Sep 16, 2014

Sioux Nation: One of the First American People

Chief Bone Neck, 1899
The Sioux became famous in American history for their effort to retain their lives and culture in the Black Hills of a region of what would become South Dakota, when Plains native tribes consolidated and fought against George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

According to anthropologists and archaeologists, the Sioux, as other native Americans, arrived from the Euro-Asia approximately 30,000 years ago.

Modern science has used DNA samples to determine the lineage of Native Americans …

Dakota Sioux Woman
For most of their history they were nomadic hunter/gatherers who settled in the Plains of North America where vast herds of buffalo provided meat, clothing, and useful tools and accoutrements made from their bones. It was against their culture to waste what nature had generously provided.
A controversial discovery of a skeleton found in the state of Washington, which may show that ancient Euro-Asians or Indo-Europeans may have been among those who crossed the Siberian Straight. The skeleton found was a man who died 9,000 years ago and has been dubbed the Kennewick Man

Sioux Chiefs
Until the Spanish introduced horses to native Americans in the 1500s, the Sioux hunted buffalo by their skill and by foot. The horse provided a means of transporting their belongings and chasing down buffalo in the great hunts; appealing to their nomadic lifestyle.
Tribes were organized into cultural chiefs – for war, civil leadership, and experienced men of medicine. Tribal chiefs became leaders of the entire tribe and influence over others if they demonstrated strong warrior skills.
Lewis Clark Expedition, Corps III
After the Lewis and Clark Expedition, settlers began to filter westward across the Appalachian Mountains further and further and in greater numbers. Before that, only trappers and traders were present, mostly French; who generally got along with the local natives, marrying native women, which strengthened the bond. As settlers began to grow in number, even the free-living trappers would be pushed further into wilderness until there was no where else to go.
Red Cloud & American Horse
Although the Sioux had been in North America for thousands of years, they never developed a system of private land ownership; mostly because of their nomadic nature. There were tribal boundaries and sacred grounds which belonged to the whole community.
The Sioux belong to a group of natives called the Great Plains Indians, consisting of seven tribes divided into three major divisions: Eastern is the Dakota or Santee, Middle Division is the Nakota or Yanktonai and Yanton, and the Western Division is the Lakota or Teton.
The term 'Indians' had been past down from the time Columbus thought he had discovered East India; which of course is anthropologically incorrect. Attempts to correct this incorrect identification has been made starting in the 20th century and most tribes called themselves 'First Nation' people or by their tribal names.
Crazy Horse: Sacred Warrior, painting by Charles Eastman
The Black Hills of South Dakota had become a sacred area to the Sioux tribes and treaties were established with the US government in 1815, 1825, and 1851. Unfortunately, those treaties were broken by the federal government and settlers who did not heed or care about treaties.
In 1862, during the American Civil War, Chief Little Crow led Sioux warriors in revolt against 800 settlers and soldiers in Minnesota; but the revolt did not succeed in keeping settlers encroaching upon treaty designated Sioux lands.
When Sioux and Blackfoot Meet by Charles Russell
The Sioux gave up a large section of territory in 1867, agreeing to remain on a reservation in Dakota Territory by 1876. However, the Gold Rush, despite government and military authorities discouraging it, caused the land to be infiltrated and thus the treaty broken once again.
Another revolt broke out and for the first time, tribes gathered together to oust the intruders who had broken the treaty and fight against the US military sent to disband and take over the land that had been promised them. It must have been an incredible sight to see thousands of mixed tribes camped together preparing for the great war when George Armstrong Custer arrived with his cavalry. The leadership was coordinated between Chief Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, and Gall led the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Massacre at Wounded Knee
Chief Spotted Elk, Wounded Knee
The last major conflict fought by the Sioux was the Battle of Wounded Knee which resulted in the massacre of more than 200 natives including women and children. In defeat, the Sioux were forced onto a reservation. The Dawes General Allotment Act, passed by Congress in 1887, enacted the break up of large reservations and the sale of native lands, which included Sioux lands promised in previous treaties – sold to settlers.
In history, the Sioux shared a region with other tribes, occasionally making war upon each other. Those major tribes were the Crow, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Pawnee; also including the Ojibwa (Chippewa) and Iowa along with other Great Plains native.
Ashamedly, the federal government did not declare (or recognize) that all native Americans were citizens of the United States until 1969!
Stella Yellow Shirt, Dakota Sioux
Wyoming is one of the states with the major representation of these tribes that includes the Dakotas and Nebraska as well as Montana, as depicted in the following video:
The first contact with Europeans recorded was at the Mississippi River in the 1600s. As aforementioned, Dakota Sioux had entered an alliance with French merchants and trappers who were trying to gain an advantage in the North American fur trade against the English, who had established the Hudson Bay Company.
While the Pawnee, Sioux and Cheyenne inhabited the Great Plains, there was a constant struggle against each of those major tribes. Indeed, the Pawnee later became scouts for the US military mainly because it pitted against their ancient territorial enemy – the Sioux. The last battle between Pawnee and Sioux took place at Massacre Canyon in 1873.
In Canada, the Sioux and other tribes fared better than those in the United States and even today the Canadian government recognizes the tribes as First Nations. Unlike the US government, the Canadian government honored their treaties. Lands where the First Nations dwell is referred to as Indian Reserves, rather than “Reservation”.
Stone Calf
In 2007, a group of Native American activists calling themselves the Lakota Freedom Delegation declared the official withdrawal of all Lakota treaties signed with the United States in an effort to regain their sovereignty. One of the major activists was Russell Means, who claimed that the action was legal and the Lakota nation would be called the Republic of Lakota, considering it a sovereign nation, yet still not recognized. It is a reclamation of thousands of square kilometers of North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Wyoming. The Cheyenne River Sioux have their own tribal flag:
The traditional Sioux clothing is interesting and decorative, made chiefly from deer hide, soft, supple, and strong; and adorned with traditional decorations.

The Sioux, even today, hold ceremonies that feature dancing, singing, and a feast. Their artwork varied from buffalo-hide paintings, usually made by men and bead art craftily made by women traditionally. They were also skilled at quillwork and pottery. Their tipi shelters were often decorated with art, a unique dwelling that could easily be disassembled and put back together when moving from camp to camp.
Men wore deerskin shirts and leggings (pants) and women wore full length dresses with leggings when the weather turned cold. Moccasins were worn to protect the feet, made from animal hide, sometimes that reached just below the knees to protect from snow and cold of winter sewn and bound with thong made from animal hide.
Only chiefs wore warbonnets, but as aforementioned, there could be several chiefs in a large tribe.
Sunflower-Dakota, 1899
The Confederation formed from several tribes made them strong when it came time to wage war.
Before the firearm was introduced, their chief weapons of war and hunting were bows and spears.
While the American settler culture viewed the native American as a savage, the Sioux, like other tribes, viewed the whites as barbarians with no respect or kinship with nature; as evident when in the 1800s railroads would sell tickets to traveling hunting parties who would shoot from the train leaving dead carcasses across the plains; while the buffalo hunter skinned them and left everything else to rot. This horrified the Sioux and other Plains natives.
Funeral Scaffold
The History Channel website features a short video from a story told by a Sioux tribe member entitled The Last of the Sioux.
In the 1890s, Gertrude Kรคdebier heard about the Buffalo Bill's Wild West traveling theatrical performance, who went to a New York performance and began to take portraits of the Native Americans who were part of the show. The following is from her collection …
Lakota Sioux of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show: Gertrude Kasebier
Chief Rain-in-the-Face, a Lakota Hunkpapa Sioux who participated in the Battle of Little Bighorn, swore vengeance against Captain Tom Custer, the brother of General George Custer, stating he would cut out Tom Custer's heart. In his own words, the chief stated:
Chief Rain-in-the-Face
I had sung the war song, I had smelt power smoke, my heart was bad--I was like one who had no mind. I rushed in and took their flag; my pony fell dead as I took it. I cut the thong that bound me; I jumped up and brained the sword flag man with my war club, and ran back to our line with the flag. I was mad. I got a fresh pony and rushed back, shooting, cutting and slashing. This pony was shot and I got another. This time I saw Little Hair (Tom Custer)-- I remembered my vow. I was crazy; I feared nothing. I knew nothing would hurt me, for I had my white weasel tail on. I don't know how many I killed trying to get at him. He knew me. I laughed at him and yelled at him. I saw his mouth move, but there was so much noise I couldn't hear his voice. He was afraid. When I got near enough I shot him with my revolver. My gun was gone, I didn't know where. I got back on my pony and rode off. I was satisfied and sick of fighting.

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