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Standing Rock Heritage I
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TitleStanding Rock Heritage I
DescriptionSTANDING ROCK HERITAGE I From histories of the 1600's, we find that, about 1650 the Sioux, who were living in the hills and woodlands of Minnesota, began moving steadily westward to the plains region. By the first decade of the 19th century they were located on both sides of the Missouri River. They brought with them their own form of democratic government. Democracy is most often thought of as the way of governmental life in America which was brought to these shores by boatloads of European immigrants. But it turns out democracy has been an American institution far longer than Europeans have been here. While the Iroquois Confederacy is often pointed out as an example of democratic government among American Indians, the federal government of the Teton Sioux is rarely mentioned. The structure of the Teton Sioux Government demonstrates clearly the democratic organization of Sioux leadership. Chaske Frederick Wicks, of the Standing Rock Reservation describes the traditional government of the Teton Sioux. "We did have federal govt...Teton nation made up of.... Great Council fires....banded together... Division of Church and great counselors." This government offered a method of control of these different groups as explained by Dorothy Cadotte Lenz, a native of Standing Rock. "Basically they had their own form of government...their way of control." The government of the Sioux was far more complex than the concept many non-Indians have of an all-powerful chief commanding his tribe. Rather, most decisions were made through group participation. Roy Cadotte explains that the head person didn't say much, he lets counselors debate before any decisions are made. "The head one don't say much.... counselors... government...proclamation..." Though there was no written code of laws, the culture could certainly never be considered lawless. Mr. Cadotte, Past Tribal Judge, tells how the unwritten constitution or code was preserved. "But the slogan.... unwritten constitution.... repeated...everyone knew it....ever since they were little tots." Among the Sioux, as among all people, the reason for government is to insure the survival of its people. Chaske Wicks, comments on how the democratic government of the Sioux functioned. "Indians had democracy....women's suffrage...all had voice....cuz we had to survive. Today the tribal council and chairman govern the Standing Rock people." After the move from Minnesota to the Dakota plains, there were seven distinct bands among the Sioux. It was these same seven bands that were placed on the original Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Judge Cadotte names them: Brule, Upper and Lower; Two Kettle, Sans Arc, Hunkpapa, Minneconjun, Ehunktowa, Hunkpateewa. "We have 7 different Indian bands....facing SE." After the 7 groups were formed, they lived in different areas. One group became known as the Blackfoot and Leo Cadotte explains how this band was given its name. "After sep. selves....sym...Blackfoot....Walk through black...why they call them Blackfoot." As with the Blackfoot, other bands also derived their names from some action or experience. For example, Leo explains how the Minneconjou derived their name which means, "By the water." "And the Minneconjou is right on the...Eagle Butte Agency used to be...right by the Missouri...Then the Minneconjous..."by the water"...they did something that they derived their name from, see?" Another of the bands presently at Standing Rock, previously mentioned, is the Yanktonai. Chaske Wicks describes how they are seen by other Sioux, and were give the name meaning "big brains." "We have the Yanktonai....big brains…foresight....laugh at history...Lakota." The Yanktonai were originally located east of the Missouri but the government chose to move them to the Standing Rock Reservation. Mr. Caddotte explains how this move took place. "The Cannonball people used to be on East side of the Missouri.... James River....Yanktonai...when reservation established....$1.25/acre... put 'em on this reservation." Many treaties stipulated that Indians, in exchange for government take-over of their land, would be given beef, and other commodities, supplies, and services for indefinite periods of time. This raised the problem of distribution of these goods to the Indian people. Sitting Bull is quoted as saying, "The white man knows how to make everything, but he does not know how to distribute it. The United States government felt that the best way to distribute the promised goods was through the establishment of Indian agencies. The North Dakota Historical Society published a revealing article concerning the early reservation. In this article we read how in the late 1880's Mary Collins, a Dahcotan Missionary sent suggestions to the federal government to improve the agency. They included the following: "Pay the agents a decent salary so that capable men will be interested in accepting positions in the Indian Service." Apparently, the government was then sending white farmers and carpenters to the reservations to help the Indians. Miss Collins claimed that these men spent the greater part of their time at the agency offices, instead of going out to work with the people. "The farmer should be an honest, practical,", was her suggestion. As for the interpreters sent out by the government, Miss Collins said, "Many attempts of the Government to deal fairly with the Indian have been thwarted by illiterate and dishonest interpreters. No interpreter should ever be selected to do Government work whose character and ability cannot be vouched for by some good man speaking both languages. " In 1864-65, when the U.S. government decided to establish an Indian agency in the area, they chose a location farther south than the present headquarters. Judge Cadotte relates the changing of agency headquarters. "You see when they established....Grand River Agency...1864-65...three years later...centralize...up here at For Yates…a garrison here...under Custer." On June 18, 1873, the agency was officially established at Fort Yates, where it has remained to the present day as reservation headquarters. The boundaries of the original reservation were changed many times and the government was noticeably more aggressive after gold was discovered. Leo Cadotte explains this assertion. "I would say...8 yrs...broken...make another... then they were more aggressive." The "Black Hills" cases continue before the Indian Claims Commission since 1923. The total loss of land is estimated at 1.5 million acres, due to broken treaties and executive orders. We mention earlier that the Sioux had moved, after 1650, from the hills and woodlands of Minnesota, to the prairies to the west. This move required changes in their way of life to adapt to their new environment. Leo Cadotte describes part of this change: "Coming from East....need teepee until...prairie area." About the mid-1700's, on the plains the Sioux lifestyle became centered around buffalo hunting. Judge Cadotte describes the early Sioux method of hunting bison, before the Sioux had horses; they had only dogs to help them. "The good Lord knows how many buffalo...before horses...ran them into a bank...that's how they got their meat...stag hounds…they got the game that they want." According to Chaske Wicks, they had begun to use horses about 1740, and fifty years later had guns, as a result of the trading posts arrival in the area. He continues: "Horses were a highly of horses...couldn't get guns....had to overrun other survive." By about the middle of the 1700's, the Sioux had begun to use horses, which increased their mobility, and helped them to hunt their life-line, the buffalo, more effectively. Dorothy Lenz describes the lifestyle of the Sioux at this period, and comments on the effect that the fence around the reservation had on that life-style. "Our people were nomads....used to traveling...used every part of buffalo.... fence went up...big change way of life." Chaske Wicks comments on the Indian point of view concerning the struggle for survival that took place as the lands were being diminished by the government through treaties and executive orders. "We have to take good look.... fought for their land…for survival...has a right to be proud... useless to anyone." Policies of the federal government have often lacked a true sense of humanity when dealing with the Indian people. An example of this is the government policy known as the extermination policy. Art Raymond, director of Indian Studies at the University of North Dakota, relates the details of this policy. "General Sherman, Chief of Staff...they must be exterminated...Sheridan...1866...garbled history...the only good Indian is a dead Indian." Even after the Indians land had been decreased by the reservation, further cuts were made. Mr. Cadotte explains the procedure used, "Then the government came in here....wagon trains.... $60, need...diminished something terrible." Mr. Henry Fast Horse, native of Standing Rock, recounts the capture of the Yankontai, a band who had been friendly with even the earliest visitors to their area. Many acts of the cavalry caused confusion among the Yankontais. "The soldiers....captured....gather all property and burned....took all horses....put claim on them.... I don't know who got the credit." Mr. Guy Shooting Bear relates another series of actions by the Cavalry which discouraged many of his people. "They took upon themselves....killing buffalo away.... taking horses....some kind of a story....from raising livestock." The reason for the extreme variation of government policies toward the Indian is related to the politics of the federal government according to Leo Cadotte. He makes the following comment, "So much pol. involved...each person has diff. consent...these are regulations...down our you sign on the dotted line...or we'll wipe you out." Obviously, the government proceeded without an adequate knowledge of the Indian people just to fulfill the federal needs and desires. Mr. Chaske Wicks discusses the nature of these people who were displaced by the Westward migration. "One of the things....all had responsibility...and they did this…" "As an individual.... all had to produce something......within the tribe." "I think that the predominant society....we had the ability to share...and that's what the Indian had." Chaske Wicks continues by describing what the Indian of today is to him. "You know what it is to be an Indian? Have heart...loving your fellowman....if we can give from one to the other, that's it, that's life."
Ordering InformationConsult:
Date of Original1973?
General SubjectIndians of North America
Subject (LCTGM)Indian reservations
Subject (LCSH)Indians of North America
Indians of North America - Spiritual life
Indians of North America - Social life
Organization NameUnited States. Bureau of Indian Affairs
LocationNorth Dakota
United States
Item NumberUA Mss. 10. program 7
Format of OriginalTranscripts
NotesScript from the "For Eagles to be Crows" Collection, no audio file available.
Biography/HistoryProgram part of the "For Eagles to be Crows" radio series by KDSU broadcast in 1973.
Publisher of OriginalKDSU Radio (Radio station : Fargo, N.D.)
Place of PublicationFargo (N.D.)
Repository InstitutionNorth Dakota State University Libraries, University Archives
Repository CollectionFor Eagles to be Crows Collection UA Mss 10
Collection Finding AidConsult:
Credit LineNDSU Archives
Rights ManagementCopyrights to this collection remain with the University Archives.
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