Minnesota Historical Society M-Flame Logo

Oceti Ŝakowiŋ - The Seven Council Fires

The term “Sioux” has its origin in neighboring indigenous languages; various interpretations explain that it may refer to ‘snake,’ (with either positive or negative connotations), or may be derived from a phrase that means ‘those that speak another language. Today, many people reject the term as being negative, while others, especially tribal governments, use it self-referentially and embrace it officially.

Historically, there were seven major divisions of the “Sioux,” each a distinct but similar culture. Mdewakaŋtoŋwaŋ (Mdewakanton), Waĥpekhute (Wahpekute), Waĥpetoŋwaŋ (Wahpeton), and Sisitoŋwaŋ (Sisseton), are referred to as the Santee or Eastern Dakota.  Ihaŋktoŋwaŋ (Yankton) and Ihaŋktoŋwaŋna (Yanktonai) are referred to as the Western Dakota or often as the Nakota, and the Titoŋwaŋ (Teton) are called Lakota. The historic alliance of these divisions is known variously as the Sioux, the Great Sioux Nation, or Oceti Ŝakowiŋ, The Seven Council Fires. Today, Dakota, Lakota and Nakota tribal governments and communities are located in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Montana in the United States and Manitoba and Saskatchewan in Canada.

At various points in the past, the term Dakota was used academically as synonymous with this historic alliance; a term to mean all divisions of the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota. Because of this, when it appears in museum records, it may or may not refer to the Dakota division of the Oceti Ŝakowiŋ,  but may reflect this former usage. In keeping with digitization goals of transparency and inclusivity, material culture of all divisions that make up the Oceti Ŝakowiŋ - The Seven Council Fires - is included.