International Information Discover America

Home > About SD > Our History > Plains Indians

Our History

Plains Indians

Plains IndiansFrom rolling plains to majestic mountains, a diverse landscape decorates South Dakota. These magical lands also hold a diverse population. More than 71,000 Native Americans live in South Dakota. Most of them are Dakota, Lakota or Nakota people, also known collectively as Sioux.

Rich Culture & Heritage

This nation traces its roots to the "Oceti Sakowin" or "Seven Council Fires." Each of the allied bands within this nation spoke one of three different dialects. The Santee spoke Dakota; the Yankton, Nakota; and the Teton, Lakota.

SiouxTraditional creation stories place the nation's birth in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Others say the people of the Seven Council Fires migrated to the area from the woodlands of Minnesota. Dakota, Lakota and Nakota customs hold the forces of nature as holy and emphasize the importance of balance among all things in the universe. This balance remains an instrumental piece of life, as to the cardinal virtues of "woksape" (wisdom), "woohitika" (bravery), "wowacintanka" (fortitude) and "wacantognaka" (generosity).

Creation of the Buffalo Nation

The Great Spirit Skan made us with bones from Stone, bodies from Earth, and souls from himself, Wind and Thunders. The gifts of Sun, Wisdom, Moon, and Revealer gave us life. A council of the spirits named us Pte Oyate - Buffalo Nation - and told us to care for the spirits.

One day Spider sent Wolf to the Underworld to tell Tokahe that life would be easier on the surface of the earth. Tokahe ignored the warnings of the holy man, Tatanka, and led the people up through Wind Cave. Life there was hard, so Tatanka came to help - as a great, shaggy beast. Since then the people have lived here with the buffalo.

*Lakota creation story courtesy of the South Dakota State Historical Society.