Bureau of Indian Affairs
Turtle Mountain Consolidated Agency
Belcourt, North Dakota

      I feel that we have worked up quite a complete history of the Fort Totten Reservation. Many people write us concerning a history of the Reservation and this information will cover the subject quite completely.

      The original Reservation at Fort Totten, which is located near Devils Lake, North Dakota, was 230,000 acres. Most of the allotments were made in 1893 and continued until 1905. There were 1,205 original allottees, which took about 130,000 of the 250,000 acres; 100,000 acres were then sold to the Government and opened up for white settlement. The land base at the present time is not sufficient for the number of people who live in the area. There are some 50,000 acres left in Indian ownership; 65 percent of this land is very much fractionated. For instance, we have an allotment of 160 acres which has around 140 heirs. Thirty-five percent of the land is in individual ownership. At the present time there are only 700 portions of allotments left. The other 505 have been sold over the years.

      The land in this area is a glacial deposit, very hilly in spots and covered with brush. There is still some good timber land in the area; the timber being a number of varieties. At one time a very good stand of oak covered a great deal of the Reservation. There are in the neighborhood of 2,000 people still living on the Fort Totten Reservation, and the population is more or less static. Very few of the people utilize their own land--most of the land is rented to non-Indians. In the early days much revenue was obtained from timber, which was sold to the surrounding homesteaders. At the present time the value of the timber is very small. Most of the Indian people make their homes from the oak logs and use the other varieties for firewood. Nearly all of the homes on the Reservation are one and two room log houses.

      There is a large fullblood element on this Reservation. In fact, the people, as a whole, are much more Indian than non-Indian. They still speak the Sioux language and follow many of the old traditions. Actually they do not completely have the old Indian culture; neither do they have the non-Indian culture. They seem to be more or less in a dilemma between the two.

      The Lake, which joins the Reservation on the North and is called Devils Lake, at one time was very large. From the southern-most point to the northern-most point it was a distance of about 50 miles. Boats carried many supplies from the town of Devils Lake to Churchs' Ferry, Minnewaukan, and many other places around the Lake in the early days. This was when the water was at its maximum height. For the past 20 or 30 years this Lake has been very low. In fact, in 1934 it became so low that one living nearby could hardly stand the stench of the Lake, For the past 30 years the water has been salty, and being very odiferous would not support fish. In the early days of the boat traffic the Lake was of the fresh water variety and contained a great many palatable fish. It is hoped in the not too distant future that the diversion project from the Missouri River will make this Lake one of the vacation spots in North Dakota. When this diversion program does go through it definitely will make Devils Lake a wonderful fishing and vacation area. I have delved into early history of Devils Lake and find that the Indian people did not make their homes around this Lake particularly, but would come in great numbers at certain times of the years to get together with other bands of Sioux for their celebrations. In other words it was a spot for many bands of Sioux Indians to go to play games and tell about their exploits. In visiting the City of Devils Lake today, one couldn't imagine that large freighting boats were moored just South of the railroad tracks, near the Ottertail Power Company's headquarters. In visiting Minnewaukan, one could not imagine that large freighters landed supplies at the East end of this town. When full, Devils Lake covered hundreds of thousands of acres. This Lake has always been a mecca for migratory water fowl; it has been a hunter's paradise for many years.

      The old Fort is still standing, like it was the day it was built some 70 to 80 years ago. The buildings are still used by the Federal Government for housing employees and a boarding school. There are over 270 students enrolled at the Fort Totten Boarding School. The old Fort buildings are used for classrooms and dormitories. These old buildings were made of brick, which were made locally by the soldiers. The walls of the buildings are two to three feet thick. The buildings are arranged in more or less of a square for protection that was needed at the time they were built. The old powder house magazine still stands in very good repair. I suggest that if you are ever in the area it will be an interesting experience for you to visit Fort Totten. Fort Totten, and Fort Sisseton which is located in Northeastern South Dakota, are the only old Forts that I know of in the West that still stand like they were when built many, many years ago. It is hoped that, when a new school building is constructed at Fort Totten, the State of North Dakota will be interested in taking over the land and buildings of the old Fort to be used for a historical shrine. We have contacted the North Dakota Historical Society and interested members in the vicinity of Fort Totten and they seems to be anxious to take over these buildings some time in the future and keep them open for public visitations. I feel this will be an unusual drawing card for tourists in the future.

      The employment on and near the Reservation is strictly seasonal. The Indian people do not have opportunities for year-round employment. During the summer months they work for local farmers, some go away on construction projects, others go into the Red River Valley for employment. We have a Relocation Officer stationed at Fort Totten. The people, if they wish, are given the opportunity of taking advantage of our Relocation Service to St. Louis, Chicago, San Jose, Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco and the Bay Area. This program is financed by the Federal Government, and is a voluntary service which is free to the Indian people provided they are willing to accept it. We have had a Relocation Officer at Fort Totten for the past year. The people of that area must realize the lack of employment and be willing to go where there are opportunities for them. Some of the people have made the adjustment and are doing very well at these Relocation centers.

      There is a cement plant located on the South shore of the Lake which has employed a few Indians for many years. This cement plant happens to be located on the allotment which has over 140 heirs. This particular allotment has had a good grade of gravel on it for many years; however, it has about come to the point where all the gravel has been utilized.

      We maintain a road system on the Fort Totten Reservation. The road system is in the neighborhood of 70 to 80 miles of graded and gravelled roads, maintained by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

      The Devils Lake Sioux are actually a part of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Band, which is located in Northeastern South Dakota; they have many relatives living at Sisseton. These people also have many relatives living in Canada. The Reservation West of Brandon, Manitoba, are descendants of the Sioux Indians who fought in the Minnesota Massacre. Many of these people fled into Canada after the Massacre and did not return.

      Many years ago, when the Chippewas and Sioux were at war the Sisseton-Wahpeton Band came West out of Minnesota and settled around Big Stone Lake which was formerly inhabited by the Teton Band of Sioux. The Band being quite large, naturally many of them traveled West and North. The Buffalo, at that time were quite plentiful. This movement of the Sissetons to Big Stone Lake was quite some time before Lewis and Clark made their way up the Missouri River. Branches of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux, under Standing Buffalo, Scarlet Plume, and other chiefs, traveled the area around Devils Lake, and at one time winter-camped in this area. During the time General Sidley was in the country Buffalo hunting along the Sheyenne River in North Dakota. At this time, however, there was no established Reservation as we think of it today in this area.

      I suggest that in order to get as complete a history that can be obtained you purchase "A History of the Dakotas or Sioux Indians" by Doane Robinson, published by Ross and Haynes, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is a complete reprint of the first volume published by the State Historical Society of South Dakota; Doane Robinson being the first State Historian, having functioned in that job in the 1880's. I personally think it would be a very good investment for anyone interested in the history of the Sioux Indians.

      The word "Sisseton" as I have been able to gather, means "People Living in a Swamp" or "People of the Prairie Marshes." The word "Wahpeton" means "People living among Leaves," or among trees.

      With the following historical background of the Reservation I feel this write-up will give you a good picture of the Fort Totten Indian Reservation.

Harold W. Schunk


      Fort Totten, Dakota Territory, was established by General A. H. Terry July 17, 1867. It was one of a series of posts built for the protection of an overland route extending from southern Minnesota into western Montana. The other forts in the series were Abercrombie, Ransom, Stevenson, Buford, and Camp Cooke at the mouth of the Judith River in Montana, and Benton.

      Early in the summer of 1867, with a considerable force, General Terry advanced into Devils Lake Region. He had with his command Pierre Bottineau, a French scout, who acted as guide to his expedition. Leaving a detachment on the south shore of Devils Lake, General Terry proceeded to Fort Stevenson, where he took command of companies A. D. and M. of the Thirty-first Infantry, they having arrived at that post by way of the Missouri River a short time previously. With these troops, General Terry returned to the south shore of Devils Lake and immediately began the construction of a temporary fort. The fort was immediately named Totten in honor of Brevet Major General Joseph Gilbert Totten, late chief Engineer of the United States Army. The spot selected for the fort was located within the Devils Lake Indian Reservation, on the south side of Devils Lake about nine hundred feet from the shore.

      At the time the fort was build the shores of the lake in the immediate vicinity were skirted with dense groves of ash, elm, and oak. Machinery for a sawmill had been brought from Fort Stevenson and the rude log structures of the temporary fort were soon well under process of construction. Before cold weather set in, the troops were fairly comfortable in their new winter quarters. The buildings enclosed a space about four hundred feet square as a parade ground. Standing about twenty feet back from the north side was a stockade built of oak logs, from about twelve to eighteen inches in thickness, and eighteen feet high. On the south side of the fort, between the magazine and the blacksmith shop was the sally port of entrance gate, made of heavy four inch planks.

      When Fort Totten was built, there were no Indians in the immediate vicinity. During the following winter, two traders, with an interpreter, went out to the Big Bend of the Mouse River and invited the Sioux to come into the Fort. The Indians sent back a small force of warriors to determine whether or not this invitation was made in good faith. Being satisfied that it was, they returned and the Indians began gradually to come into the fort and settle in small bands on the reservation in the near vicinity of the post. Their willingness to do this was probably due to their starving condition. The commanding officer found it absolutely necessary to issue large quantities of rations to these Indians during the first winter to prevent their dying of hunger.

      In 1870, J. W. Daniels, the United States Agent on the Sisseton Indian Agency, Dakota Territory, recommended that an Indian Agent be appointed for the Fort Totten Reservation.

      At this time there was were no buildings for employees or storage of supplies but the acting assistant quartermaster at Fort Totten had offered the old log quarters for the use of the Indian Department during the coming winter months.

      On May 4th, 1871, William H. Forbes, the first United States Indian Agent arrived at Fort Totten. On September 30th of the same year he reported the number of Indians on the Agency to be 732. During the summer of 1871 they had planted over one hundred acres and had raised 1500 bushels of corn, 500 bushels of potatoes, 1000 bushels of turnips, and had cut and stacked 200 tons of hay. The agent lived at the Old Fort for lack of better quarters.

      On September 6, 1872, Major Forbes, again reported to the Indian Department that the largest number of Indians on the Agency during the year was 725. The wheat and oats crop that summer had been destroyed by grasshoppers. However, the Indians had harvested 2000 bushels of corn, 1500 bushels of potatoes and had put up 300 tons of hay. A saw and grist mill run by 25 horsepower engine had been built. This together with other Agency machinery to the value of $5000 had been purchased. More than 50 men had adopted citizen's dress. The Indian Agent and his employees still occupied the building of the old Fort.

      A Catholic school was to be established at the Agency. Rev. Father J. B. Genin was the missionary at the post. The Indians on the Reservation numbered males 249 and females 471, making a total of 720. On September 20, 1875, Paul Becksmith, successor of Major Forbes, deceased, came to Fort Totten to assume the duties of Indian Agent at the Post. At this time there were 700 Indians on the Reservation, 365 males and 335 females. There were 20 white employees and 35 pupils. There were 69 church members but no church building. Five Agency buildings had been erected during the year. Of the Indians, 275 were citizen dressed. A manual-labor school was at this time conducted by the Grey Nuns off Montreal.

      The Fort Totten Indian reservation had been provided for in a treaty signed February 19, 1867, between the United States Government and the Sisseton, Wahpeton, and Cut-head Sioux. This Reservation contained about 360 square miles of territory but within its borders and embracing about one-half of its area was the Fort Totten Military Reservation established by an order of the President of the United States, January 1870.

      When Fort Totten was first established in the summer of 1867, the Northwest Fur Company had sent an agent to the post with the expectation that he would be appointed post trader, but General Terry appointed E. W. Brenner to fill that position and the first store at the Fort was established by him shortly after the founding of Fort Totten.

      In connection with the store, located about 10 rods Southeast of the old Fort, Mr. Brenner early established a brewery. Both brewery and store were maintained in rough log structures, the brewery building containing three rooms or apartments. The apparatus for the brewery consisted of a great kettle, a mess tub and a cooling tank. Ten barrels of beer could be brewed at any time, the brewing process took several days and generally occurred one a week. As may be supposed the beer found ready sale among the soldiers at the Fort.

      It was early in the seventies that most of the buildings of the new Fort were completed. They stood 800 yards south of the original Fort. By joint resolution of Congress, approved April 6, 1869, the Secretary of War had been authorized to construct the buildings of the new post. But, it was several years before the work was completed at a cost of $106,365.37. With the exception of the stables, granary, and a few outhouses, the new buildings were constructed of brick. The brick was made near the spot, at a point just across the narrow bay east of the original fort. The brick did not prove to be of the best quality, however, for as the clay from which they were made contained lime they had a tendency to crumble. The brick-kiln was never operated after the Fort had been constructed.

      On November 18, 1890, Fort Totten having been transferred to the Interior Department, Company G of the 22nd Infantry left for Fort Yates. On December 23, 1890, Fort Totten was turned over to the Interior Department. A detachment of the 3rd Infantry left on December 28 for Fort Snelling. On the same day Lieutenant Mosher of the 22nd Infantry arrived to complete the shipment of stores to other points. On December 31, 1880, William F. Canfield, Agent for the Interior Department and Superintendent of the Industrial School receipted to Lieutenant Mosher for the buildings at the post.


      The Indian Industrial School at Fort Totten is the outgrowth of the old Mission School established by the Catholics in 1874, upon the request of Major Forbes, the Indian Agent. The original school was located about seven miles east of the fort on the south shore of Devils Lake. On February l6th, 1883, the main buildings of the old Mission burned down. At this time the school was filled to its capacity, having an enrollment of ninety-six. As it was late in the winter some of the children were sent to their homes for want of accommodations at the school. The greater number, however were crowded into the smaller buildings, and the school continued in this fashion until 1885, when the new mission was completed, about half a mile northeast of Fort Totten. This school was large enough to accommodate over one hundred children, and in 1888 a large east wing was added to the building. The entire main building of the new mission was destroyed by fire on the night of December 19th, 1926. The pupils were transferred to the Fort Totten Indian School (Proper) and the Mission school abandoned.

      In 1890 when the garrison abandoned Fort Totten, the buildings of the post were turned over to the Interior Department to be used as an Industrial School for Indians. This Mission School was then consolidated with the Industrial School for Indians and both were places under the supervision of William F. Canfield. In 1904 the Indian School at Turtle Mountain was also placed under charge of the Superintendent at Fort Totten. In 1915 the Turtle Mountain Schools were again separated from Fort Totten and placed under the charge of the Superintendent of the Turtle Mountain Agency.


      The Fort Totten reservation is located on the south shore of Lake Minnewaukan, or Devils Lake, as it is now called. The Lake forms the northern boundary, the Sheyenne River forms the southern boundary. The eastern and western boundaries are fixed lines. In surveying, an error was made in the western boundary which had caused a lot of grievances. It made a difference of about 64,000 acres of land. There are about four classes of land: (1) tillable land, about 41,600 acres (2) timber land, about 20,000 acres (3) meadow land, about 20,000 acres, (4) fit only for grazing, about 84,000 acres. The soil, a light sandy, and gravelly loam, cannot be depended upon to raise more than 2 or 3 good crops. The soil is of a dry nature and there is a lack of moisture. In the timber land there are some good spots but it is generally too rolling for tillable land. Meadow lands are found in places from 4 to 40 acres. The grass is of a very good quality.

      The Reservation is not adapted to exclusive grain growing, but it is better for mixed farming and stock raising. The high hills and low valleys and trees afford good shelter for stock. There are now 1,038 Sioux on the Reservation, they are putting aside their old traditions and customs and do not rely on their Chiefs for advice and counsel.


      Many of the nation's leading officials of the army served terms at Fort Totten in the early days. Part of the early developments at the Fort are considered legendary although Colonel Henry Hale, in writing in the "Pioneer's Association" gives an account of Sully's Hill. An extract of his story says:

Fort Totten and Sully's Hill

      Major Dana Wright, one of our State Historical directors, who had made the explorations and military operations in North Dakota a study, says that the exploration of the Devils Lake country, of which a report is in existence was made by Nicolette and Fremont in 1839 when the lake was first mapped by white men. Some of the land marks are noted as "Chantee Hill" now known as "Devils Heart." Chantee being the Sioux for heart or center of the Region. Lake "Chicot" and also Wameduska meaning snake or creeping thing now known as Stump Lake are shown.

      The Lake's proper name is "Minnewaukan" meaning "Spirit Water." Owing to a legend of the drowning of two hostile bands of Indians who met in its center the Spirit was considered bad, hence Devils Lake.

      How large the lake was at the time of Fremont's visit there is no means of knowing, but in 1876 when I first saw it about 40 miles long reaching from south of Bartlett to Minnewaukan and the Herman line of steamboats when established, travelled it from one end to the other.

      After the successful military campaigns during the years of 1863 and 1864 when the hostile Sioux were driven from Minnesota and scattered through Dakota territory there was still a fear that they might gather and attack the settlements on the western border of Minnesota and all scouts and others reported that they were gathering in the vicinity of Devils Lake for that purpose. General Sully who was at Fort Rice on the Missouri was directed to move upon the hostile camps and disperse them if found and capture their leaders. General Sully reported to his superiors that he did not believe there were any considerable bands of hostiles east of the Missouri River, but he was overruled and was ordered to proceed to Devils Lake where he would be met by a supporting column under command of Colonel Carnahan who was to proceed from Fort Snelling. His party consisted of mostly Illinois Cavalry and two pieces of Artillery, they left Fort Snelling July 4, 1865, Sully with about 1000 men started from Fort Rice on July 23 and reached the west end of Devils Lake the 29th. He sent out scouting parties to look for the supporting column under Col. Carnahan as well as to look for hostile Sioux. He also sent out his geographical officer Major Von Minden along the south shore of the lake to look for a suitable site for a Fort.

      Sully, finding no hostiles nor his supporting column, did not remain long but made his way back to Fort Rice.

      Colonel Carnahan's column made its way leisurely from Snelling, his men, who were of the Volunteer Army, being anxious to get out of the service and go home now that the Civil War was over. By this time it reached Devils Lake, Sully was gone, his camp sites and trail were located and the wooded hill on the south shore of the lake was named "Sully's Hill." Carnahan, after exploring the country south and west of the lake made his way back to Snelling and home. There is the hill but his base was in the neighborhood of the new town of Minnewaukan. Nevertheless the hill was named for a gallant and energetic soldier.

      It is fitting that this land mark should be named for him as he and his troops had a great deal to do with making the eastern half of North Dakota safe for the white man to live on.

      Then Congress decided to open the unallotted lands on the Reservation to homestead entry. It was suggested by Mr. Frank Palmer that Sully's Hill and the adjoining rolling lands, being unfit for homesteads, be made a national park and our North Dakota members arranged for it in the bill.

      In 1867 as part of a plan to gather the roaming bands of Indians off Reservations where they could be watched and controlled, this Reservation was established and the fort planned.

      Three companies of the 31st U. S. Infantry were sent from the Missouri River and arrived at the site of the present Fort on July 14, 1867, they camped on the shore of the lake but that night had to move to higher ground as the mosquitoes were unbearable. They built the log fort where the stores are now located and occupied it for two years.

      During 1868 the present Fort buildings were commenced, the brick was made from clay cut from the base of Sully's Hill, lime was burned from limestone boulders picked from the shores of the lake, and the work was done by contract. It was soon found that the brick would disintegrate on becoming wet on account of limestone pebbles in the clay and the whole fort had to be painted to keep the rain out.

      Until the Northern Pacific Railway was built into Jamestown, nearly all supplies were hauled from Fort Stevenson on the Missouri River, that fort was built at the same time by companies of the same regiment that built the log fort at Totten.

      Mail was occasionally brought from Fort Wadsworth by dog train, even up to 1880 but one mail was received a week.

      When the troops moved into the brick fort the log fort was turned over to the Indian Department and was used for workshops and quarters for the employees, the same thing happened when Fort Totten was abandoned as a military post, it was turned over to the Indian Department and the present Indian School established.


      The first attempt at education at Fort Totten, North Dakota, was made by Major Forbes in 1872. He tried to secure two of his cousins who were members of the Community of Nuns of Montreal, for teachers. They started for Fort Totten but heard so many stories that they turned back. Again in 1874, Major Forbes attempted to secure teachers. He had already communicated with the Catholic Bureau, thus arranging for the necessary funds. The Indians had, under Major Forbes' direction, built bricks from clay taken near Devils Lake, and with these bricks, had erected a small school house 14 feet by 30 feet. It was located seven miles east of the Fort and was known as St. Michaels Mission. On October 27, 1874, the four sisters; Miss Rose Labelle of Montreal, who later became a sister, and Father Bennin, Major Forbes, his wife and daughter and two nieces, Mr. Maloney and the paymaster for the soldiers left St. Paul enroute to Devils Lake and Fort Totten. They left Jamestown in four wagons and came to the Fort. On February 1883 the mission school burned and was reestablished in 1885 and located only one-half mile northwest of Fort Totten, this time. About 100 children attended there. In 1888 an addition was built. When the soldiers left Fort Totten, the whole Fort was turned over to the Department of the Interior, December 31, 1890. At this time the Indian School and the Mission School was combined and known as the Indian Industrial school. The Fort Totten School of today is the same school building as built in the beginning of the establishment of the Indian School. It is located 14 miles southwest of Devils Lake. This school was taken over when the Fort was no longer needed as an Army Post. A great deal of remodeling was done to the building and it was made into a school for the Devils Lake Sioux and Turtle Mountain Chippewas who had the privilege of rooming and boarding at the school.

      In 1915 the Turtle Mountain Schools were separated from the Indian School at Fort Totten and placed under a superintendent. In 1926, December 19, the Gray Nuns Mission was opened again; this time 7 miles east of Fort Totten. At the Fort Totten School, in addition to academic work, the pupils received industrial instruction. The girls were taught sewing, domestic science, laundering, and household management. The boys had classes in farming gardening, dairying, carpentering, and shoe repairing. At first there were only six grades; later other grades.

      In 1935 the boarding school was abolished and a Tuberculosis Preventorium was established. This school was maintained as a five-year Government experiment. Suspect Tuberculosis cases and malnourished children were given medical care and treatment, and attended class for a half day. In the fall of 1939, the Preventorium was moved to the little Flower Mission at St. Michaels, North Dakota, and a high school and grade school were established at Fort Totten, known as the Fort Totten Community School.


Sioux (SOO). This word is an abbreviation of a French corruption of the Ojibwa or Chippewa word meaning "the snake-like ones or enemies." Sioux, the final form, was first used, at least by scientists, in 1936.

Dakota - is the name used by this nation for themselves. It means "Friends" or "allies."

History - The Sioux were the first mentioned by the whites in about 1640. They were then living a rather settled agricultural life in the country northwest of the Great Lakes. Their neighbors, the Ojibwa, were always at war with them and on being given firearms by the French, drove the Sioux toward the southwest and on to a roaming, hunting existence. By 1750 the western bands had begun to cross the Upper Missouri and to filter into the Black Hills. Until after the war of 1812 the nation was an ally of the English. Beginning in 1815 a series of treaties was made which sought to move the Indians further west and to confine them on Reservations. In 1862 the bands in Minnesota had a desperate war with the whites and in 1876 there was trouble father west. The so-called Custer Massacre came at this time. In the early nineties came the last outbreak in connection with the rise of the Ghost Dance Religion. Since the end of this trouble, the people have been at peace.

Population - Mooney's estimate for the Sioux in 1780 is 25,000, and for 1907 it is 28,000. The 1937 Indian Bureau census gives 25,857. It is evident that the nation is steadily gaining in numbers, being now the second largest tribe. The whole nation was about 60 percent full blood in 1910.

Pronunciation - In Sioux the letter "n" after a vowel is nasal, as in French.

National Divisions - The Sioux nation is divided into seven tribes, each one of which had several divisions.

  1. Mdewakanton (Mday-wah-kan-ton) "Mystery Lake Village." These people were apparently the first to be discovered. They were living on and around Mills Lac and the headwaters of the Mississippi in Minnesota. They were more closely associated with the whites than the other tribes. They took an active part in the fighting in 1862; after peace came, the people were put on the Crow Creek Reservation near Pierre, South Dakota, and moved, in 1866 to the Niobrara or Santes Reservation in Northeastern Nebraska. In 1876 some went to Flandreau in Eastern South Dakota.

  2. Wahpekute (Wakh-pay-koo-tay) "Shooters among the Leaves," (of deciduous trees, or trees which lose their leaves each year). This tribe was closely connected with the Mdewakanton Tribe until about 1850 when a portion of them split off. This was the smallest of the tribes. It was established in 1824 as having 800 members.

  3. Wahpeton (Wakh-pay-ton) "Village Among the Leaves," (of deciduous trees). Like all members of the eastern division this branch was first found in the Minnesota Lake Region and moved gradually westerward. In the fifties they were living around Lac Qui Parle in southwestern Minnesota. Some years later they were united with the Sisseton on the Lake Traverse Reservation in Northeastern South Dakota and on the Devils Lake Reservation in east central North Dakota. The 1835 population was estimated 1,500. In 1937 the Wahpeton and Sissenton Tribes number 3,780.

  4. Sisseton (Sis-see-ton) "Lake Village." The history of these people is very much like that of the preceding tribes. They were found in the Minnesota Lake country, gradually moved westward, and were settled on reservations in the sixties. They have long been combined with the Wahpeton. The tribe seems to have numbered about 1,000 in pre-reservation days.

Dialect - The people of the eastern division speak dialects which are very similar. The tribal name among them is Dakota and the letter "d" takes the place of "l" among the Teton and "n" among the Yankton.

Middle Division

Yankton - (Ee-angk-ton) "End Village." These people were first found in 1683 in the region of Leech Lake in North Central Minnesota. A southwestern movement must have began soon afterwards, because in 1708 the tribe was near what is now Sioux City, Iowa. One hundred years later they were still in that neighborhood, thereafter roamed restlessly over southeastern South Dakota and nearby parts of Iowa and Minnesota. They kept out of the 1862 fighting and warned many whites of the 1862 fighting and warned many whites of the coming trouble. They have lived at peace on their present reservation in South Dakota since 1858. Early census estimates vary widely, but the impression is gained that this branch has numbered about 2,000 for a good many years. The 1937 census shows 2,048.

Yantonnai - (Ee-angk-ete) "Little Village." In the migration from the Minnesota Lakes this tribe did not turn as far south as the closely related Yankton, who are said to have split off the Uanktonnai. Until the sixties, when reservation life began, the tribe roamed through the northeastern section of South Dakota. The upper Yanktonnai are now on the Standing Rock and Devils Lake Reservations and the lower branch, or Junkpatina, are mostly on the Crow Creek Reservation. A few are at Standing Rock, North Dakota, and Fort Peck, Montana. Owing to the long mixing of the tribes census figures are vague. A population of about 5,000 is probably fairly close. In this division the tribal name is Nakota.

Western, or Prairie Division

Teton - (Tee-ton) "Dwellers on the Prairie." This division was first met by Mennepin in 1680 on the Mississippi River in central Minnesota. By 1700 at least some of them had wandered westward to the Lake Traverse region in northeastern South Dakota. By 1800 the various bands were scattered along the Missouri in South Dakota. As white pressure increased they fought for their right, taking part in the Indian wars of 1864, 1876, and 1890. Their raids carried them over the western plains from Colorado along the Rockies up into Canada. From these Plains Indians come most of the ideas about the Indians in common circulation. The tribal name among the Teton is Lakota. They are divided into seven bands listed below:

  1. Brule or Sitchanxu (Si-tch-ang-hu) "Burned Thighs." This band lived in south central South Dakota and Northern Nebraska, between the white and Niobrara Rivers. Though closest to the immigrant trails the band was not troublesome. They suffered from introduced disease. They are now on the Rosebud, Lower Brule, and Crow Creek Reservations. Then, numbered separately in 1890, there were about 4,300.

  2. Sans Ares or Itazipeho (Ee-tah-zip-aho) "Without Bows." This band shared the north central part of South Dakota with the Blackfeet (sihasapa) and Hunkpapa bands, living mostly west of the Missouri. The last available figure as to population is 222.

  3. Sihasapa or Blackfeet (See-hah-sah-pa). This band must not be confused with the Algonkin Siksika or Blackfeet. Not until 1856 was anything written about them. They ranged west of the Missouri in southern North Dakota and northern South Dakota. They were very warlike. The last available count gives about 500 for population. They now live on the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Reservations.

  4. Miniconjon (Mnee-ko-jou) "Those who Plant Beside the Stream." Lewis and Clark in 1804 made the first mention of this band, which then, and until Reservation days lived in north central South Dakota west of the Missouri. The last separate census in 1888 gave them a population of about 1,300. They now live on the Cheyenne River Reservation. This is located in central South Dakota.

  5. Two Kettles or Oohonoupah (O-o-hay-nou-pay) "two boilings". 1846 is the date of the earliest mention of these people. They kept themselves in a region in central South Dakota. They were uniformly on good terms with the whites. The 1910 census lists about 300 of them on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

  6. Ogelala (O-glah-lah) "to scatter one's own". This is the largest band of the Teton division. After 1850 they moved to the country between the two branches of the Platte River in Nebraska and westward. Until the end of the Indian wars they were on the warpath, fighting White and Indian alike under Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, and other famous chiefs. They were prominent at the Custer fight. They now live on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. The 1931 census gave this band 8,100.

  7. Hunkpapa (Hung-kpah-pah) "end of the circle". No mention of this band appears before about 1825. They ranged west of the Missouri in north central South Dakota. They were extremely warlike and were the last of the Sioux to take up the reservation life. They now live on the Standing Rock reservation. The band numbered about 1,100 in 1910.

Siouan Dialect

      The Siouan is a very large and important stock, once located in 3 areas. In the southeast were a number of tribes which have now vanished with a few exceptions. In the west are the seven tribes according to Siouan linguistic stock:



1. "The Indians of North Dakota" By Benett
2. "The American Indian" By Wissler
3. Records from St. Michaels Mission Fort Totten, North Dakota
4. Newspaper quotation

Scanned and formatted by Kathryn Thomas
North Dakota State University Libraries
February 26, 2004
Typographical errors corrected