About Oceti Ŝakowiŋ - The Seven Council Fires

What does Oceti Ŝakowiŋ mean?

The term “Oceti Ŝakowiŋ,” translated as “the Seven Council Fires,” refers to the historic alliance of seven major divisions of the American Indian groups known variously as the Sioux, the Great Sioux Nation, or Oceti Ŝakowiŋ, the Seven Council Fires. These groups can be organized as:

Santee or Eastern Dakota:

  • Mdewakaŋtoŋwaŋ (Mdewakanton)
  • Wahpekhute (Wahpekute)
  • Wahpetoŋwaŋ (Wahpeton)
  • Sisitoŋwaŋ (Sisseton)

Western Dakota or Nakota:

  • Ihaŋktoŋwaŋ (Yankton)
  • Ihaŋktoŋwaŋna (Yanktonai)

Lakota:

  • Titoŋwaŋ (Teton)

Each group is a distinct but similar culture. 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.

What does “Sioux” mean?

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 to refer to themselves and embrace it officially.

Why is “Dakota” misleading in museum records?

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

Oceti Ŝakowiŋ Digitization Project

Beginning in 2011, approximately 1,000 items of material culture associated with Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota were reviewed and made available on Collections Online, in consultation with Dakota partners. In addition to increasing accessibility, the project's explicit goals were to publicly share all information about this material culture in the MNHS collections and to solicit feedback from knowledgeable community members in order to present the material in the most accurate way.