Sioux People

By : Sheher Bano 7C


The Sioux are various tribes with different histories and customs. There are three divisions of the Sioux: the Santee Sioux, the Teton Sioux, and the Yankton Sioux. The Santee Sioux spoke Dakota so they are known as Dakota Sioux. The Yankton Sioux spoke Nakota so they are known as Nakota Sioux. The Teton Sioux spoke Lakota so they are known as Lakota Sioux. The Dakota Sioux lived in Minnesota, the Nakota Sioux lived in eastern Dakotas, both Sioux tribes hunted and farmed. The Lakota Sioux lived in western Dakotas and Nebraska, this tribe hunted bison/buffalo in the land. The Sioux were forced to move westwards due to game being scarce in the plains due to white settlers and also because their enemy tribe had French guns. The Yankton and Yanktonai lived with other Missouri River tribes. The Yankton and Yanktonai way of life was changed due to the influence by the Missouri River tribes. The Yankton and Yanktonai soon adopted horse riding and hunted buffalo like before, but they mainly focused on farming. However the Santee settled in in more eastern areas and lived with Woodland tribes, they also hunted buffalo. They also did horse riding but not as much as the Yankton and Yanktonai. The Teton are the closest to what we believe the Sioux people are. They lived in the Great Plains, hunted buffalo, and lived in tepees, wore moccasins, etc.

Religion and Beliefs

Religion (Spiritual)

The Sioux believed that all living creatures had a spirit and came from Mother Earth. Each creature had a spirit called "wakan" which came from one great, powerful spirit called "Wakan Tanka". The name "Wakan Tanka" means "all that is holy and mysterious". The Sioux believe there is no separation between the spiritual world and the metaphysical world. The "Wakan Tanka" was the Great Spirit and had power over everything, but minor spirits called "wakanpi" helped "Wakan Tanka". The "wakanpi" had control over everything so the Sioux had to keep the "wakanpi" happy. Only shamans, people with a sacred ability, could communicate with these spirits. The shamans, job was to communicate with these spirits, usually through dances and translating dreams. When young the soon-to-be shamans go on individual quests to find their spirits want from them. Boys also went on the quest, which was a passage to adulthood. So basically, the boys were no longer boys but men and warriors. They went to a secluded place for three or four days with no food. There their spirit guardian would tell them how they could contribute to the tribe. Then they would go back to the village and tell the elders, and leader what he was told and they would then give him a status in the village.


The Sioux were very close to nature. They believed that every human being had to live in a way to fit nature. Sioux religion revolved around nature and it's freedom. The Sioux believed that land did not belong to anyone and it was free to everything. They also respected nature because spirits lived in Mother Earth and it was bad and dangerous to make them angry. Their ancestors were also buried in the Earth and they did not want to disturb them.


Circles were important to the Sioux also. Circles were important to the Sioux because they represented death and rebirth. Circles were everywhere: their tepees were in circles, their fires were in circles, the Sun and Moon were in circles, the sky was round like a circle, the seasons went in circles, all their sacred dances were performed in a circle, medicine wheels were also in circular shapes, the wind also went in circles. The Sioux were taught that the Earth itself is a circle.

Lakota Sioux War Dance

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Important Rituals

Sun Dance

The Sun Dance is an important and widely used ritual among all the Sioux tribes and many others. It included dancing, self-torture, fasting, singing, drumming and seeing visions. The Sun Dance represented the balance of life and how it was continuous. It also displayed how Mother Earth and everything on it was dependent on one another. Furthermore, the Sioux believed that by performing the Sun Dance they could renew the relationship between the land and everything on it, which included spirits. The Sun Dance was also believed to insure harmony over everything. It was held during the *Summer Solstice during the months of June and July, during the full moon. It was started on the sunset of the final preparation day, continued for around four to eight days and also ends on sunset. The Sun Dance was performed in a sacred circle. Warriors had to be pierced through the back or chest with a bone and had a buffalo skull with a hide attached. They would either be attached to a tree or dragged the skull along them in a circle. They had to remove the bone and skull by tearing the skin the bone went through. It tested the bravery of the warriors. The Sun Dance became very popular during the 1700s and the 1800s, when hunting buffalo developed rapidly. The United States and Canadian governments banned the ‘Sun Dance’ in 1883 because they thought it superstitious instead of religious. The ban was released during the mid-20th century.

*Summer Solstice: The two moments during the year when the path of the Sun in the sky is farthest north in the Northern Hemisphere (June 20 or 21) or farthest south in the Southern Hemisphere (December 21 or 22). Source, Encyclopedia Britannica

Sun Dance

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Ghost Dance

During the 1800s a new dance called the Ghost Dance was founded when buffalo and land were scarce to the Sioux. A visionary named Wovoka told the Sioux that he had a vision of a dance that would bring everything back to the Sioux. The Ghost Dance was soon further expanded by saying that specific symbols on clothes would give protection the the Sioux during battle. The Ghost Dance had a major impact on the Sioux, tribes who usually fought against each other now were united, this and the fact that the Ghost Dance scared and unsettled white settlers made the United States and Canadian governments try to ban it. Though the Sioux continued to practice this new religious movement.The rituals of the Ghost Dance included dancing, meditation, chanting and prayers. The religion said that the world would soon end and all the lands would be given back to the Native Americans with green prairie grasses and herds of buffalo roaming again. The Ghost Dance continued further by saying the Native Americans should avoid everything of the white settlers, especially alcohol and live in harmony with each other. Native Americans who participated in the Ghost Dance would (supposedly) catch glimpses of the future while they danced. The Ghost Dance taught hope to the free and proud people who were now living in poverty, depression and in reservations reservations. Many western Native Americans also practiced this religion. In 1890 200 Sioux men, women, and children were killed by U.S. troops because they were practicing the Ghost Dance. This battle is called the “Wounded Knee Massacre” and it effectively ended the Ghost Dance.

Information on the Wounded Knee Massacre:

Ghost Dance

Wounded Knee Massacre (Aftermath)

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