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Tribal Historical Overview - Dakota Migration

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Dakota Migration

Throughout the 1700s the Dakota bands moved westward, one by one, onto the open plains. Some of them may have left the forest in search of game or other food. Many were pushed out by the Ojibwa, who were stronger because they had obtained guns from French traders and explorers, while the Dakota still had bows and arrows. By the mid-1700s, it is believed that small bands of Teton had crossed the Red River and were exploring the western plains.

Dakota migration map
Dakota Migration. (Map by
Cassie Theurer)

History suggests that the many tribes were once historically connected or may have shared the same language of the great Dakota Nation. Those tribes were the Mandan, Crows, Winnebago, Omaha, and Iowa. (Hill, 1911) The great Dakota Nation was divided into three dialects and seven major bands. The Eastern Dakota, speakers of the Dakota or “D” dialect, comprised four bands: the Mdewakanton, Wahpeton, Wahpekute, and Sisseton. The Middle Dakota, speakers of the Nakota or “N” dialect consist of the Yankton, and Yanktonai. The Yanktonai, who before the 1800s were living in what is now the southern two-thirds of Minnesota, had moved into southern North Dakota, eastern South Dakota and parts of Iowa and Minnesota. The Western or Teton Dakota, speakers of the Lakota or “L” dialect, were the largest division with seven bands: Blackfoot, Two Kettle, Miniconjou, Hunkpapa, Brule, Sansarc, and Oglala.

The Dakota of Spirit Lake in North Dakota comprise two of the Bands of the Eastern Dakota: the Wahpeton, the Dwellers Among the Leaves and the Sisseton, the People of the Ridged Fish Scales. Other Dakotas include the Wahpekute, the Shooters Among the Leaves and the Mdewakanton, the Dwellers Among the Spirit Lake (Mille Lacs Lake). Kappler calls these the Sioux of the Leaf, the Broad Leaf, and those who shoot in the Pine Tops. (Kappler, 128–129)

Ocieti Sakowin, Seven Council Fires, Dakota
Dakota (Oceti Sakowin—Seven Council Fires). (Graphic by Cassie Theurer)

Sub-Bands of the Sissetonwan

  1. Wita Waziyata Otina (North Island Dwellers) North Island is in Lake Traverse. Ohdihe (Falling headfirst)
  2. Basdecesni (Those who do not split the buffalo backbone.) Itokahtina (Dwellers at the south) an island in Lake Traverse.
  3. Kahmiatonwan (Village at the bend) Cansdacikana (little place bare of wood) • Keze (Barbed)
  4. Cankute (Shoot at trees)
  5. Tizaptan (Five Lodges) The Redfox and Young Families
  6. Kapoza (Light baggage)
  7. Abdowapushkiyapi (They who dry meat on their shoulders) Most of the original allottees in the Mission District belong to this band.

Sub-Bands of the Wahpetonwan

  1. Inyanceyaka Atonwan (Village at the rapids)
  2. Takapsintonwanna (Those who dwell at the Shinny (a game) ground)
  3. WiYoakaotina (Dwellers on the sand)
  4. Otehiatonwan (Dwellers in the thickets)
  5. Witaotina (Island dwellers)
  6. Wakpa Atonwan (Village at the river)
  7. Cankagaotina (Log house dwellers) Hazelwood Republic

Sub-Bands of the Ihanktonwanna

  1. Canon a or Wazikute (Wood or pine tree shooters)
  2. Takina (Return to life)
  3. Siksicena (Bad ones)
  4. Bakihon (Gashers)
  5. Kiyuska (Law breakers)
  6. Pabaksa (Head cut oft) These were at Devils Lake but moved to Standing Rock when Agent McLaughlin was transferred.
  7. unknown


  1. Pute Temini (Sweating lips)
  2. Sunikceka (Common dogs)
  3. Tahuhayuta (Eaters of hide scrapings)
  4. Sanona (Rubbed white)
  5. Ihasa (Red lips)
  6. Itegu (Burnt faces)
  7. Pteyutesni (No buffalo cow eaters) Big Track from Crow Hill District was chief. (Ross & Haines 1973)

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