse for the Sioux.  With starvation, late payments, and frustration mounting, the Sioux decided to take no more.  They broke into a warehouse in order to relieve their starvation.  This was the beginning of what would be known as the Sioux Uprising.

Cultural Info:    Sioux were traditionally woodland people, meaning they hunted and fished as well as harvested wild rice.  Most tribes of Sioux converted to a plains culture when they moved westward, where they began hunting the then abundant buffalo.  When the Sioux lived in northern Minnesota, they traveled in birch bark or dugout canoes.  During the winter, they also used snowshoes.  Once they moved past the Missouri River, they began to use horses for transportation.   Original housing for Sioux was bark covered wigwams.  Eventually, the Sioux began to live in tipis made of lodge pole pine and buffalo hide.  Monogomy was most common, but polygamy was allowed.

Famous Chiefs:    Chief Sitting Bull (Tatanka Yotanka).
                            Chief Little Crow.
                            Chief Mankato.
                            Chief American Horse.

Famous Battles/Wars:
The Sioux Uprising:
Lower Agency: Sioux ambushed this warehouse filled with food denied to them.  13 whites were killed, while 47 escaped to Redwood Ferry during the Sioux's looting and burning.

Redwood Ferry: Captain Marsh receives news of the attack on Lower Agency.  Takes his 46 soldiers and heads for Lower Agency.  Marsh and his troops find Redwood Ferry and as they are about to board the "conveniently" placed flat bottomed ferry, the Sioux opened fire and ambushed the white troops.  Marsh drowned in the process of escaping, along with 24 other men.  The 15 who escaped made their way back to Ft. Ridgely.

Ft. Ridgely:    On August 20, 1862 the Sioux made their first attempt to take Ft. Ridgely.  Chief Little Crow gathered together about 400 warriors for the attack.  Ft. Ridgely was housing about 200 refugees seeking protection from the Sioux.  Sergeant John Jones, who was an artillery man, taught many of the refugees to fire guns and cannons in order to fend off the attacking Sioux.  The soldiers managed to fend the Sioux off until sundown, when the Sioux retreated to Lower Agency.  August 21 brought heavy rain, and the Sioux could not mount a second attack until August 22, when Little Crow gathered about 800 warriors to attack.  The Sioux attempted to wear the defenders out by setting constant fire to the fort and then launching an attack on the southwest side of the fort, but were unsuccessful again.  The Sioux fleed after taking many casualties.  The soldiers and citizens at the fort only accumulated 3 casualties and 13 wounded in the 2 battles.

New Ulm:    The first attack on the German settlers came on August 19th, and resulted in only a few casualties and a few burnt buildings.  About 100 Dakota fighters attacked the city, but the settlers were ready for them when they arrived.  After about two hours of battle, a rainstorm swept through the city and caused the Dakota to withdraw.  In the second attack, 650 Sioux surrounded New Ulm and swarmed the town.  The settlers resisted the charges and the Sioux were finally chased away by nightfall.  The 2,000 people of New Ulm were left to live in a three block area.  With conditions worsening with time, the people of New Ulm decided to evacuate to Mankato.

Birch Coulee:    Major Joseph R.  Brown and his troops were ambushed by Chief Grey Bird and his 200 warriors on the morning of September 2, 1862.  This battle accounted for the highest number of casualties in a battle for the entire Dakota War.  While the white military lost many soldiers, the Sioux suffered only a few casualites.

Ft. Abercrombie:  Conflict began between whites and the Sioux way before an actual battle occured.  It began on August 20, 1862, when both Sioux and whites began building up fortifications for an impending battle.  Finally, on September 3, the Sioux attacked the fort at 5:00 am.  The battle lasted until 11:00 am, when the Sioux retreated, leaving 400 of their own killed or wounded.
    After spending two days just firing across the river at the fort, the Sioux launched another attack on Ft. Abercrombie.  This attack  also failed.  Henry Sibley did offer peace to the Sioux after this battle.  But Little Crow declined the offer, due to the arrogant nature of Sibley's demand for the prisoners without any negotiation.

Wood Lake and Camp Release:  Henry Sibley and 1600 soldiers met Little Crow's forces by the small lake.  The battle started at 7:00 am, and only lasted two hours.  Fourteen Sioux and four whites were killed in this battle.  Among the dead Dakota was Chief Mankato.  The Dakota stopped fighting after this battle.
    On September 26, 1862, the Sioux surrendered and released the 269 white prisoners at a site named Camp Release.  After this event, the Sioux were placed on trial and 300 were sentenced to death.  President Lincoln reduced the number to 38, saying 300 was too many.  The rest of the Dakota were shipped to a desolate reservation on the Missouri River.

Clothing/Hairstyle:    Moccasins, leggings, shirts, gloves, jackets, vests, and dresses made from buffalo, elk, or deer.  Women usually wore knee length dresses and leggings reaching to the knees.  Dyes were used by the men to decorate clothing.  Beaded clothing was saved for special occasions.  Sioux hairstyles varied from tribe to tribe, with some traditionally wearing two braids of hair, and some having 4 braids of hair.

Lakota Dancer

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