The Sioux Indians (Part2)

The Sioux Indians


In 1909 nearly 10,000 of the 25,000 Sioux within the United States were officially reported as Christians. The proportion is now probably at least one-half, of whom about half are Catholic, the others being chiefly Episcopalian and Presbyterian. The Catholic missions are: Our Lady of Sorrows, Fort Totten, N. D. (Devil's Lake Res.), Benedictine; St. Elizabeth, Cannonball, N. D. (Standing Rock Res.), Benedictine; St. Peter, Fort Yates, N. D. (Standing Rock Res.), Benedictine; St. James, Porcupine (Shields P. O.), N. D. (Standing Rock Res.), Benedictine; St. Benedict, Standing Rock Agency, S. D. (Standing Rock Res.), Benedictine; St. Aloysius, Standing Rock Agency, S. D., (Standing Rock Res.), Benedictine; St. Edward, Standing Rock Agency, S. D., (Standing Rock Res.), Benedictine; St. Bede, Standing Rock Agency, S. D. (Standing Rock Res.), Benedictine; Immaculate Conception, Stephan, S. D. (Crow Creek Res.), Benedictine; St. Matthew, Veblen Co. (Britton P.O.) S.D. (former Sisseton Res.), secular; Corpus Christi, Cheyenne River Agency, S. D. (Chey. R. Res.), secular; St. Francis, Rosebud, S. D. (Rosebud Res.), Jesuit; Holy rosary, Pine Ridge, S. D. (Pine Ridge Res.), Jesuit. The two Jesuit missions maintain boarding-schools, and are assisted by Franciscan Sisters. The Immaculate Conception mission also maintains a boarding-school, with Benedictine Sisters. At the Fort Totten mission a monthly paper, "Sina Sapa Wocekiye Taeyanpaha" (Black-gown Prayer Herald), entirely in the Sioux language, is published under the editorship of Father Jerome Hunt, who has been with the mission from its foundation. Notable events in the religious life of the tribe are the Catholic Sioux congresses held in the summer of each year, one in North and one in South Dakota, which are attended by many high church dignitaries and mission workers and several thousands of Catholic Indians. Of some 470 Christian Sioux in Canada about one-fourth are Catholic, chiefly at Standing Buffalo Reservation, Sask., where they are served from the Oblate mission school at Qu'Appelle.


The Sioux were not a compact nation with centralized government and supreme head chief, but were a confederacy of seven allied sub-tribes speaking a common language, each with a recognized head chief and each subdivided into bands or villages governed by subordinate chiefs. The seven sub-tribes, from east to west, were: (1) Mdewakantonwan (Mde-wakanton) Village (people) of the Spirit Lake (i.e. Mille Lac); (2) Wakhpekute "Leaf Shooters"; (3) Wakhpetonwan (Wahpeton), "Village in the Leaves"; (4) Sisitonwan (Sisseton), "Village of the Marsh"; (5) Ihanktonwan (Yankton), "Village at the End"; (6) Ihanktonwanna (Yanktonai), "Little Yankton"; (7) Titonwan (Teton), "Village of the Prairie". Of these, the first four, originally holding the heads of the Mississippi, constitute the Isanti (Santee) or eastern, dialectic group. The Yankton and Yanktonai, about the lower and upper courses of the James River respectively, together with the Assiniboin tribe constitute the central dialectic group. The great Teton division, west of the Missouri and comprising three-fifths of the whole nation, constitutes a third dialectic group. The Teton are divided into seven principal bands, commonly known as Ogalala (at Pine Ridge); Brulé (at Rosebud and Lower Brulé); Hunkpapa (at Standing Rock); Miniconju, Sans-Arc; and Two Kettle (Cheyenne River). Among the more sedentary eastern bands chiefship seems to have been hereditary in the male line, but with the roving western bands it depended usually upon pre-eminent ability. In their original home about the heads of the Mississippi the Sioux subsisted chiefly upon wild rice, fish, and small game, and were expert canoe men, but as they drifted west into the plains and obtained possession of the horse their whole manner of life was changed, and they became a race of equestrian nomads, subsisting almost entirely upon the buffalo. They seem never to have been agricultural to any great extent. Their dwelling was the birch-bark lodge in the east and the buffalo-skin tipi on the plain. Their dead were sometimes deposited in a coffin upon the surface of the ground, but more often laid upon a scaffolding or in the tree-tops. Food and valuables were left with the corpse, and relatives gashed their bodies with knives and cut off their hair in token of grief. Besides the knife, bow, and hatchet of the forest warrior, they carried also on the plains the lance and shield of the horseman. Polygamy was recognized. There was no clan system.

To the Sioux the earth was a great island plain surrounded by an ocean far to the west of which was the spirit world. There were two souls-some said four-one of which remained near the grave after death, while the other traveled on to the spirit world, or in certain cases became a wandering and dangerous ghost. In the west also, in a magic house upon the top of a high mountain and guarded by four sentinel animals at the four doorways, lived the Wakinyan, or thunders, the greatest of the gods, and mortal enemies of the subterranean earth spirits and the water spirits. the sun also was a great god. There was no supreme "Great Spirit", as supposed by the whites, no ethical code to their supernaturalism, and no heaven or hell in their spirit world. Among animals the buffalo was naturally held in highest veneration. Fairies and strange monsters, both good and bad, were everywhere, usually invisible, but sometimes revealing themselves in warning portent. Dreams were held as direct revelations of the supernatural. Taboos, fasting, and sacrifices, including voluntary torture, were frequent. Among the great ceremonials the annual sun dance was the most important, on which occasion the principal performers danced at short intervals for four days and nights, without food, drink, or sleep, undergoing at the same time painful bodily laceration, either as a propitiation or in fulfillment of a thanksgiving vow. The several warrior orders and various secret societies each had their special dance, and for young girls there was a puberty ceremony. (For cults and home life see works of Dorsey and Eastman quoted in bibliography below.) In physique, intellect, morality, and general manliness the Sioux rated among the finest of the Plains tribes. Under the newer conditions the majority are now fairly industrious and successful farmers and stock-raisers.


The Sioux language is euphonious, sonorous, and flexible, and possesses a more abundant native literature than that of any other tribe within the United States, with the possible exception of the Cherokee. By means of an alphabet system devised by the early Presbyterian missionaries, nearly all of the men can read and write their own language. The printed literature includes religious works, school textbooks, grammars, and dictionaries, miscellaneous publications, and three current mission journals, Catholic, as already noted, Presbyterian, and Episcopal, all three entirely in Sioux. The earliest publication was a spelling-book by Rev. J. D. Stevens in 1836. In linguistics the principal is the "Grammar and Dictionary of the Dakota Language", by Rev. S. R. Riggs, published by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, in 1852, and republished in part, with editing by Dorsey, by the Bureau of Am. Ethnology, Washington, in 1892-4.


Contrary to the usual rule with Indian tribes, the Sioux have not only held their own since the advent of the whites, but have apparently slightly increased. This increase, however, is due largely to incorporation of captives and intermarriage of whites. We have no reliable estimates for the whole tribe before 1849, when Governor Ramsey gave them "not over 20,000", while admitting that some resident authorities gave them 40,000 or more. Riggs in 1851 gives them about 25,000, but under-estimates the western (Teton) bands. By official census of 1910 they number altogether 28,618 souls, including all mixed-bloods, distributed as follows: Minnesota, scattered, about 929; Nebraska, Santee agency, 1155; North Dakota, Devil's Lake (Fort Totten) agency, 986; Standing Rock agency, 3454; South Dakota, Flandreau agency, 275, Lower Brulé, 469, Crow Creek, 997, Yankton, 1753, Sisseton, 1994, Cheyenne river, 2590, Rosebud, 5096, Pine Ridge, 6758. Canada: Birdtail, Oak Lake, Oak River, Turtle Mountain, Portage La Prairie (Manitoba), 613; Wahspaton, Standing Buffalo, Moosejaw, Moose Woods (Sask.), 455. Those in Canada are chiefly descendants of refugees from the United States in 1862 and 1876.