Tribal History Notes on the Dakotah (Sioux) as told to Col. A. B. Welch


 Short Sketch of the Red Invasion of North Dakota (written 1923)    

Habitat of Tribes about 1800    

The First and Last Indian Campaigns in the Dakotas (1934 address)    

Earliest Contacts with the Dakotah         

The End of the Trail (Obituary of a Nation)             

Cannon Ball Dance Hall, 1926    

Sioux Scouts in Cannon Ball graveyards (written about 1926)    

Summary Statements of the Seven Tribes (Sicangu, Itazipco, Sihasapa, Minikanye, Oohenopa, Hunkpapa and Oglala)    



Short Sketch of the Red Invasion of North Dakota (written 1923)    

Short Sketch of the Red Invasion of North Dakota and subsequent withdrawal before Advance of White Civilization, by  A. B. Welch, May 1923

The study of the two Dakotas is not complete without reference to the many Indian Tribes which exerted such a profound influence upon the lives of the early settlers of these two great states, as well as upon the agricultural activity of later years.  It is to be regretted that a comprehensive and correct chapter upon the subject has not been introduced into the public schools of this state.

Of all the Indian peoples of the United States, north of the Rio Grande, none have occupied so important a position as the Great Plains tribes which pursued the game and followed the war trails of the Dakotas and Minnesota, and no states are richer in tradition and history regarding these subjects, that the states mentioned.

Among al the many tribes, none were the mental or physical superiors and none displayed more skill in organization or strength in warfare, than the people erroneously called the Sioux.  Students quite generally believe that the several divisions of this Nation came from the Atlantic coast country, originally, but evidences of this move are not all clear and distinct.  However, we do know that the division known as the Isante, or Sante, were firmly established in Minnesota as early as the time when the first French explorers and adventurers penetrated west of the Great Lakes, and it is accepted that the Yankton came into touch with the prairie country about 1660, and the seven tribes, composing what is now known as the Teton Division, were established in the great game country west of the Missouri River by 1748.

Just when the several different tribes, which composed this federation, organized for defense and mutual assistance is not certain. There are no traditions known to the writer which shed any light upon the agreement between these tribes, but it is a fact that several different tribes of considerable linguistic differences, their habitat covering a great extent of contiguous territory, became welded together into a Nation, known as the Dakotah, but often called the Sioux.

Early writers and travelers mention various tribes of this people having been met in the vicinity of Lake Isante in Minnesota, which tribes were friendly with each other, but a source of much sorrow and despair, when in battle touch with their neighbors, along the western shores of Lakes Michigan and Erie.  And a free translation might be “The Allies.”  The drawing together of these different tribes into one organization, certainly indicated a constructive element among the pre-historical Indian which is not usually accorded to them in the popular mind.  It may very creditably be compared with the organization of the many distinct districts of Gaul, into the three great divisions which contested the advance of the Roman Legions, under Julius Caesar.

The early French explorers into the Minnesota country, who came in by way of the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes waterways, first heard of the Santee and their far-western allies, the Teton, from the Chippewa and other northern Minnesota Indians.  These Chippewa called them Nadeausioux, which means “Snake” or “Enemy.”  This word easily was corrupted into “Sioux” by the French and, by long use, is now accepted by many as the true name of the Dakotah, but these people, themselves, do not accept it kindly even to this day.

At some period between 1635 and 1660, difficulties arose in the Yankton Division, probably over the proportion of plunder taken from the Iowa or Omaha in battle, which became so serious that one of the aggrieved factions left the parent body and sought out a country for their own.  These people were of the Assiniboine and, after separation, they probably followed up the valleys of the James River, or Red River of the North, and finally located on, and to the west, of Lake Winnipeg.  To all intents and purposes these Hohe, as they are called by the Dakotah today, were ever afterward enemies of the entire Dakotah Nation, and formed alliances more with the Crees of Canada than with any other people, but linguistically they belong to the Dakotah Groups.

When the Dakotah explorers pressed westwardly to the banks of the Missouri River they came into contact with another Indian people of entirely different traits and customs, who were already in possession of the country along that great stream.  These people were the Sanish, or Arikara, and were “Villager Indians,” living in rough, round lodges built of logs and sod, and were not distinctively hunters of game, but also raised much corn in the vicinity of their permanent settlements.  These Arikara undoubtedly came from the southwest, and it is very probably that the merciless conquests of the Aztec warriors, who came into Mexico about 1350, caused them to first remove from their territory and start upon their wanderings, which ultimately led them into the north, where they are today.

Meanwhile, another strong group of Indian adventurers had advanced across the Red River of the North and taken possession of the territory along the river now known as the Sheyenne.  These people were Algonquin and were dwellers of the country east of the Great Lakes, but they had wandered far from home and now, through force of circumstances, must needs remain where they were.

They built themselves villages on this stream but were eventually ousted by the Yanktonaise Dakotah and were forced across the Missouri River in the vicinity of the mouth of the Cannon Ball river and precipitated into the country of the fierce Sihasapa and Hunkpapa Teton Dakotah.

Skilled warriors and mighty hunters, they waged war with their mounted enemies, the Tetons.  But is was hopeless and they were pursued and relentlessly hunted until, after a few years of miserable existence, a truce was made, and the entire body of Algonquin were practically adopted in the Teton Dakotah.  These Algonquin strangers were called Shiheyala by the Dakotah, meaning “They speak a different tongue,” and have been known as Sheyenne, a corruption of that name, ever since, and are practically an added tribe of the Teton Dakotah.  In recent pre-white times, they were close neighbors of the Oglala in the territory east of the Black Hills.

The contact of the Teton Dakotah and the Arikara villagers was not friendly.  The flaming Teton harried them continually for over fifty years, during which time the beleaguered Arikara villages were steadily being abandoned and a well-defined rotary emigration movement developed. This caused the more exposed villages to the south to move up along the river’s west bank and, after locating a satisfactory position beyond the northernmost village, once more the people built their lodges and palisades and took up the problems of their troubled existence.  Thus it happened, that in 1800, the most southern settlements of the Arikara were in the vicinity of the mouth of the Grand River, and their immediate neighbors on the north were the Mowatani or Mandan.

The Mandans had preceeded the Arikara up the great waterway, probably coming from the vicinity of the mouth of the Mississippi.  How long this migration took, we do not know, but it is probably that the movement started sometime after the year 1200, and was not of a hurried nature, unless the last three or four hundred miles were covered within a comparatively short period.  The Arikara found them well-situated in the immediate vicinity of the Heart River where there were at least five separate villages.  Their hunting territory extended from the Cannon Ball River to the Knife River.  They were also village Indians and maintained permanent settlements of well-constructed, circular lodges made of logs, sod and clay, and like the Arikara, raised much corn, squashes, sunflowers and beans to balance their diet which was mainly of meat.

Perhaps the most ancient ruins of any of their villages is within a short distance of the present, beautiful, modern city of Mandan, N.D., which is founded upon one of the sites of the five villages mentioned by the French explorer Verendrye and his two sons, who penetrated to this point in 1742.

While the principal village of the Mandan was at a point south of Mandan City, and upon which, in 1872, Fort Abraham Lincoln was established, a large body of Indians appeared upon the opposite side of the river and asked to be permitted to cross to the west side. After  several years, this was permitted and the people took up their residence with the Mandan and lived with them at the ‘Slant Village,” as it is now called, in a friendly manner for several years.  But at last dissension arose and the Mandan Chief, Good Fur Blanket, expelled the newcomers who then advanced up the river on the west side and took up habitation at the mouth of the Knife River.  The present little city of Stanton is built upon the sites of one of their villages.

These last-named Indians were the Hidatsa, frequently called by the traders Manitari and named by the early French Gros Ventres.  Their tradition is that they came up from the waters of Devils Lake and, beyond that, we have not been able to ascertain how these distinct strangers arrived in this part of the country.

The Hidatsa was originally divided into two large groups but, owing to a dispute over the division of the carcass of a buffalo during a time of winter famine, one of these groups seceded and moved from the pleasant villages on the Missouri River to another location in southeastern Montana, west of the Black Hills, where they established themselves as a separate tribe, and are now know as the Crows, but still speak the language of the parent Hidatsa.

The neighbors of the Missouri River Hidatsa were the Crees and the Assiniboine on the north and the Blackfeet of Montana on the west.  The Chippewa often came in from the northeast, while the entire east side of the Missouri, from the southern loop of the Mouse river to a point below the present Sioux City was firmly held by various tribes of Dakotah.  The Dakotah also held all of the country west of the river from the Niobrara in Nebraska to the Heart River in S.D.  Having obtained horses about 1700, the Dakotah war-parties continually moved across the east side of the Yellowstone river and south along the Tongue to the Black Hills which were discovered by them in 1775.

In 1800 the general situation and habitat of the Indians in the Dakotas was as follows:

Sisseton Dakotah occupied territory adjacent to Big Stone Lake, hunting west to the James River.

Yanktonaise Dakotah claimed the region west of the James River to the Missouri, north of a line roughly traced from Pierre to Watertown.

Yankton Dakotah were masters of the country of the James River to the south of the Yanktonaise.

The great body of Teton Dakotah were west of the Missouri River in the Great Plains country, and the various tribes were distributed as follows:

Minniconjou lived south of the Black Hills and north of the Niobrara River.

Oglala roamed over the country north of the Niobrara and east of the Minniconjou.

Sheyenne lived to the east of the Oglala and their range went to the Missouri River.

Sicangu, named Brule by the French, occupied the White River valleys to the Black Hills.

Oohenopa, sometimes called the Two Kettles, claimed the Bad River hunting grounds.

Itazipa, called Sans Arcs by the French, were the neighbors of the Oohenopa on the north.

Hunkpapa lived north of the Sans Arcs and, frequently, to the Grand River.

Sihasapa, or Blackfeet of the Dakotah, were the most northern tribe of the Dakotah on the west side of the Missouri River and their territory extended to the Grand River Arikara, but often their hunting and war parties swept as far north as the mouth of the Yellowstone.

The last three Teton tribes were closely allied and were proud of the buffer position they held between rest of the Dakotah Teton and their Arikara enemies on the north.

The balance of the Dakotah were in Minnesota along the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, as far east as Kaposa (The Light Packs), where St. Paul now stands.

Sanish, or Arikara, were scattered along the Missouri River from the Grand River to the mouth of the Yellowstone.

Mowatani, or Mandan, Indians were centered at a point some miles above the mouth of the Heart River, N.D., and their villages extended some miles up the down on the west banks.

Hidatsa, or Gros Ventre, occupied villages in the vicinity of the Knife River and hunted west of the Yellowstone.

The west side of the Lower Red River of the North was almost disputed territory and various bands of Dakotah, Cree, Assiniboine and Chippewa often traded at Pembina and at other stations along the north-flowing river.

In 1823 the famous Sisseton Dakotah Chief, Red Thunder, who fought against the Americans in the War of 1812, was killed by the notorious Chippewa Chief, Flat Mouth, at the Red River of the North trading station of Robert Dickson, the Agent of the British Government among the Dakotah.

In 1807 the Spaniard, Manual Liza of the Missouri Fur Company, opened the first serious trading competition with the Hudson Bay Company among the Indians of the Upper Missouri River country.  This energetic St. Louis trader established at least two posts on the river in what is now North Dakota and one at the mouth of the Big Horn, in Montana, but was forced by the strong influence of the Hudson Bay Company to withdraw during the War of 1812.  Since that time

At this writing the general situation in regard to habitat of the Indians in the state is as follows:

Devils Lake Reservation  – Dakotah, mostly of the Santee Division.

Turtle River Reservation  – Mixed Chippewa, Cree and Assiniboine, and some Santee Dakotah.

Fort Berthold Reservation  – Hidatsa, Arikara and Mandan.

Standing Rock Reservation  – Dakotah, Tribes of the Teton, Yanktonaise, Sisseton, Wahpeton and other tribes of the Santee Dakotah.



Habitat of Tribes about 1800 

(the map is 1873 Dakota)




The First and Last Indian Campaigns in the Dakotas (1934 address)  

Address given before the Reserve Officer’s Association at Fort Lincoln, N.D., June 11th, 1934 by A. B. Welch, Lt. Col., F.A., Res., Mandan, N.D.

Situation in 1800

In this connection I believe that a review of the early Indian Tribes and habitat in what is now the two Dakotas will be of interest and tend to fix in your minds the number and character of the Indians against which the campaigns of which I shall speak were undertaken.

There were several Indian Tribes in this territory as early, perhaps, as the discovery of American by Columbus.  Probably the earliest historical people were the Mandans, who called themselves the “Numakaki” (Men).  It is the belief of students that these people came into the upper Missouri River country from the territory at the mouth of the Mississippi.  This migration was probably made in easy stages and since the year 1200.  Evidences of their occupation are discovered and identified as far down the Missouri as Sioux City.  They were so-called “Village” Indians, tilling the ground for their corn, beans, squashes and tobacco; living in earth lodges of great size and considerable comfort, in communities which were protected from marauding tribesmen by an admirable series of ditches and earthworks, surmounted by palisades of heavy logs set in endwise on the earth walls with sufficient space between the upright logs to fire through, and so constructed that there was but a small area of dead space, and with strong points of well-made and well-placed redoubts and, in several instances in this immediate vicinity, strongly built outpost positions.  Their selection of strategic defensive positions was most admirable and, in most cases, these same positions would be the selection of modern unit commanders and engineers either for temporary bivouacs or for permanent army post purposes.

The Mandans were a strong people, at one time having four to five thousand warriors ready to take the field at a moment’s notice.  By the year 1700 this people were living in at least fie great villages on the right bank of the Missouri river, both to the north and south of the mouth of the Heart River, and all within a distance of twelve miles.  They occupied these village sites for, perhaps, 250 years and, during this occupation, another strange tribe of Indians appeared from the left bank and became their allies, living in the same villages together with the Mandans.

This people called themselves Hidatsa, but are better known to us by the early French name of Gros Ventre.  About 1765 all of the Gros Ventres and Mandans made another move, abandoning their villages in the Heart River country and building another community some 50-75 miles above and on the Missouri.  This community was also made up of five villages, one of which was built upon the left bank of the river and the others upon the right bank. One of the latter being just north of the Knife River and the other three being between that position and what is now Fort Clark.

Here they were found by the U.S.Army Captains, Lewis and Clark, in the fall of 1804.  They have lived in that vicinity ever since.  However, in 1842 the Gros Ventres and Mandans crossed the Missouri and established a strong community in one single village, where they were joined in 1860 by the Arikara.  This was called by them the Federated Village and known in early days as Fort Berthold.  The Army never had any difficulty with the Mandans and Gros Ventre, but used them as Indian Scouts in their campaigns against the Sioux.

The first mention we have of the tribe known as the Arikara, or Sanish as they call themselves, was by Alvarado, a Lieutenant belonging to the expedition of the Spanish Conquistadore, Cortez.  The observation was made in 1557, when Alvarado discovered the Arikara upon the Platte River while on a search for the Seven Cities of Gold.  They belonged to the tribe we recognize as Pawnee.  Sometime after his sojourn among them, during which time he accidentally and quite playfully strangled two of them who acted as his guides from the Rio Grande, a certain division of the Pawnees (which Alvarado called the “Loup Pani”) split off from the main parent stem and trekked northward.

They finally reached the Missouri and continued upstream, occupying and refortifying the old abandoned village site of the Mandans who had proceeded them until, in 1804, they were found at the mouth of the Grand River by Lewis and Clark.

Their position was rather a precarious one since the Teton Division of the Sioux , already pressed them from the south, while the Mandans and their allies, the Gros Ventres, made the north a place of danger to them.  For the purpose of this sketch, we leave the Arikara at the mouth of the Grand, some 100 miles south of this point.

There was, and still is, a strange group of Algonquins  – a branch which had split off from the parent mass in remote times, much like the Arikaras had done.  This people formerly lived in a permanent village near present Lisbon, N.D.  They are called Cheyenne, probably from the Sioux word Sehayala (They speak with strange tongue).  Being pressed from the eastward by the Yanktonaise, a branch of the Isante Division of the Sioux Nation, they abandoned their position and pushed westward, finally crossing to the right bank or western side of the Missouri in the vicinity of the Cannon Ball, about 1800.  They immediately found themselves in hostile contact with the great Division of Teton Sioux, all living west of the Missouri and having similar customs  – seven tribes of closely-related allies and speaking the same general language.  We shall give the Cheyennes more mention as we proceed.

In the north, from Devils Lake to Winnipeg Lake, there were a number of tribes  – Chippewa, Cristinos, Stonies, Assiniboine and, to the west in Northern Montana, the Piegans or Montana Blackfeet as we know them, and south of the Elk River, which is now called the Yellowstone, were the Crows.  These tribes were all interesting people, the Assiniboines being an offshoot from the Sioux and Crows  –  and all being enemies of the Sioux, which people we will now mention

The people we know as the Sioux form a Nation.  This nation is composed of thirteen tribes, at most times friendly with each other.  Their real name is Dakotah, or “Allies,” “Friendly People.”  By 1600 AD they occupied a vast territory, roughly as follows:

(1) From the middle of Iowa west to the Des Moines River, (2)  to the Minnesota River and (3) West of the Mississippi to Devils Lake, (4) thence to the Missouri at a point in the vicinity of the present Washburn, N.D., (5) thence down the Missouri to the Heart river, (6) up the Heart to the Bad Lands, (7) across to the Yellowstone river and up that stream to the Greasy Grass, known to us as the Big Horn, (8) thence southeasterly to the Black Hills, (9) south to the Niobrara and (10)  east to the Big Sioux River, vicinity of present Sioux City, thence to place of beginning on the Des Moines River.

Early boundaries of the Sioux Nationtribe8-campaign-map-sioux

Just how these tribes, who originated along the middle-eastern Atlantic Coast, came together and formed a union of power for defense and offense is too long a story to relate here, but I state for your information, that there were two division in this great group … that the early French explorers who came into the country west of the Great Lakes, first came into touch with the eastern division (the Isanti).  From them they heard rumors and stories of another division, the Tintonwanna (They who live on the Prairies) far toward the west.  One hundred and fifty years or more went by before much was known regarding them.  And, as our story has to deal with them in particular, we shall follow that group.

Tradition says that the seven tribes of the Teton Division obtained a foothold west of the Missouri River about 1660.  The names by which we recognize these tribes are:  Blackfeet Sioux, Hunkpapa, Sans Arcs, Burnt Thighs, Oglala, Two Kettles and another strong tribe which had its habitat along the south end of the Black Hills, but which was seldom called anything at all, because the name was too hard for the English tongue and difficult of translation. This tribe was the Minneconjous (The People who Plant by the Water).  They were close partisans of the Cheyenne in the frontier wars against white aggression, and it was enough for the white to call them simply Sioux, and they were generally classed with whatever tribe or Chief they fought under.

Estimates vary greatly as to the number of fighting men of the western Sioux or Dakotah, but the greatest number present at any single engagement with the United States troops, was at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in June 1876.  The Indians claim that there were about 4500 warriors present there, but this count covered many young men who had never been in battle before, for every youth who could find a stone club went into action that day. Custer went into battle that fateful day without adequate information of the strength and disposition of his opponent and paid the price general exacted for such rashness.  There were at least 2000 warriors of the Sioux who were not in the battle that day, but at various other places widely separated, therefore a conservative estimate of the number of fighting men of the Teton and their allies, the Cheyenne, would be 6500 in 1876.

Now to follow the fate and ultimate habitat of the strange Algonquin group we call the Cheyenne.  As stated before, these people had been pushed into western Dakota by a group of Sioux call the Yanktonaise, and had there been harassed and worried by the different tribes of the war-like Teton tribes until they were finally overwhelmed at a battle in the Black Hills at a place now called Battle Mountain just back of Hot Springs. The Cheyennes were given the choice of dying like dogs or living like Sioux, and they decided that the latter course was the better and a treaty was made by the terms of which they became the allies of the Tetons, and ever since then have lived with them and behaved as any other Dakota tribe.  They were a set of well-formed men, brave and fierce warriors of the plains, splendid horsemen, and became an important addition to the forces of the Teton Sioux, living between the Black Hills and Salo Odowe (Yankton Country).

So now the picture I wish to leave with you by this rapid and short review of the inhabitants of the territory, or Dakota, as of 1800, is that the country west of the Mississippi, south of Devils Lake and Heart River and extending to the Niobrara River and west embracing the Black Hills and much of the Yellowstone River area, was in firm control of the Sioux and their allies the Cheyenne; that they were in possession of horses; were a brave, warlike, nomadic hunting people; proud, fierce and arrogant as the ancient Gauls of Caesar’s time; a people who trained their youth in fortitude and courage and to the belief that the greatest virtue was in striking the enemy in combat; a self-supporting people who believed that the Earth was the Mother of Men, and who were as fanatically patriotic as any man who ever followed the eagles of more civilized countries, and who only sore spot was that “Alsace-Lorraine” district at the mouth of the Grand River  – occupied by their age-long enemies, who were the worthy foe of any armed force of that time, a people also of many horses, desperate in battle, skilled in the use of arms, apt in strategy and whose ancestors built the great temples and shrines of Central America  – that surviving tribe of the ancient Mayas, now known as the Arikara.



Earliest Contacts with the Dakotah  

1639  Jean Nicolet, a talented, young Frenchman, became acquainted with Winnebagos, having penetrated as far as Green Bay, Wis.

1640  Paul LeJeune was one of the very first who spoke of the Naduessi and Assinoponnis.  He, perhaps, got his information from Nicolet.

1641  Jaques and Raymault, Missionaries, while at Sault St. Marie, say many Pottowattomies fleeing from before the Dakotah, who “lived 18 days journey to the westward.”

1654-9  Two traders started from west shore of Michigan, after two years returned and spoke of the numerous villages of the Sioux.  Three years after, they went again and “in five villages of Sioux they counted 5000 men.”

1660  Rene Menard, Missionary, wintered on Lake Michigan.  In spring started to visit “four populous village.” Never returned.  Separated from his companions in Wisconsin.  His prayer book was found years after that in a Dakotah lodge.

1660  Winter Count of Standing Bull, a Teton, shows Tetons coming to the prairie about this year.

1665-9  Claude Allouez, Missionary, established at La Point among the Hurons and Ojibway.  They had been driven by the Sioux from Mississippi valley.  In 1667 he met Dakotah near Duluth who said they had come from the end of the world, indicating their habitat at some distance.

1672  Father Marquette succeeded Allouez.  Together with Joliet was the first to float a canoe on Mississippi

1679  Du Luth reached “the great village of the Nadouessioux, called Kathio (Kaposia?).”  In summer of 1680 he met Robert La Salle and Louis Hennepin, captives among the Sioux.

1680  Marquette is first to give definite location of Sioux of the West  – 500 leagues to the west, which would locate them somewhere on Red River of the North.

1700  French map of about 1700 shows a large lake as head of the Mississippi.  Might have been Devils Lake, as it is called Lake of Tetons on this map.

1738  La Verendrye came to the Mandans, discovered the Big Horns, wintered at Pierre.

1750-1800  During this period the fur trade extended very materially and great rivalry developed from agents of men who came in from the Great lakes and up from the lower parts of the Mississippi.  When Lieut. Pike was sent into the country in 1805, he found the fur trade of the upper Mississippi river country to be in the hands, mainly, of the English and the goods were British.

1750-1800   The Dakotah came into contact with the Arikara about 1750 and continual warfare between them lasted for 50 years.  Then, for a few years, there was a mutual discontinuance of trouble, probably because the Rees, perhaps, moved more to the north.  But early in 1800 it was renewed and did not cease until historical times in North Dakota. Even at this time, 1920, they are very friendly, and while they visit some back and forth, I have seen the Dakotah of Cannon Ball get somewhat mad when some Rees and Mandans refused to eat their food.  They were told to go back home again.

1775   About this time the Dakotah explorers pressed the Arikara, who called themselves Sanish or Tanish, meaning “The People,” so hard that it is the Dakotah story that they moved farther up the Missouri from the place in the vicinity of  where Yankton is now to the Grande River, or as it is called by the old time Sioux, “Palani Wakpe” or Ree River.  The Dakotah called the Ree “Corn Planters.”  At the time of their general movement north, they occupied the country from the mouthy of the Niobrara toward the north to within touch of the Mandans at the Cannon Ball river.

1775-76  Winter Count of American Horse shows the Black Hills to have been discovered by Standing Bull, a Teton, in the winter of 1775/1776.

1803-4  When Lewis and Clark reached the point where Yankton now is, they met the Yankton Dakotah; met the Oglala.Dakotah at the mouth of the Bad River, where old Fort Pierre was later established  Around 1800 there were a few Tetons yet on the east bank of the Missouri, their main bodies being firmly established on the prairies of the western bank.

1823  The Arikara lived in the Grande River country until the Leavenworth Expedition in 1823, when they were so badly handled by the Dakotah that they went up to the Cannon Ball country,  However, the Sioux, especially the Blackfeet and Hunkpapa, still made life a burden to them, and they finally took refuge under an old federation arrangement with the Mandans and Hidatsa (Gros Ventre) at the Knife River and, in 1865 it is supposed that there was not a single settlement of these village Indians south of that point, although they ranged to the south on the war trail against the Dakotah.

1840  Colin Campbell, connected with unknown fur company at Fort Pierre (founded 1829), gives strength of the Dakotah as follows:

Tetons, all tribes 13,000

Yanktons 2,400

Yanktonaise 4,000

Santee, all tribes 5,500

Total, entire Nation 24,900



The Upper Yanktonaise, ruled by Two Bears and Black eyes, are, perhaps, the best behaved Indians on the river (however, report does not include a count for that tribe).

The Uncpapas are turbulent and mischievous.  Those who pretend to be friendly live at Grand River Agency, but give so much trouble that it is doubtful whether the Agency can be kept on that side.  Their Chief is Bears Rib.

The Blackfeet Sioux are quiet and well-behaved; their principal Chief is John Grass.

The Two Kettles are a quiet tribe, their Chief is Tall Mandan. They draw rations at Cheyenne.

The Minneconjous are turbulent and insolent, Iron Horn and Little White Swan are their Chiefs. They also draw rations at Cheyenne.

The Sans Arcs are a quiet tribe, their Chief is Burnt Face and they draw rations at Cheyenne.

The Lower Brules have a reservation and cultivate at White River and draw rations at Fort Thompson.  They acknowledge no Chief; are perfect Ishmaelites, wandering in small bands thousands of miles over the prairies; are treacherous beyond all other Sioux and commit most of the rascalities which occur in this district.

The Lower Yanktonaise are peaceful and art trying to farm at Fort Thompson.

The Brules of the Platte generally stay from twenty to a hundred miles out from Whetstone, coming into that place for their provisions.  This disposition is very suspicious and, like their breathern, the Upper Brules, are not to be trusted.

The Oglalas at Whetstone are well-behaved.

At the Agencies established for the Sioux there is one class which has been friendly for four or five years and are nearly permanent residents, only leaving from time to time to hunt and pick wild fruits.  With this class there is not trouble.

There is another class, passing half of their time at these Agencies and the other half at the hostile camps.  The abuse the agents, threaten their lives, kill their cattle at night, and do anything they can to oppose the civilizing movement, but eat all the provisions they can get and thus far have taken no lives.

The hostiles have representatives from every band, but the leading band in hostility is the Uncpapas.  During the winter for the past two years almost the entire hostile Sioux have camped together in one big camp on the Rosebud, near the Yellowstone.  In the summertime they break up & spread over the prairie, either to hunt, plunder or come into the posts to beg.

Welch comments:

It is certain that the Dakotah were great wanderers.  The Siouan Family is scattered over a wide area.  A small body of Siouan, considered from a linguistic point of view, is situated down on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, and are called the Beloxi.  Another small group live in North Carolina.  I have talked with Indians in Canada who are called the Stoney Indians, living in the vicinity of Calgary…they are the Assiniboine, an offshoot from the Dakotah about 1660.

Many of the old Sioux fought against the Americans in the War of 1812, and went to Ohio, Quebec and even more to the east in that war, allies of the British.  Mention is made of Waaneta who was taken to England after the war and presented to the English Court

Red Tomahawk told me the story of the cannibals of the western coast country; they fought the Pawnees, Kansas Horse Indians; it is certain that they fought other tribes in Utah and they knew all about the pueblo Indians of the Southwest.

St. Louis was frequently visited by the Sioux in the early days of 1800, while still under rule of the French and, afterwards, when an outpost of the United States and an important trading center.

They knew about Lake Winnipeg and, of course, Lake Superior had been know to them from time traditional; migrations were made during the right season, in search of game from the Falls of St. Anthony to the Big Horn Mountains, from the great bend of the Missouri and the Devils Lake country to the Niobrara and were frequently in the territory of the Iowas and Omahas.  I am told that, sometimes, a few men would get together and start out for some place a long ways off, and, perhaps, be gone for several years, returning with stories of their travels and fighting and privations.



The End of the Trail (Obituary of a Nation)   




Cannon Ball Dance Hall, 1926  


Interior of Dance Hall




Sioux Scouts in Cannon Ball graveyards (written about 1926)



Summary Statements of the Seven Tribes


     Sicangu (Burnt Thighs)

This is a tribe of the Teton and in early days ranged on the White River, now embraced in South Dakota.  In 1856 they numbered 480 lodges and about 3840 people; in 1868 Gen. Stanley reported them to be 1500 of whom 800 were hostiles.  Inaccuracy of the count evidently in one report or the other…for they could hardly lose so many people in the 12 years between reports.

One authority gives the following as the origin of the names:  that they were once upon a raid against the Arapahoes and their enemy set fire to the prairie grass.  This fire caught the war party and they suffered severely and so they have been called Burnt Thighs ever since.  The French called them Brules or Burned.

The older Dakotah tell me much the same story about them, so I infer that it is substantially correct.

Mrs. Amanda Grass, widow of Chief Grass, talks to Welch, April 27th, 1921, with Vivian Gayton, Interpreter:

She explained that there were two division of the Burnt Thighs.

They were Sicangu and Quluwie, meaning High and Low Burnt Thighs, respectively.

This Division is not mentioned in the Hand Book of North American Indians.



     Itazipco (Sans Arcs or No Bows)

Crow Ghost talks to Welch, April 12, 1927:

“…These people belonged to the Tetonwanna Division and were often called by another name … Minne sha.”

Brown Face talks to Welch, no date:

Said that the Hunkpapa, Oglalas, Brules and Sihasapa were always fighting the white wherever they could find them, but the Yankton, Yanktonaise and Sans Arcs were always friendly and had traded with the whites for a long time in the past.

Red Tomahawk interpreted for Welch, no date:

Minnisha (Red Water) appears to have been a separate tribe of the Sioux, although not mentioned to my knowledge by writers.  I was told that they were close neighbors to the Sans Arcs, but had their own Chiefs and habitat.  There are but few remaining now, but appear to be proud of the fact that they are Minnisha.



     Sihasapa (Blackfeet)

This tribe was not a large one, but an important division of the Teton Dakotah.  They were very brave warriors and were allied with the Itazipco and the Hunkpapa in the long wars between Dakotah and the Mandans, Palani and Gros Ventre, and also many war parties into the Crow country west of the Black Hills.  Their habitat since they first came into the prairie country has been to the west of the Missouri and, together with the Hunkpapa, the extreme north of the Dakotah range.  Thus they were always at war with the Villagers and harried them continually for over forty years, when the Government finally established Forts Rice and Abraham Lincoln as a buffer between them.

Catlin, who was in their country in 1832, mentions them in his “Letters and Notes.”  Father DeSmit was among them in 1849 and Chief Grass tells me that he was the first white man he ever saw and he baptized Grass.  DeSmit says that there were 1500 of these people at that time, but Culbertson says there were 450 lodges of them, which would indicate many more than DeSmit reported.  Lieut. Warren makes a report in 1856 which gives 165 lodges, 1280 inmates and 256 warriors.  General Stanley’s report of August 29th, 1869 gives them as 200 hostiles and 700 peaceful, 900 in all.  I think that his report was not strong enough and that he, perhaps, counted many Sihasapa in the count of the Hunkpapa, as their haunts and homes were together with the Hunkpapa.

In 1800 their range was to the south of the Grand river at which northern point they were in continual hostile contact with their ancient Arikara enemies.  They were very warlike and, with the Hunkpapa, defied the Government for many years. In 1862 they controlled the country from the Heart river in North Dakota to the Grand and Moreau rivers, west of the Missouri, and to the Bad Lands and the hunting country to the west of that, even, was raided by them continually.


Chief Grass tells me the following story about them: 

“A long time ago a Teton woman married a good hunter and a man with war honors, from far away.  I do not know what tribe he was from, but he gave many presents and finally took her away to visit his own people.  After some time she came back across the prairie.  There had been a bad prairie fire and when she came into camp her feet and moccasins were very black from the burned grass.  So she and her people were called Sihasapa for that thing.  So they became a band by themselves.  My father was Sihasapa and they came originally from the Hunkpapa.

In 1822 the Tetons and Cheyennes (Shiheyelo) united in a great war against the Crows, Mandans and Arikara.  The Tetons and their allies caught their enemies in an ambush and struck them so sever a blow that they never fully recovered from the effects.  Their number of casualties cannot be known but the Crow loss, from all accounts, must have been very great.  This victory extended Dakotah territory to the Yellowstone and the Big Horn from the Little Missouri, which had been their western frontier until that time.  This information corroborated by Chief Grass, Crow Ghost and Fire Heart.

Chief Grass and Red Tomahawk, 1915, talk about driving the Mandans and Arikara north to the Knife River.

Grass said, “My father was named Pezhi and my grandfather was also called by the same name.  Now my name is Pezhi (Grass).  These were both great men among the Sihasapa, Hunkpapa and Oglala.  They were both wise men and great orators and warriors.  My Grandfather battled with the Mandan, Rees and Gros Ventres all the time.  The Arikara lived along the Cannon Ball with the others then, and he fought them to get them to go away from our hunting places.  There were several villages of them between the Heart and Cannon Ball rivers.  So he struck them time after time, and drove them from those villages toward the north above the Heart river and toward the Knife.  There were a great many battles and a lot were killed in a battle near where Mandan is now, and they cut their heads off.  That was a long time ago.  So those people called the Dakotah “Cut Heads,” and the sign talk is to sweep the hand across the throat.

Then my father took up the war against them and he kept them moving and I helped when I got to fighting.  Finally they all got mostly up at the Knife river where their friends were and they made great villages there.  My Grandfather and my Father did this thing for the Dakotah people.”

Chief Grass gave the following information, about Gentes of the Sihasapa, to Dorsey in 1880:

Sihasapa qtca Real Blackfeet

Kanxicu pegnake Wear raven feathers in their hair

Glagla heca Slovenly, untidy.  Too lazy to tie their moccasins

Wajaje Kill Eagle’s Band

Hohe Assiniboine, Rebels

Wamnugaoin Shell ear ornaments or Pendants

Tison is the old French name for the Sihasapa, meaning Torch or Firebrand.  Another old Indian name for them is Kaga Peta, which means Makes Fire.



     Minikanye (Minneconjou)

Mrs. John Grass talks about her family, April 27, 1921:

“My father’s name was White Swan.  He was a chief of the Miniconjou Dakotah.  We lived south of the Black Hills.  He died when I was 14 years old.  I am 69 now.  He was 52 (i.e. born in 1814).  His father’s name was White Swan, too.  He died when he was 102 years old.  He crawled around on the ground like a baby.  He was very old.

Mrs. John Grass

“There were four chiefs of the Miniconjou.  White Swan was first; One Horn was second chief; Black Shield was third chief; Eagle Parent was fourth chief.  When I was a girl there were many tipis.  I think there were over 1000 people of the Miniconjou.

“White Swan had two wives.  They were cousins of each other.  One Horn had four wives.  His father, One Horn, had ten wives.  I knew seven of them.  I never saw the others.  Maybe they were dead.  I do not know.  Black Shield had three wives.  Eagle Parent had a wife.  She ran away.  She went with another man.  Then she came back he took her back.  He did not do the right thing in this.  He was not chief any more then.  One Horn had a wife and she ran away too.  He took her back.  He was not chief after that time.  He died then.  Black Shield died too.  That way made my father the head chief of the Miniconjou.

“When my father died on tongue River, he was the principal Chief of the Miniconjou.  The other three had died or lost chieftainship.  He was a famous man then.  Seven tribes mourned for him.  These tribes were: Miniconjou, Hunkpapa, Itazepchos (Sans Arcs), Oglala, Shehelaya (Cheyennes), Sicangu (Burnt Thighs), Quluwie (Note: this is the first time I have heard of this tribe.  She explained that there were two divisions of the Burnt Thighs.  They were Sicangu and Quluwie, meaning High and Low Burnt Thighs, respectively.  This division is not mentioned in the HandBook of North American Indians  – W.).

“All of them were Tetonwanna.  The Sihasapa were not there.  They did not come so far south then.  There were great ceremonies and much mourning.  We tied him in a tree. After it got warm we buried him in the ground   (Note: evidently he died in 1866).

“Twenty days after the mourning for the Chief White Swan, the fighting men attacked a place.  There were soldiers there.  It was on one of the branches of the Missouri river.  There was a fort there.  The Indians killed all the soldiers there.  They killed a hundred.  Many Indians were wounded.  My brother was wounded.  His name was His War.  He was hit in the leg with a large iron.  This was at White Butte.  It was north a long ways.

Long Bull talks to Welch, May 7th, 1926:

He told me that Flying By was a leader of a band of Miniconjou at the battle of the Little Big Horn, but that the real leader of the Miniconjou was Maga Ska (White Swan), and after him came Hump.  This is the White Swan who was the father of my foster mother, the wife of Chief John Grass.

Mrs. Amanda Grass, widow of Chief John Grass talks to Welch, April 27, 1921, Vivian Gayton, interpreter:

“When my father died on Tongue River (probably 1866) he was the principal Chief of the Minneconjou.  The other three had died or lost chieftanship.  He was a famous man then.  Seven tribes mourned for Him….Minneconjou, Hunkpapa, Itazepchos, Oglala, Shehelaya, Sicangu and Quluwie,  All of them were Tetonwanna.  The Sihasapa were not there.  They did not come so far south then.  There were great ceremonies and much mourning.  We tied him in a tree.  After it got warm we buried him in the ground.”

“Twenty days after the mourning for Chief White Swan the fighting men attacked a place.  There were soldiers there.  It was on one of the branches of the Missouri river.  There was a fort there.  The Indians killed all the soldiers there.  They killed a hundred.  Many Indians were wounded.  My brother was wounded.  His name was His War.  He was hit in the leg with a large iron.  This was at “White Butte.”  It was north a long ways.”


“If my father wanted the camp to move, it moved.  It went any place he said.  He would send word by a herald to the people of the camp.  Then the time came, the men went after the horses.  The women took down the tipis and they tied things up;  they got all ready.  When the horses were in the camp the women tied the poles on them with cross pieces (Travois).  The children rode on the poles.  In the winter we had a skin covering for it.  Sometimes we went all day time.  When there was now we scraped it off with a horn hoe and put up the tipis.  We did not have miles like now.  We went until we got to the place the Chief said to camp.  Our soldiers traveled with us.  No one was mad.  We went from one river valley to another.  Where the game was.  When it was all gone we moved, too.  Buffalo always traveled with the wind.  The Chief always said when to move and when to camp.  We had no Wamble Hunka (Eagles Parents) in the Minneconjou camps.  The Chief did all those things.”


An attack on a wagon train, but no date:  “When the camp was altogether it was very large.  With all the tribes from the south with us it was as big as from here to where the fort was (Mandan to Fort Abraham Lincoln).  When they broke camp the people separated.  One half went west.  On half went north.  The half which went west captured a long string of wagons.  All the wagons were drawn by cows.  They killed all the people and the soldier guard with them.  The people ate up the cows and steers.  One old Indian man had no horse.  He took a cow.  He rode the cow for a year.  Then there was a famine among the people.  The cow was fat.  They traded something to the old man for the cow.  They ate her up.”


A Minneconjou Holy Place:  “We were on the Swift Water (Mini Duza).  This was close to the Black Hills.  We were going for tipi poles then.  There was a high butte.  We called it Bear Hill.  It was high.  It was built of slabs of rock like steps.  There were cedar trees there.  All the people climbed to the top to pray.  They prayed to Wakan Tonka to live a long time.  It was a holy hill.  Down below it looked like birds.  We put much red cloth on sticks. Red cloth was the most precious.  The old men tied tobacco in bags and hung it on peeled willow wands.  No one could steal from there.  It was dangerous. I went there when I was 10 and 14.

Welch question: “Who were your neighbors to the south when you lived by the Black Hills?

Mrs. Grass continues: “The Minneconjou took many horses and war honors from the Kange Wicasa (Crows).  They lived west and northwest of where we lived.  We lived south of the Black Hills.  We lived on the waters of the Mini Tonka (Niobrara).  When the white men began to come and we commenced to have trouble with them, we lived there.  Five tribes came to us from the south.  One tribe came to us from the east of that place.  They stayed with us.  We were friendly with them.  We fought together.  We camped together.

Mahpiya to were the first to come. Those people had the same name as my mother.  They wore very long hair.  They had no leggings.  They were horse Indians and had saddles.  They tied two poles on two horses and had skin baskets.  They tied the baskets on the poles.  They carried the babies in them.

Scutani were after the first. I do not know what that name means.  It was their name for themselves.  These people were like the Mahpiya to but they were a different tribe.  We did not understand either of them when they talked.

Ring in the Nose were the next ones to come. They did not comb their hair.  They did not have moccasins or leggings.  These people were short people.  They were dark skin people.  They were very hot tempered people.  We did not know their language.

Kange Wicasa (Crows) came after that. Not many of them came.  We were enemies of those people.  Those who came were of them, but were friendly.  These people combed their hair straight back over their foreheads.  The women had light hair.  When they made camp they put up the poles first.  Then they arranged all the robes.  They put everything in order inside the poles.  Then, lastly, they put on the tipi covering.  My father took some Crow people Prisoners.  I have seen them put up their tipis that way.

Wicasa Sapa (Black People .. These were probably the Wichita People) came next.  The people were very dark on their skin.  They were not very good looking people.  When one of them died, they buried him in the sand by the rivers.  No one liked these Black People very well.

Shihelaya (Cheyenne) came from the east of us. They were like us more than the others.  They were brothers.

We were all mixed up.  These were the people who joined us.  They must have been neighbors of ours then.

Marcellus Red Tomahawk tells Welch the Story of the White Woman, March 1915:

“Once a long time ago, there were three Dakotah Indians hunting down on the Cheyenne river.  They saw a white woman coming toward them.  She had no clothes on at all.  She was “wankan.”  She told them to break their bows and arrows and not to fight any more.  She gave them seeds to plant by the water side.  They were afraid.

The broke their weapons and went to a place on the Missouri river in North Dakota (he may have had his rivers mixed up) and planted the seed she gave them.  So they were called Minneconjou (The people who plant by the water runs).  They thought the seed would not grow anywhere else.  Just like some white people who live along the rivers.  They raised corn and pumpkins.  They did not fight any more.  They are farmers and make things to grow out of the ground.  This was about 150 years ago when they saw this woman.  They saw her once since then and she was the same woman, all white and with no clothes  Her hair is white, too.  She was a God woman.  This is the real truth about that white woman.”

Welch note:  This white woman story refers to the pictograph upon the winter counts of Tetons.  It is the first picture upon the count in possession of A.B.Welch and which he calls Blue Thunder’s Count … it translates as … Winter of 1784/85 .. Some Dakotah saw a white woman dressed in white near the mouth of the Missouri river, near the ocean.  Similar stories in nearly all of the Dakotah tribes.


Welch note, undated:

Liberally translated, Minneconjou means The people who plant by the waterside.

In 1800 these people occupied country south of the Black Hills and to the Platte river.  In 1856 there were about 200 lodges of these people and twelve years later, when they had been removed to the Grand river country and Fort Sully, there were 1600 hostiles.



     Oohenopa (Two Kettles)

John Brown, May 1917 talks to Welch:

“The correct translation is Two Boilings.  These are Teton and got the name because of the fact that they knew of certain portions of the buffalo which could be boiled twice.  They would boil it cone and eat all they wanted and get filled.  Then they would boil it again and it was changed in taste so they could eat more right away.  It was a small portion of meat, somewhere on the animal, I do not know where.”


Mrs. Van Solen talks to Welch, May 28th, 1917:

“My grandfather was a great chief of the Oohenopa, named Long Lance.  When he was tired and wanted to rest, the entire tribe would rest, too. When he was ready to go on, they would proceed.  They used to kill something, like a buffalo, and the people would stand around for something to eat.  What kind do you want, they would say to each other,  So when they asked this man what kind of meat he wanted, he said, “I would like two boilings,”  meaning kettles full.  So this became their name, Oohenopa, which means Two Boilings.  The white translated it “Two Kettles.”  This is probably the correct story of how these people got their name.  They are Tintonwanna.”


Welch summary, undated:  This name is translated by the English as “Two Kettles.”  It is said by some authorities that these people once lived upon the Coteau and, in a hard winter, were almost starving when they discovered two kettles of corn at Kettle Lakes.  This saved them from starving and hence the name.

I am told several stories of this name.  One is that once when they had killed some meat, an old honored man was asked what portion he wanted and he said he did not much care, just so had “two kettles,” or enough for two boilings.

Another is that there is a certain part of the buffalo meat which may be prepared for food in one way and then “the people eat all they want of it that way, then they prepare what is left in some  other way, and eat all they want of that, too.”  If this is the correct story the name might well be translated “Two Boilings.”  Sort of a Monday chicken hash day with them.



     Hunkpapa (Uncpapa)

Welch notes, undated (probably around 1915):  The following Bands, or subdivisions, are known to me:

Crazy Spirit Medicine Man.

Half Breech-clout People.

Sleeping Kettle Band.

Fresh Meat Necklace People.

Sore Backs.

Bad Bows Band.

Fire Hearts People.

Leggin Tobacco Pouches (Hunskachantozhuha).

I am told that, for a long time these people lived by themselves, on account of a disagreement over honors, or division of spoils, resulting from a battle with the Omahas.  But, as early as 1800, at any rate, they were closely allied with the Sihasapa.

Their name probably originated over a custom which is still followed in the camping circle….they occupy the south side of the entrance when facing east.  Chief Grass and other reliable old men say their name means, loosely translated: “The People of the end of the Circle,” for, as Grass said, “they camped at the head of the circle.”


Crow Ghost talks to Welch, Mandan, April 12th, 1927:

“A long time ago the Hunkpapa were divided into eight bands.

Real Hunkpapa, with 100 lodges, under Chief Four Horns.

Sihasapa, with 75 lodges under Fire Heart.

Cankiohon, with 30 lodges under Chief Kange Nopa (Two Crows).

Tado Napin (Meat Necklace), 100 lodges under Cejaopapi.

Itazipa Sica (Bad Bows), with about 100 tipis under Wi Sapa (Black Moon).

Sic Siva, a small band with 10 lodges.

Kipalaska, twenty lodges.

Ite Wizi, perhaps twenty lodges.”




     Oglala (To Scatter One’s Own)

According to some this word means “To Scatter Ones Own.”  Its application in this regard would be somewhat obscure, but might refer to the supposition that they were the first Tetons to leave the timbered country and remove to the buffalo range prairies.

A story which has been told to me many times by old men is that it is a name which, very liberally translated, means “They Throw Ashes in the Old Man’s Eyes,” and refers to the following story of origin as told to me by Red Tomahawk, 1914:

“In the old times, a man had three sons, with whom he was not well-pleased.  They were disobedient and did not treat the old man with respect due to old age and much wisdom and honors among his people.  The sons rebelled against his good advice and decided to withdraw from his control.  So one day, as they all sat around together, the old man upbraided them for some act of disloyalty more deserving of censure than any other they had done.  The sons sat and did not talk, but mixed spit in the ashes until they had a pile mixed up.  Then suddenly when the old man was not on his guard, they threw this wet clay and ashes into his eyes and blinded him.  They then went away and gathered around them a band of men and women, and these people were always called, after that, Oglala.  Crazy Horse was an Oglala.”