Native American education * Indigenous American languages * Native American tribe

  * Find Native American ancestors in your family tree

Lakota [archive]

This article has been archived from the now-defunct MSU E-Museum (http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/) for educational purposes. Please visit our Article Archive Index for further information. If the author of this article would like to make changes to it, or if you are the author of another article you would like us to add to our archives, please contact us.

Lakota

Land:

The Dakota Nation includes the native peoples who once lived in the northern forests and along the upper Mississippi River in northern Minnesota. In time, the Dakota Nation divided into three groups (Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota), each moving in different directions but still maintaining close ties to one another.

The Lakota are one division of the Dakota Nation, also known as the Western Dakota or Teton. When the Dakota Nation split into three main groups, the Lakota moved from northern Minnesota to the plains north of the Black Hills to the Platte River, and westward into present day Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Known as the great buffalo hunters of the west, the Lakota are the largest division of the Dakota Nation.

The Lakota were the first of the Dakota to leave the forest. They headed out west and lived a migratory life, following the buffalo they needed for food, clothing, and shelter. Even though they ranged far from their Minnesota homeland, they still brought back furs to trade into southern Minnesota each summer.

The Lakota consist of seven main bands today:

Sihasapa- Reservations at: Cheyenne River, Standing Rock
Oohenumpa- Reservation at: Cheyenne River
Miniconjou- Reservation at: Cheyenne River
Hunkpapa- Reservation at: Standing Rock
Itazipco- Reservation at: Cheyenne River
Sicangu- Reservation at: Rosebud
Oglala- Reservation at: Pine Ridge

Location:

The Lakota are one division of the Dakota Nation, also known as the Western Dakota or Teton. When the Dakota Nation split into three main groups, the Lakota moved from northern Minnesota to the plains north of the Black Hills to the Platte River, and westward into present day Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Known as the great buffalo hunters of the west, the Lakota are the largest division of the Dakota Nation.

The Lakota were the first of the Dakota to leave the forest. They headed out west and lived a migratory life, following the buffalo they needed for food, clothing, and shelter. Even though they ranged far from their Minnesota homeland, they still brought back furs to trade into southern Minnesota each summer.

Food:

Lakota people did not plant crops. They gathered wild plants such as onions, potatoes, turnips, strawberries, gooseberries, grapes, plums, and red prickly pears. Lakota people would also trade with sedentary cultures that grew crops.

Along with what they could find growing wild or acquiesce in trade, the Lakota diet consisted primarily of buffalo or Tatanka. Lakota people utilized the entire bison carcass for food, shelter, tools and equipment. Their existence was dependent upon the health and stability of the massive herds of buffalo that roamed on the Great Plains. Other animals such as deer, elk, and antelope would be hunted as well.

Buffalo meat could be prepared in various ways. Feasting usually occurred following a successful hunt. Fresh meat was generally preferred. However, most buffalo meat was prepared for later use. Some was dried in the sun to make jerky. One way to preserve buffalo meat for future consumption was to make pemmican. To make pemmican, buffalo steaks were dried, laid on a large, flat stone, and pounded with smaller stone. When the meat had the consistency of a powder, it was mixed with melted fat or marrow and sometimes wild cherries. The mixture was put into hide bags with melted fat poured on top to seal it. Buffalo prepared in this way could keep for 3 to 4 years.

Shelter:

The Lakota lived in tipis which were inhabited by close-knit kin groups. They could be easily transported to follow the buffalo. Tipis were conical structures consisting of poles covered by sewn together buffalo hides. Sometimes as many as 16 to 18 buffalo hides were sewn together for use as a tipi covering. The number of hides used was dependent upon the diameter of the shelter. The covering was held together by wooden pins. Beneath these pins was a small opening used to enter and exit the tipi. A smoke hole in the top of the tipi allowed fires to be built inside. The smoke flap could be opened and closed to control temperature, keep out rain and snow, and provide a comfortable living environment to those dwelling inside.

Clothing, Crafts:

Buffalo hides were used to make robes, tipi covers, clothing, moccasins, bags, and carrying cases. The working of hides was generally done by women who tanned them, removed the hair if necessary, and transformed them into useful items.

Lakota clothing was made of animal skins including buffalo, deer, and elk. The women spent many hours following the creation of the structure of the item of clothing decorating it with beads, bones or other natural objects of beauty.

Celebration:

Like other Dakota groups, many Lakota bands would meet in the summer and engage in group activities including political council meetings, religious ceremonies like the Sun Dance, sporting events, marriages, and coming-of-age ceremonies. Summers were a special opportunity to see family members who were members of other bands.

Travel:

The Lakota were always following the buffalo herds. Only in winter did they cease to follow the herds. Winter camp was usually made along the southern edge of the Black Hills region. They obtained fast horses in the mid 1700s and the Lakota were renowned as being excellent riders. The large amount of horses they owned, combined with their remarkable horsemanship, resulted in their ability to travel longer distances than any of the other Dakota groups.

The Lakota used a travois, the French word for shafts of a cart, for long distance travel. The travois was made of two long poles that were crossed and fastened above the shoulders of a horse with the ends dragging behind.

For travel on water, the Lakota used bullboats which featured a round framework of willow covered with buffalo skins. They were awkward but watertight.

References:

Minnesota Historical Society
1970 The Dakota or Sioux. Gopher Historian Leaflet Series Number 5. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society.

Where we are today
Electronic document Former link: http://drivinghawk.com/today.htm.

Additional Reading

 Ojibwe Indians
 Lakota Language
 Lakota Words
 Lakota Legends
 Indian Tribes of South Dakota

Sponsored Links



Return to our main Native American Indian cultures site
Read our article submission guidelines
Language of the day: Uto Aztecan language

Native Languages

Native medicine * Native American genealogy * Southwestern crafts * Bella Bellas * Native American tattoos

Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?