This paper originally appeared in the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation's quarterly "The Past Times," Vol. IX, No. 4. I lost the original file when my flash drive went through the washer and dryer. A copy of the paper can be found in the North Dakota State Archives. This was a long paper too, covering the basic points of conflict in the Great Lakes and the Northern Plains, but also included the origin of Painted Woods. I'll post the Painted Woods story separately because its a tragic love story and doesn't quite fit into the conflicts of the northern plains other than that it involved the Sioux and Mandan.
Sometime in 1615 French explorers made first contact with the Algonquin-speaking Anishinabe. The Anishinabe, like many native peoples, refer to themselves as “The People, and like other tribes, break themselves down into bands. This particular tribe or band of Anishinabe call themselves Ojibwe, meaning “Puckered Moccasins,” in reference to how they made their moccasins. The French couldn’t easily say Ojibwe and instead referred to them as “Chippewa.”
At first Europeans came for gold, when little or none was found, natural resources like fur became a substitute. The French wanted furs for trade and profit, the natives wanted guns to hunt and expand their territories.
Beginning at the turn of 1600 traditional skirmishes over territories escalated into the one-hundred years long conflict, the Beaver Wars. The Iroquois allied themselves with the Dutch for their supply of guns, the Algonquin with the French. The Iroquois made war on the Huron in the
Great Lakes and by 1649, with the assistance of disease, destroyed the Huron confederacy. As the Iroquois battered the Huron, the Chippewa braced for war and looked west to the territories of their enemies there.
A lot happened at the turn of 1600. Two groups of people either moved or were forced out of the lower
Great Lakes region, the Hidatsa and the Catawba, both tribes Siouan speakers, both would probably cringe at being identified as anything Sioux. The Hidatsa moved west to the upper Missouri to live with the . The Catawba who have the oral tradition say that they were pushed south over the Mandan Appalachian Mountains by the Iroquois.
What the Chippewa called the Iroquois before Beaver Wars is no longer recalled. What they called the Iroquois during and after the wars is recorded as “Nadowaysws,” or “The True Adders.” The Chippewa called their enemies in the western half of the
Great Lakes “Nadowaysuaig” or “Nadowaysuis,” translated as Snakes-In-The-Grass or the Lesser Adders. The French couldn’t quite say either word in Chippewa and instead used an adopted short form of the word, “Sioux.”
It was about 1640 when the Assiniboine Sioux broke away from the main body of the Great Sioux Nation. The Great Sioux Nation were made up of five Dakota tribes, the Mdewakaŋton, Sisetowon, Waĥpėtowon, Waĥpėkutė, and the Okdada.
Members of the the Great Sioux Nation today refer to themselves as Oċėti Śakowiŋ, or the Seven Council Fires. The Seven Council Fires consist of the Dakota (Mdewakaŋton, Sisetowon, Waĥpėtowon, & Waĥpėkutė), Nakota (Ihaŋktowon & Ihaŋktowana; the French called them “Yankton” & “Yanktonai”), and the Lakota (Tetonwon, whom are the most numerous and are organized into seven sub-tribes: Huŋkpapa, Sihasapa, Itażipċo, Mniconjou, Oohėnuŋpa, Śiċaŋġu, & Oglala).
Assiniboine have the oral tradition that recalls a fight over meat and broke off from the Yanktonai. This infighting occurred during the Beaver Wars and as the Chippewa were pushing west for territory and furs. Natural resources became scarce forcing people to fight back, move further west, or starve. In one generation, the Assiniboine moved northwest and allied themselves to the Plains Cree and Piegan. The Assiniboine were ever after known to the main body of Sioux as Hohė, or rebels.
In 1659-60 the French explorers Pierre Esprit Radisson and Medard Chouart Sieur des Groseilliers journeyed west to Lake Superior and
Lake Michigan followed by Jesuit missionaries twenty years later. In 1680 the Jesuits Hennepin and Duluth made contact with the Sioux in northern at the height of conflict between the Sioux and Chippewa at Mill Lac. The Okdada Dakota moved west to the Missouri River where, in a generation, changed their lifestyle from sedentary horticulture and hunting to nomadic hunting so completely, changed their dialect, that they came to be called Oglala Lakota. Minnesota
Armed with guns from trade with the English, the Lakota arrived on the plains at nearly the same time as horses, 1692, and took complete advantage of both to the dismay of all tribes on the northern plains, all but the Cheyenne.
When the Sioux came to dwell on the plains the only tribe with whom they didn’t have an antagonistic relationship with were the Tsistsistas, who the Sioux referred to as Śahiyėna, or
, meaning “Red Talkers.” The relationship didn’t remain friendly for long. Cheyenne
Horse stealing raids and skirmishes to gain and control territory became the lifestyle of the Lakota in the early eighteenth century. The first recorded horse stealing raid was against the Hėwaĥtoĥta, the Hidatsa, in 1706. Then a war with the
In fact, so many horse stealing raids occurred in the first half of the 18th century that when Pierre La Verendrye made first contact with the
there were no horses to barter for. La Verendrye walked his entire stay on the northern plains. Mandan
Tenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian, 1888-'89, paper by Garrick Mallory, edited by J. W. Powell.
Fifteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smothsonian, 1894-'95, paper by W. J. McGee.
Siouan Sociology, by James Owen Dorsey prepared in the 1890s. Paper published in The Sioux Indians: A Socio-Ethnological History, an introduction by John F. Bryde, Ph.D., edited by Sol Lewis, 1973.
Yanktonai Ethnohistory and the John K. Bear Winter Count, paper by James Howard, Plains Anthropologist, 1976.