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Native American

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What are Sioux Indians?

Marjorie McAtee
By
Updated: May 17, 2024

The Sioux Indians are a Native American tribe that originated in the Great Lakes region, but later occupied the American Midwest and south-central Canada. There are seven tribes of Sioux Indians, with some split further into subdivisions. Most of the Sioux speak either the Lakota or Dakota dialect of their native language, as well as English. Most Sioux Indians continue to live on sovereign reservations in the region considered their traditional homeland. In the past, Sioux Indians followed a traditional way of life, but most modern tribe members enjoy modern lifestyles.

The Sioux people are believed to have once occupied the Great Lakes area. They may have been displaced to the plains by other native tribes who were moving west, perhaps displaced themselves by white settlement. On the plains, the Sioux largely followed a traditional, nomadic way of life reliant upon hunting and gathering.

In the past, the Sioux lived in teepees made of buffalo hide. Teepees could usually be erected and dismantled rapidly when the tribe wanted to make or leave camp. The Sioux Indians are believed to have once relied heavily on the buffalo for food, clothing, and shelter.

In traditional Sioux society, women were generally considered the keepers of the home, while men were generally considered warriors and hunters. Men typically provided for and protected the family, while women typically cared for the home, including transporting the teepee when the tribe moved. Both women and men usually participated in many community-oriented activities, such as medicine and storytelling. Traditionally, men usually wore leather leggings, breechcloths and buckskin shirts, while women wore leather dresses. Moccasins were considered the footwear of choice.

Today, seven tribes of Sioux Indians remain, mostly occupying their traditional homeland on Sioux reservations. Each tribe typically lives on its own reservation, and governs itself. Sioux reservations are generally considered sovereign nations, meaning that they aren't under the control of the United States or Canadian governments. The residents of Sioux reservations are generally considered citizens of the United States or Canada, as well as members of the Sioux Nation. Sioux government typically consists of a tribal council, often overseen by a council chairman, vice-chairman, and secretary.

Many modern Sioux Indians speak English as well as their native dialect of the Sioux language. Dialects are often similar enough to allow members of different tribes to speak to one another without confusion. Modern members of the Sioux tribe mostly live modern lifestyles, and pursue modern careers on their tribal reservations.

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Marjorie McAtee
By Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee, a talented writer and editor with over 15 years of experience, brings her diverse background and education to everything she writes. With degrees in relevant fields, she crafts compelling content that informs, engages, and inspires readers across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a skilled member of any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By anon324894 — On Mar 13, 2013

To me the Sioux are a proud nation. They were a proud people trying to defend what was theirs. I live in Tasmania and my forefathers committed genocide on our native inhabitants. I understand your feelings.

By B707 — On Oct 04, 2011

@jmc88 - I agree with you. We still have a lot to do to untangle the perceptions of how the Sioux and other tribes fought for their rights. Much of the written history of relations between the Sioux Tribe has been slanted. The actions of both the Sioux Indians and the U.S. Army were cruel.

I admire the accomplishments of the Sioux Tribes through the years. For many of them, their lives on their reservations are successful. And they govern themselves in an organized way. They have retained their old culture, with storytelling and crafts.

By titans62 — On Oct 04, 2011

@jmc88 - I agree with you. Because the Sioux were simply maybe the Indian Tribe leading the charge for equal rights and for their right to land over the years they have been characterized as a trouble making Indian Tribe.

Their perception in history at Little Bighorn has changed and has now looked at General Custer in a negative light, as opposed to the Sioux, and people have started to accept the standoff in the 1970's at Wounded Knee as being a case of a tribe desperately trying to obtain equality.

I think that simply because the same tribe has been so active in one way or another over the years people have made unfair associations with the tribe and should accept them as an active tribe that has done a lot for Indian equality throughout history.

By jmc88 — On Oct 03, 2011

@Emilski - Although history has changed in regards to its depicting of various Indian tribes I feel that there is still a negative perception of the Sioux.

Ever since Little Bighorn the Sioux have been depicted as being very radical and active Indian tribes. Little Bighorn was the greatest victory for an Indian tribe during the Indian Wars and because of this victory and how many American soldiers died, they have been used as the example people go to to paint the picture of American Indians as being savages.

As an historian this is very sad that they were depicted in such a way when they were simply fighting for their right to their land.

I will also point out that I think some animosity for the Sioux continues to this day because of Sioux leaders leading activist charges in the 1970's such as the standoff at Wounded Knee. Again an unfair characterization that really does not make a whole lot of sense, but people tend to associate the Sioux as being troublemakers and it is really unfair.

By Emilski — On Oct 03, 2011

@JimmyT - I agree with your assessment. The Sioux tribe has gotten a bad wrap over the years and it is probably because of how history was written concerning Indian tribes.

A lot of history written before the 1950's had a hint of racism involved and thus Indian tribes were characterized as savages. The Indian Wars depiction was no different as the people invading tribal lands were actually seen as being in the right and the Indians were seen as the brutal roadblocks that had to be eradicated.

It is a little sickening to think about how history was written about Indian tribes and it has taken many decades for their written history to not be as biased.

By JimmyT — On Oct 02, 2011

I have always felt that the Sioux Indians have been unfairly characterized as a brutal tribe due to the massacre of General George Custer's troops at Little Bighorn.

I have always believed that because of Sioux resistance to western expansion and their ability to fight back against the American army this has created the perception that the tribe was war hungry and willing to kill whoever they wanted.

In reality, the Indian wars were particularly brutal on both sides and the Sioux were a tribe that was willing to stand up and fight against the army trying to take over their land. Considering that Little Bighorn was the most successful battle that any Indian nation had during these wars and turned so badly for the United States Army, over the years it has made the Sioux look like they were brutal savages.

Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee, a talented writer and editor with over 15 years of experience, brings her diverse background and education to everything she writes. With degrees in relevant fields, she crafts compelling content that informs, engages, and inspires readers across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a skilled member of any content creation team.
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