external image 1985.66.470_1b.jpgthis is the dakota tribe preparing a meal,and playing music.
external image woodbead.gifexternal image woodbead.gifexternal image woodbead.gifSioux Tribeexternal image woodbead.gifexternal image woodbead.gifexternal image woodbead.gif

external image woodbead.gifWhat is the difference between the Lakota and Dakota Sioux? What do these words mean?
There is no real difference. "Lakota" and "Dakota" are different pronunciations of the same tribal name, which means "the allies." One Sioux dialect has the letter "L" in it, and the other dialect does not. This is only a pronunciation difference, not a political one. Of the 13 Sioux political subdivisions, seven pronounce the word "Lakota," four pronounce it "Dakota," one pronounces it "Nakota," and one is split between pronouncing it "Dakota" and "Nakota." But they all consider themselves part of the same overall culture.

"Sioux," on the other hand, is not a Lakota or Dakota name. It comes from the Ojibway name for the tribe, which means "little snakes." Many Lakotas and Dakotas use the word Sioux to refer to themselves when they're speaking English, however.

external image woodbead.gifWhere do the Sioux people live?
The original Lakota/Dakota homelands were in what is now Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. The Sioux traveled freely, however, and there was also significant Sioux presence in the modern states of Iowa, Nebraska, Montana, and northern Illinois, and in south-central Canada. Today, most Sioux people live in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Saskatchewan.

external image woodbead.gifHow is the Sioux Indian nation organized?
There are 13 Sioux political subdivisions, combined into seven major tribes (the Mdewakanton, Sisseton, Teton, Wahpekute, Wahpeton, Yankton, and Yanktonai Sioux tribes.) However, today, these divisions have more cultural significance than political. Each Dakota/Lakota band is politically autonomous, which means it has its own land and leadership and makes decisions independently of other Sioux bands. Like most Native American tribes, each Lakota/Dakota community lives on its own reservation ("reserve," in Canada), which belongs to them and is legally under their control. However, the US and Canadian governments still consider the Sioux citizens. Each Lakota/Dakota band has its own government, laws, police, and other services, just like a small country. The political leader of a band is called "itancan" in the Dakota and Lakota language, usually translated as "chief" or "president" in English. The itancan used to be a man chosen by tribal councilmembers, but today Sioux tribal leaders can be of either gender and are popularly elected in most Dakota/Lakota bands, just as mayors and governors are.

external image woodbead.gifWhat language do the Sioux people speak?
Nearly all Lakota and Dakota people speak English, but about 15,000 Sioux Indians are bilingual in their native Lakota/Dakota language. Despite pronunciation differences, Lakota and Dakota speakers can understand each other easily, just like people who speak American English and Canadian English can. If you'd like to know a few easy Sioux words, "hau" (pronounced similar to the English word "how") is a friendly greeting in both the Lakota and Dakota dialects, and "wašte" (pronounced wash-tay) means "good." You can see a picture glossary of Lakota animal words here-- click on each word to hear it spoken aloud.