The largest of the Sioux bands, representing the majority of the Teton Sioux - the Lakota of the Pine Ridge Reservation have one of the best known Indian tribal flags. The 2,782 square mile reservation in southwestern South Dakota (NAA, 36-43) is bordered by the State of Nebraska to the south, the Rosebud Sioux Reservation to the east and Badlands National park to the west.

The Oglala Band of the Teton have given the Sioux, and the United States two of the most famous Indians of all times. Both Chief Red Cloud and Chief Crazy Horse were Oglalas

The 14,500 plus residents of the reservation utilize a red flag that, when fringed for indoor or parade use, employs a deep blue fringe to incorporate the colors of the United States into the design. This red flag bears a circle of eight teepees representing the eight districts of the reservation. They stand for the Porcupine, the Wakpamni, the Medicine Root, Pass Creek, Eagle Nest, White Clay, LaCreek and Wounded Knee districts.

The flag of red, symbolizes the blood shed by the Sioux in defense of their lands and the very idea of the "red men". The flag is a very common sight at all Native American powwows, not just at Sioux gatherings. Since its inception in 1961, the flag of the Oglala Sioux has taken on a larger role. More than any other flag, the flag of the Oglala Sioux could be considered "the" flag of the Native American peoples.


The Lakota (sometimes called Tetons - "prairie dwellers") have 7 bands:

  • Oglala ("they scatter their own", or "dust scatterers"),
  • Sicangu (or Brule - "Burnt Thighs"),
  • Hunkpapa ("end of the circle"),
  • Miniconjous ("planters beside the stream"),
  • Sihasapa (or Blackfeet, not to be confused with the separate Blackfeet tribe),
  • Itazipacola (or Sans Arcs: "without bows"), and Oohenupa ("Two Boilings" or "Two Kettle").

    The Dakota Sioux (also called Santee Sioux) with 4 bands:

  • Mdewakantonwon
  • Wahpeton
  • Wahpekute
  • Sisseton

    living in South Dakota, as well as in Minnesota, Nebraska, and ND.

    The Nakota - Yankton Sioux with 3 bands in modern times:

  • Yankton
  • Upper Yanktonai
  • Lower Yanktonai, living in SD, ND, and MT.

    In North America the territory of the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Nation covers some 200,000 km2 in the present day state of South Dakota and neighboring states.

    The Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Nation (also known as the Great Sioux Nation) descends from of the original inhabitants of North America and can be divided into three major linguistic and geographic groups: Lakota (Teton, West Dakota), Nakota (Yankton, Central Dakota) and Dakota (Santee, Eastern Dakota). The total number of native North Americans is approximately 1,5 million, of which around 100,000 are Lakota. They reside near the Sacred Black Hills of South Dakota.


    1847 - Westward migration on the Oregon Trail through Plains Indian country

    1850 - 20,000,000 buffalo on the plains between Montana and Texas

    1851 - First Fort Laramie Treaty with the Plains Indians allowing for safe migration and beginning settlements in Indian country

    1850-1875 - Extermination of buffalo herds by sports and hide hunters–severely limits Plains Indians food supply and ability to survive

    1868 - Second Fort Laramie Treaty establishes Great Sioux Reservation encompassing the western half of South Dakota and smaller portions of Wyoming and Nebraska–many Plains Indians still move freely in Powder River country (Montana)

    1870 - Buffalo herds are diminished to a crisis point for Plains Indians

    1873 - Gold discovered in the Black Hills–part of the Great Sioux Reservation in South Dakota

    1876- Battle of Little Big Horn (Custer's Last Stand)

    1877 - Plains Indians forced to surrender and camp at Fort Robinson, Nebraska–Red Cloud Agency established

    1877 - 'Sell or starve' bill forces the Lakota to give up the Black Hills and gold

    1877-1888 - Buffalo have disappeared and Lakota now live on handouts from the Federal Government

    1888 - Oglala Lakota move to Pine Ridge Agency on South Dakota/Nebraska border

    1889 - Great Sioux Reservation is further reduced in size by the Dawes Act, non-reservation land is opened to settlers

    1890 - Wounded Knee Massacre Pine Ridge, South Dakota

    1890 to Present - Lakota reduced to chronic conditions of poverty, poor health and despair

    1934 - Traditional tribal form of government abolished and replaced with Bureau of Indian Affairs (federally managed elected tribal councils)

    1980 - United States Supreme Court opinion "The taking of the Black Hills [60 billion dollars in gold] is the most ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing ever perpetrated on a people by the United States Government

    1999 - Shannon County, South Dakota, home of the Oglala Lakota on Pine Ridge Reservation is identified as the poorest place in the country

    Traditionally, the Lakota hunted buffalo. Today, the economy is based on agriculture, cattle, sheep ranches, fishing and tourism. Natural resources are gold, silver, oil, ore and shale. The countryís largest gold mine is in the Black Hills, which is being mined against the wishes of the indigenous Lakota.

    The US signed the First First Laramie Treaty with several indigenous Nations, which formally recognised the Lakota as being entitled to a huge tract upon their sacred land and that Indians were an independent political community which possess sovereignty. Despite the Treaty, the clash between the Lakota people and the invaders continued.

    The Second Fort Laramie Treaty was signed and secured traditional Sioux territories. After that, the Treaty was almost immediately violated and Euro-American exploitation went on in full strength.

    US government forced the Chiefs to transfer the Black Hills to white control, and organised the partition of the vast Sioux Territory into a number of small reservations.

    The US Court of Claims ruled that the US government had violated the 1868 Treaty and that the Sioux were entitled to US$ 110 million in compensation for the Black Hills. The rule was upheld by the US Supreme Court.

    The Sioux were awarded US$ 40 million for losses based on the treaty of 1868, which designed lands to the Lakota. This US$ 40 currently lies in a trust fund in Washington. There is now division in the Sioux nations as to whether to claim the money, and therefore relinquish their rights to the Black Hills forever, or to press for the return of the Black Hills.

    The US Budget recommended the elimination of funding for public service employment on all Lakota, Dakota and Nakota reservations. The Lakota band of Hunkpapa, on Standing Rock Reservation, established a cultural reservation office in Fort Yates, North Dakota. The Lakota Nation hosted a ĒPrayer Day of PeaceĒ. The ride and ceremony for peace was organised at a time when the need for unity and a common sense of direction is increasingly being felt among Lakota, Nakota and Dakota peoples.

    US federal and state policy appears to continue to dissident and to prevent any form of unity from arising. At worst, the policy today is still genocidal. At best, it is shockingly intensive. In many reservations, there is violence, drunkenness, aphaty and despair. Schools drop-outs rates range from 45 to 62%. Suicide among the indigenous people is twice the US national average and unemployment runs around 80%. The Lakota have formed The Alliance of Tribal Tourism Advocates, whose goal is to enhance prospects of tourism development in accordance with the nationís organisations, beliefs and priorities.


    Chief Rain In The Face

    Chief Rain In The Face was a Hunkpapa Lakota, born around 1835 near the forks of the Cheyenne River in present-day North Dakota. According to his own testimony, he first received the name as a result of a boyhood fight in which blood smeared his face paint, much as rain. Another version, popular among whites, told that as an infant he was left in a storm long enough for rain to splatter his face.

    During his youth, Rain In The Face rose to prominence as a warrior and was a major leader in the Lakota wars of the 1860s and 1870s. Following the Battle of the Little Bighorn, he accompanied Sitting Bull to Canada and returned with him to the United States in 1881. Like many other former Lakota warriors he became a reservation policeman, performing many of the traditional functions of an akicita or camp patrolman.

    Sitting Bull - Tatanka Iyotake

    Sitting Bull was a Lakota Medicine Man and Chief was considered the last Sioux to surrender to the U.S. Government.

    Sitting Bull, a Hunkpapa Lakota was born in the early 1830s near the Grand River in present-day South Dakota. A formidable warrior and military strategist, Sitting Bull also gained renown as a powerful medicine man.

    Following the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June, 1876, Sitting Bull led 135 of his lodges across the "medicine road," or border, into Canada where they hoped to find a better life. Some American generals, including Nelson Miles, feared that Sitting Bull might use his new homeland as a base for attacking American troops and citizens. Miles convened a council in an attempt to convince the Hunkpapa leader and his followers to return to the United States.

    Along with General Alfred Terry, Nelson Miles promised Sitting Bull that the United States would make peace with the Sioux and that all those who returned would receive a full pardon. Fearing that the American generals would betray him, Sitting Bull expressed intentions to keep his people in Canada.

    In 1881, on the verge of starvation, Sitting Bull led his people back into the United States. While most of these Hunkpapas were assigned to the Standing Rock Reservation, Sitting Bull was escorted to Fort Randall where he was detained for two years before being allowed to join his people.

    His opposition to government assimilationist policy on Standing Rock Reservation led agent James McLaughlin to issue orders for his arrest on December 15, 1890. While being taken into custody, the 59 year-old leader was shot and killed.

    Gall - Man Who Goes In The Middle and Red Walker

    Gall (Pizi), known also as Man Who Goes In The Middle and Red Walker, was a close ally and younger brother of Sitting Bull. He is best remembered for mounting the successful counterattack on Commander Marcus Reno's troops during the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Discovering that his wives and children were victims of Reno's assault, Gall threw himself into the remaining conflict with unbridled passion, observing later that their loss had "made his heart bad."

    Following the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Gall lived with Sitting Bull's camp in Canada from 1877 to 1881. Returning to the United States, he joined the rest of the Hunkpapas on Standing Rock Reservation where he attempted to help his people adapt to the changes demanded of them by assimilationist polices. His willingness to cooperate with white officials led Sitting Bull and other traditionalists to brand him a traitor. Gall died in Oak Creek, South Dakota in 1894.

    Red Cloud - Makhpiya-Luta

    Beginning in 1866, Red Cloud orchestrated the most successful war against the United States ever fought by an Indian nation. The army had begun to construct forts along the Bozeman Trail, which ran through the heart of Lakota territory in present-day Wyoming to the Montana gold fields from Colorado's South Platte River. As caravans of miners and settlers began to cross the Lakota's land, Red Cloud was haunted by the vision of Minnesota's expulsion of the Eastern Lakota in 1862 and 1863.

    So he launched a series of assaults on the forts, most notably the crushing defeat of Lieutenant Colonel William Fetterman's column of eighty men just outside Fort Phil Kearny, Wyoming, in December of 1866. The garrisons were kept in a state of exhausting fear of further attacks through the rest of the winter.

    Red Cloud's strategies were so successful that by 1868 the United States government had agreed to the Fort Laramie Treaty. The treaty's remarkable provisions mandated that the United States abandon its forts along the Bozeman Trail and guarantee the Lakota their possession of what is now the Western half of South Dakota, including the Black Hills, along with much of Montana and Wyoming.

    The peace, of course, did not last. Custer's 1874 Black Hills expedition again brought war to the northern Plains, a war that would mean the end of independent Indian nations. For reasons which are not entirely clear, Red Cloud did not join Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and other war leaders in the Lakota War of 1876-77. However, after the military defeat of the Lakota nation, Red Cloud continued to fight for the needs and autonomy of his people, even if in less obvious or dramatic ways than waging war.

    Throughout the 1880's Red Cloud struggled with Pine Ridge Indian Agent Valentine McGillycuddy over the distribution of government food and supplies and the control of the Indian police force. He was eventually successful in securing McGillycuddy's dismissal. Red Cloud cultivated contacts with sympathetic Eastern reformers, especially Thomas A. Bland, and was not above pretending for political effect to be more acculturated to white ways than he actually was.

    Fearing the Army's presence on his reservation, Red Cloud refrained from endorsing the Ghost Dance movement, and unlike Sitting Bull and Big Foot, he escaped the Army's occupation unscathed. Thereafter he continued to fight to preserve the authority of chiefs such as himself, opposed leasing Lakota lands to whites, and vainly fought allotment of Indian reservations into individual tracts under the 1887 Dawes Act. He died in 1909, but his long and complex life endures as testimony to the variety of ways in which Indians resisted their conquest.

    Crazy Horse - Tashunca-uitco

    Celebrated for his ferocity in battle, Crazy Horse was recognized among his own people as a visionary leader committed to preserving the traditions and values of the Lakota way of life.

    Even as a young man, Crazy Horse was a legendary warrior. He stole horses from the Crow Indians before he was thirteen, and led his first war party before turning twenty. Crazy Horse fought in the 1865-68 war led by the Oglala chief Red Cloud against American settlers in Wyoming, and played a key role in destroying William J. Fetterman's brigade at Fort Phil Kearny in 1867.

    Crazy Horse earned his reputation among the Lakota not only by his skill and daring in battle but also by his fierce determination to preserve his people's traditional way of life. He refused, for example, to allow any photographs to be taken of him. And he fought to prevent American encroachment on Lakota lands following the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, helping to attack a surveying party sent into the Black Hills by General George Armstrong Custer in 1873.

    When the War Department ordered all Lakota bands onto their reservations in 1876, Crazy Horse became a leader of the resistance. Closely allied to the Cheyenne through his first marriage to a Cheyenne woman, he gathered a force of 1,200 Oglala and Cheyenne at his village and turned back General George Crook on June 17, 1876, as Crook tried to advance up Rosebud Creek toward Sitting Bull's encampment on the Little Bighorn.

    After this victory, Crazy Horse joined forces with Sitting Bull and on June 25 led his band in the counterattack that destroyed Custer's Seventh Cavalry, flanking the Americans from the north and west as Hunkpapa warriors led by chief Gall charged from the south and east.

    Following the Lakota victory at the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull and Gall retreated to Canada, but Crazy Horse remained to battle General Nelson Miles as he pursued the Lakota and their allies relentlessly throughout the winter of 1876-77. This constant military harassment and the decline of the buffalo population eventually forced Crazy Horse to surrender on May 6, 1877; except for Gall and Sitting Bull, he was the last important chief to yield.

    Even in defeat, Crazy Horse remained an independent spirit, and in September 1877, when he left the reservation without authorization, to take his sick wife to her parents, General George Crook ordered him arrested, fearing that he was plotting a return to battle. Crazy Horse did not resist arrest at first, but when he realized that he was being led to a guardhouse, he began to struggle, and while his arms were held by one of the arresting officers, a soldier ran him through with a bayonet.

    Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux

    Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking.

    "Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.

    "And I say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy...

    "But anywhere is the center of the world."


  • The Keeping of the Soul
  • Inipi:The Rite of Purification
  • Hanblecheyapi:Crying for a Vision
  • Wiwanyag Wachipi:The Sun Dance
  • Hunkapi:The Making of Relatives
  • Ishna Ta Awi Cha Lowan:Preparing a Girl for Womanhood
  • Tapa Wanka Yap:Throwing of the Ball

    Dream Catcher (Lakota) Legend

    Long ago when the world was young, an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a high mountain and had a vision.

    In his vision, Iktomi, the great trickster and teacher of wisdom, appeared in the form of a spider.

    Iktomi spoke to him in a sacred language that only the spiritual leaders of the Lakota could understand.

    As he spoke Iktomi, the spider, took the elder's willow hoop which had feathers, horse hair, beads and offerings on it and began to spin a web.

    He spoke to the elder about the cycles of life ... and how we begin our lives as infants and we move on to childhood, and then to adulthood. Finally, we go to old age where we must be taken care of as infants, completing the cycle.

    "But," Iktomi said as he continued to spin his web, "in each time of life there are many forces -- some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces, they will steer you in the right direction. But if you listen to the bad forces, they will hurt you and steer you in the wrong direction."

    He continued, "There are many forces and different directions that can help or interfere with the harmony of nature, and also with the great spirit and-all of his wonderful teachings."

    All the while the spider spoke, he continued to weave his web starting from the outside and working toward the center.

    When Iktomi finished speaking, he gave the Lakota elder the web and said..."See, the web is a perfect circle but there is a hole in the center of the circle."

    He said, "Use the web to help yourself and your people to reach your goals and make good use of your people's ideas, dreams and visions.

    "If you believe in the great spirit, the web will catch your good ideas -- and the bad ones will go through the hole."

    The Lakota elder passed on his vision to his people and now the Sioux Indians use the dream catcher as the web of their life.

    It is hung above their beds or in their home to sift their dreams and visions.

    The good in their dreams are captured in the web of life and carried with them...but the evil in their dreams escapes through the hole in the center of the web and are no longer a part of them.

    They believe that the dream catcher holds the destiny of their future.


    In the beginning, prior to the creation of the earth, the gods resided in an undifferentiated celestial domain and humans lived in an indescribably subterranean world devoid of culture. Chief among the gods were Takushkanshkan ("something that moves"), the Sun, who is married to the Moon, with whom he has one daughter, Wohpe ("falling star"); Old Man and Old Woman, whose daughter Ite ("face") is married to Wind, with whom she has four sons, the Four Winds.

    Among numerous other spirits, the most important is Inktomi ("spider"), the devious trickster. Inktomi conspires with Old Man and Old Woman to increase their daughter's status by arranging an affair between the Sun and Ite. The discovery of the affair by the Sun's wife leads to a number of punishments by Takuskanskan, who gives the Moon her own domain, and by separating her from the Sun initiates the creation of time.

    Old Man, Old Woman, and Ite are sent to earth, but Ite is separated from the Wind, her husband, who, along with the Four Winds and a fifth wind presumed to be the child of the adulterous affair, establishes space. The daughter of the Sun and the Moon, Wohpe, also falls to earth and later resides with the South Wind, the paragon of Lakota maleness, and the two adopt the fifth wind, called Wamniomni ("whirlwind").

    The Emergence

    Alone on the newly formed earth, some of the gods become bored, and Ite prevails upon Inktomi to find her people, the Buffalo Nation. In the form of a wolf, Inktomi travels beneath the earth and discovers a village of humans. Inktomi tells them about the wonders of the earth and convinces one man, Tokahe ("the first"), to accompany him to the surface.

    Tokahe does so and upon reaching the surface through a cave (Wind Cave in the Black Hills), marvels at the green grass and blue sky. Inktomi and Ite introduce Tokahe to buffalo meat and soup and show him tipis, clothing, and hunting utensils. Tokahe returns to the subterranean village and appeals to six other men and their families to travel with him to the earth's surface.

    When they arrive, they discover that Inktomi has deceived them: buffalo are scarce, the weather has turned bad, and they find themselves starving. Unable to return to their home, but armed with a new knowledge about the world, they survive to become the founders of the Seven Fireplaces.

    The Seven Sacred Rites.

    Wohpe ("Falling Star") appears to the Lakota as a real woman during a period of starvation. She is discovered by two hunters, one of whom lusts for her. He is immediately covered by a mist and reduced to bones. The other hunter is instructed to return to his camp and tell the chief and people that she, "White Buffalo Calf Woman," will appear to them the next day. He obeys, and a great council tipi is constructed.

    White Buffalo Calf Woman presents to the people a bundle containing the sacred pipe, and she tells them that in time of need they should smoke from the pipe and pray to Wakantanka for help. The smoke from the pipe will carry their prayers upward. She then instructs them in the seven sacred rites, most of which continue to form the basis of Lakota religion, including the sweat lodge, the vision quest, and the Sun danceday.

    -Encyclopedia of Religion.