yankton dakota

Alternatives to ‘Sioux’

As you may know, the word ‘Sioux’ is considered to be a slur amongst members of the Oceti Sakowin. It is not our word for ourselves, but rather a name given to us by another nation and perpetuated by the Europeans / Euro-Americans.

You also may have noticed that our official tribe names often contain the word ‘Sioux’ (‘Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe’ for example.) The reason for this is entirely legal. When our treaties were drafted, they were written as an agreement between the US Government and the ‘Sioux Nation.’ For this reason, we cannot fully abandon the name. However, when we’ve had opportunities, we’ve dropped the name in places we can (’Oglala Lakota County,’ for example, a name chosen by the rezidents.)

Simply put, members of the Oceti Sakowin generally don’t refer to themselves as ‘Sioux’ and, if we can’t change it legally, at least we can continue to assert our identity on our terms. So, if you choose to respect that, here’s a quick Oceti Sakowin education guide:

Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) 

Oceti Sakowin (encompasses all language dialects) is the simplest and broadest replacement for ‘Sioux.’ You can use this term if you aren’t aware of the specific language group to which ‘Sioux’ refers. Within the Oceti Sakowin are three main groups, which are further divided into seven subgroups:

Isanti Oyate (Santee — Dakota Dialect)

  • Ble Wakantunwan (Mdewakanton*) - Spirit Lake
  • Wahpetunwan (Wahpeton) - Leaf Village
  • Wahpe Kute Tunwan (Wahpekute) - Leaf Archers
  • Sinsin Tunwan (Sisseton) - Swamp Village

Wiciyela Oyate (Yankton/Yanktonais — Dakota Dialect ; commonly mislabeled as Nakota* Dialect)

  • Ihanktunwan - End of Horn Village
  • Ihanktunwanna - Little End of Horn Village

Tinte Oyate (Tetons — Lakota Dialect)

  • Tinte Ta Tunwan (Tintatunwan Oceti Sakowin) - Plains Nation

Within the Tinte Ta Tunwan / Tintatunwan Oceti Sakown (#7), there are another seven subdivisions:

Tintatunwan Oceti Sakowin - Lakota

  • Oglala - Scatters Their Own (Pine Ridge Indian Reservation)
  • Sicangu - Burnt Thighs (Rosebud Reservation, Lower Brule Reservation)
  • Hwohwoju (Mnikiwoju/Mniconjou) - Swamp Plant  (Cheyenne River Reservation)
  • Itazipcola (Itazipco) - No Bow  (Cheyenne River Reservation)
  • Owohe Nunpa (Oohenunpa) - Two Paunch Boiler (Cheyenne River Reservation)
  • Sihasapa - Black Feet (Cheyenne River Reservation, Standing Rock Reservation)
  • Hunkpapa - End of Horn (Standing Rock Reservation)


*modern terminology
*In the past, the term Nakota has been applied to the Yankton, but this is a mistake. The Yankton speak Dakota. Nakota speakers are Assiniboine / Hohe and Stoney, who broke off from the Yankton at a time so long ago their language is now nearly unrecognizable to Lakota and Dakota speakers.

Zitkala-Ša, shown here in 1898, was a Sioux (Yankton Dakota) writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist. She wrote several works chronicling her youthful struggles with identity and pulls between the majority culture and her Native American heritage. Her later books in English were among the first works to bring traditional Native American stories to a widespread white readership. Working with American William F. Hanson, Zitkala-Ša wrote the libretto and songs for The Sun Dance Opera, (1913), the first Native American opera. She was a co-founder of the National Council of American Indians in 1926 to lobby for rights to United States citizenship and civil rights. She served as its president until her death in 1938.

Zitkala-Sa

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zitkala-Sa

Zitkala-Ša (1876–1938), also known by the missionary-given name Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was a Sioux (Yankton Dakota) writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist. She wrote several works chronicling her youthful struggles with identity and pulls between the majority culture and her Native American heritage. Her later books in English were among the first works to bring traditional Native American stories to a widespread white readership.

She founded the National Council of American Indians in 1926 to lobby for rights to American citizenship and civil rights. She served as its president until her death in 1938.

In addition to photographing the Sioux performers sent by Buffalo Bill Cody to her studio, Käsebier was able to arrange a portrait session with Zitkala Sa, “Red Bird,” also known as Gertrude Simmons (1876-1938), a Yankton Sioux woman of Native American and white mixed ancestry. She was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, like many of the Sioux traveling with the Wild West show. She was educated at reservation schools, the Carlisle Indian School, Earlham College in Indiana, and the Boston Conservatory of Music. Zitkala Sa became an accomplished author, musician, composer, and dedicated worker for the reform of United States Indian policies. Käsebier photographed Zitkala Sa in tribal dress and western clothing, clearly identifying the two worlds in which this woman lived and worked. In many of the images, Zitkala Sa holds her violin or a book, further indicating her interests. Käsebier experimented with changing backdrops, including a Victorian floral print, and photographic printing. She used the painterly gum-bichromate process for several of these images, adding increased texture and softer tones to the photographs.

Delegation from Yankton, Santee, Upper Missouri Sioux, Sac and Fox, Ojibwe, Ottawa, Kickapoo, and Miami tribes posing with President Johnson on the steps of the White House, February 23, 1867.

When I see those DC cheerleaders prancing out in skimpy outfits and sexy “NDN War Bonnets” I think of my ancestor Owl Man. Here he is wearing his Eagle Feather headdress to the White House to sign a treaty with President Andrew Johnson. I wonder did he ever foresee this? And would he consider it an “honor”? Everything they gave up to maintain their way of life. The women scolded the men when they got back for signing away the salt mines where they gathered the salt to preserve the meat. Or when he had to shoot a Santee man at the behest of the United States to prove Yankton loyalty and to save the rest of the Santee who had taken refuge with us after the Minnesota Sioux Uprising? Is this what he would have wanted for us 146 years later?

Zitkala-Sa ~ Yankton Dakota

Zitkala-Ša (1876–1938) (Dakota: pronounced zitkála-ša, which translates to “Red Bird”), also known by the missionary-given name Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, was a Sioux writer, editor, musician, teacher and political activist. She wrote several works chronicling her youthful struggles with identity and pulls between the majority culture and her Native American heritage.