Sioux Indians, a North American Indian tribe of the Siouan language family. The name Sioux" comes from a Chippewa word for adder or enemy. The tribe calls itself by a Siouan word meaning allies the word is spelled (depending on which Siouan dialect is being used) Lakota, Dakota, or Nakota. The Sioux are one of the best-known Indian tribes in American history. They were one of the largest and most warlike groups on the Northern Plains and under leaders such as Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull won notable victories against the U.S. Army.

A Sioux war party.A Sioux war party.

The earliest known homeland of the Sioux was the upper Mississippi Valley in what is now Minnesota. Beginning in the 1600's, many Sioux were forced westward by the Chippewa (or Ojibway). By the late 1700's the main body of Sioux, called the Teton (or Western) Sioux, were centered in the Black Hills of South Dakota. To the east were the Wiciyela (or Middle) and the Santee (or Eastern) Sioux. At that time the total group numbered about 25,000.

The Teton Sioux were nomadic horsemen who depended upon the buffalo for food, clothing, tepee coverings, and a wide variety of tools, ornaments, and ceremonial objects. There were seven Teton bands: the Oglala (the band of Red Cloud and Crazy Horse); Hunkpapa (the band of Sitting Bull); Brule; Sans Arcs; Oohenonpa, or Two Kettle; Mini-conjou; and Sihasapa, or Blackfoot (not to be confused with the Blackfeet tribe of the Algonquian family).

The Wiciyela, consisting of two bandsthe Yankton and Yanktonaiand the Santee, with four groups, were village dwellers who farmed and hunted small game.

Relations between the Sioux and the United States were largely peaceful until large numbers of whites began settling in Sioux territory, and the Indians were forced onto reservations by the government. In 1862 Santees led by Little Crow rose against the whites in Minnesota, killing more than 400 settlers. In retaliation, the United States government confiscated the Sioux lands in Minnesota and sentenced some 300 Santees to death. (All but 38 were eventually pardoned by President Lincoln for lack of evidence.)

Spotted TailSpotted Tail was a Brule Sioux chief.

In 1866 there was an uprising of Teton Sioux when forts were built along the Bozeman Trail, which crossed their hunting grounds and led to the gold fields of Montana. The Indians, under Red Cloud, eventually forced the government to abandon the trail. ( )

Armed clashes continued at intervals, reaching a climax in 1876. At the Battle of the Little Bighorn, a force under Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer was wiped out by Sioux and Cheyenne bands led by Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and Gall. Within a few months, however, the U.S. Army had forced the Indians onto reservations, except for those few who fled to Canada.

In the late 1880's, many Teton Sioux joined an Indian religious movement, known as the Ghost Dance, that promised the return of the buffalo and the disappearance of all white men. The government, fearing an uprising, sent large bodies of troops into Sioux territory. In December, 1890, the troops massacred nearly 300 Sioux who had gathered at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. The massacre ended both the Ghost Dance movement and armed Indian resistance to the United States.

In 1973 militant Indians occupied the village of Wounded Knee until assured that provisions of the 1868 treaty creating the Sioux reservations would be honored.

Most Sioux live on reservations in South Dakota; the rest, in North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Their economic status is low, and government and tribal leaders are working to develop agriculture, industry, and natural resources on the tribal lands.