return to American Indian Research in South Dakota


Before Euroamericans came to Dakota, various native peoples had occupied this land. Among them were prehistoric peoples such as the Mound Builders, as well as the historically known Crow, Kiowa, Omaha, Ponca, Arikara, and Mandan. The materials presented in this guide, however, pertain primarily to the siouan-speaking peoples living in South Dakota at statehood.

Three linguistic groups compose these siouan-speaking peoples: the Lakota (or Teton) in the west; the Nakota (or Yanktonai) peoples in the southeast; and the Dakota (or Santee) in the northeastern portion of the state. These three groups, commonly referred to as the "Sioux," never intermingled enough to dissolve their unique dialects. They constitute a loose confederation called the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires.

The Lakota are the most widely recognized of the three groups. The acquisition of horses and guns in the 1700s greatly changed the lifestyle of this previously semi-sedentary people. Once mounted on horses and armed with guns, they roamed freely throughout the land, following the buffalo while making war on enemies. Their bold military tactics gained them the reputation of being one of the fiercest warrior societies of the Plains. Red Cloud, Spotted Tail, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse are a few of the notable Lakota leaders who led the initial struggle to save their lands from Euroamerican encroachment.

This guide is intended to describe to potential researchers both the archival holdings of the South Dakota State Archives, and other information sources regarding the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota. It was initially a guide only to the collections of the South Dakota State Archives. However, it became apparent that a guide to primary sources for Indian research in the state should include tribal organizations and federal repositories. Thus the guide includes tribal enrollment offices, BIA realty offices, tribal colleges and universities, other South Dakota resource facilities, and some non-South Dakota facilities.

Inquiries concerning any of the South Dakota State Archives collections described in this guide should be addressed to the South Dakota State Archives, 900 Governors Drive, Pierre, South Dakota 57501-2217, or phone (605) 773-3804.

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