History and Background

Profile of the Dakota/Nakota/Lakota in Saskatchewan

In aboriginal times an area extending from the Canadian parklands to the Arkansas River, from the Rocky Mountains to the Western shores of the Great Lakes was the domicile of the O©eåi §aúowiñ whom explorers erroneously named the Sioux, Assiniboine, and Stoney. The members of the O©eåi §aúowiñ believed in a common ancestry, shared similar cultural traits, and spoke one language distinguished by three dialects: Daíoþa, Naíoþa, and Laíoþa (Dakota, Nakota, Lakota), a term meaning “those that consider themselves kindred”, which is used in reference to the Nation or the language when speaking in any of the three dialects. Although they are a minority among the current Indian populations of Saskatchewan, historically they have been the leaders and role models in the development of “Northern Plains Indian Culture” and have had a significant role in the history of this Province.

The Daíoþa/Naíoþa/Laíoþa oral tradition gives detailed accounts of their origin and history, commencing from their creation and inhabitation of regions below the surface of the earth. This oral history tells of their migration, thousands of years ago, to the earth’s surface at Wind Cave in the Black Hills and the evolution of the O©eåi §aúowiñ or the nation of the “seven council fires.” The O©eåi §aúowiñ is comprised of the Mdewaíañtoñwañ, Waüöetoñwañ, Sissitoñwañ, and Wahpekuþe who are the eldest sub-divisions and make up the eastern division or lsañåi that speak the Daíoþa dialect; the Ihañktoñwañ and Ihañktoñwanna, who make up the middle division or Wi©eyeñna that speak the Naíoþa dialect, and the Åitoñwañ who are the youngest and makeup the western division which is the largest and is further sub-divided into the Oglala, Huñkpaöa, Si©añðu, Mnikoju, Itazip©o, Sihasaöa, and Ohenuñöa who speak the Laíoþa dialect.

Other First Nations of the east told early explorers of the O©eåi §aúowiñ. Among them were the Ojibwe who referred to them as the “Bon” but nicknamed them “Nadowe-is-iw-ug”, meaning Lesser Adders, which is a type of snake in the Great Lakes region. The French elected to use the nickname and soon modified the name to Sioux, which was adopted by the British and Americans when referring to the O©eåi §aúowiñ. In time the Americans came to refer to them as the “Great Sioux Nation” which is still used today in legal documents.

In the early 1600’s some members of the Wazikute or Pine Shooters sub-division of the Ihañktoñwañna, had taken Ojibwe spouses and subsequently their in-laws came to live with them, which in turn lead to conflict with their Naíoþa relatives. To avoid further conflict those households made their own camp and are known as the Hohe or Rough Voiced. The Ojibwe called them Assinibon and the Cree referred as them the Assinibauta, both terms meaning “O©eåi §aúowiñ who cook with stones.” The French heard of them through the Ojibwe and Cree and soon modified the name to Assiniboine. This term too was adopted by the British and the Americans, who indiscriminately labelled some Naíoþa speaking bands Assiniboine, and others Yankton or Yanktonia which are anglicized terms for Ihañktoñwañ and Ihañktoñwañna. The origin of the term Stoney is uncertain, it may only be an anglicized term for Assiniboine.

As has been identified, the territory of the O©eåi §aúowiñ covered an extensive area that encompassed a variety of ecosystems. Each division developed a lifestyle that was best suited to their immediate territory and that allowed them to live in harmony with their environment. The lifestyle of the Daíoþa and the southern Naíoþa was semi-sedimentary, while the lifestyle of the northern Naíoþa and Laíoþa was one of continual migration. The northern Naíoþa and the Laíoþa depended upon the buffalo for their survival, while the southern Naíoþa and Daíoþa annually hunted buffalo but depended on smaller game, fishing, gathering, and horticulture to meet their basic needs. Long before the arrival of Europeans, all three divisions claimed the southern parklands and the plains of Saskatchewan as part of their hunting territory and could be found hunting buffalo in this region. Remains of their campsites, ceremonial sites, and burial grounds can be found throughout the Province, today.

The O©eåi §aúowiñ were entrepreneurs, travelling great distances in their never-ending search for new resources. They developed an extensive trade network with other First Nations and were always expanding their territory. Their first documented contact with the European immigrants was in 1634, when Jean Nicollete visited one of the Isañåi villages, one day’s march west of Lake Superior. The French made a number of peace and commerce treaties with the O©eåi §aúowiñ, who became active players in the fur trade from the Great Lakes on to the Rocky Mountains. When the British defeated the French in 1763, the O©eåi §aúowiñ negotiated their first of several treaties with the British. The O©eåi §aúowiñ supplied contingents of warriors to assist the British during the American Revolution and during the War of 1812.

Due to the French and Indian Wars, the O©eåi §aúowiñ lost their eastern territories, some to First Nations who were being pushed westward and some to the Americans. Following the War of 1812, the Americans negotiated a peace treaty with the O©eåi §aúowiñ that paved the way for a series of land cession treaties and ultimately all out conflict between the O©eåi §aúowiñ and the Americans that culminated in the 1890 massacre at Wound Knee.

The Americans knew the O©eåi §aúowiñ were a powerful force to be dealt with and took measurers as early as 1805 to attempt to win their allegiance and exert control over them. All, but a few of the Bands of the O©eåi §aúowiñ, at one time or another, were influenced by the Americans to take residence on reservations they had set up for them in the States. The administration of those reservations was corrupt and the Americans had no respect for their inherent or treaty rights. Those who could escape sought refuge in their northern territories that extended into the Grandmothers Land, Canada. Following the Minnesota Conflict in 1862 and the Battle of Little BigHorn in 1876, large numbers crossed the US Canada border seeking to live in peace. The Americans attempted to pressure Canada into expelling them, while the O©eåi §aúowiñ sought to have their treaties with the British honoured. Canada did not comply with the American demands, which created much tension between the two countries. The Canadians however believed that they were not obligated to fulfil the British commitments to the O©eåi §aúowiñ.

When treaties were being negotiated with other First Nations that inhabited the prairies, Canada would only allow the O©eåi §aúowiñ bands that they labelled as Assiniboine or Stoney to sign treaty. They said the others were “refugees” from the States and have no aboriginal title claim to lands in Canada. Today, that still is the position of the Canadian government. In the early 1970’s the Canadian bands organized under the Daíoþa Nations of Canada, to address these issues and outstanding land claims with the United States. To date, the non-treaty bands have not been allowed to sign adhesion to treaty nor has their comprehensive land claim been heard.

Those Naíoþa speaking bands who signed adhesion to treaty 4, 6, or 7 were soon assigned a reserve. Eight Bands took reserves in Alberta and seven in Saskatchewan. They are as follows:

Carry The Kettle, Mosquito, Lean Man, Grizzly Bears Head, Pheasant Rump, Ocean Man, Long Lodge.

Originally, these groups elected to have one reserve in the Cypress Hills. The Government however forced them to relocate elsewhere. Currently a land claim is underway to re-establish this reserve. The Government forced surrender of the Long Lodge, Leans Man’s, Grizzly Bear’s Head, Pheasant Rump, and Ocean Man reserves. In 1990, through an extended land claims process, the Pheasant Rump and Ocean Man reserves were re-established. Currently land claims are underway for the re-establishment of other Naíoþa reserves.

The Daíoþa and Naíoþa speaking bands residing in Canada that were not allowed to sign treaty made numerous requests to the Canadian government for assistance and reserves, but were denied. With the disappearance of the buffalo and the decline of other game, they became destitute. As “an act of charity”, the Canadian Government eventually created small reserves for them. Five located in Manitoba and three in Saskatchewan. The ones that relocated to Saskatchewan are:

Standing Buffalo, White Cap (Moose Woods), Wahpeton (Round Plain)

The 6000 plus Laíoþa, who had gathered in the Wood Mountain area following the 1876 Battle of the Little Big did not all leave Canada after Sifting Bull was tricked into making his departure. A number remained and some took residence in other areas, many of them near Moose Jaw. Sitting Bull had pleaded with the Canadian government for assistance for his people and those who remained continued to seek assistance. Eventually a reserve was established for them at Wood Mountain.


Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre