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The Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe is composed of descendants of the Isanti people. The Isanti is comprised of four bands that lived on the eastern side of the Great Sioux Nation. The Isanti speak the 'D' dialect of Siouan language.
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Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribal Governemnt:
The United States Government as defined by the
United States Constitution has governmental relationships with
International, Tribal, and State entities. The Tribal nations
have a government-to-government relationship with the United
States. The Tribes of the Great Sioux Nation signed treaties in
the 1800's with the United States which are the legal documents
that established our boundaries and recognized our rights as a
The Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe is a member
of the Sissitowan division of the Great Sioux Nation. Many of the
Tribal members were relocated to the reservation after Little
Crow’s War in Minnesota. The Tribe was originally designated
lands in present day Minnesota, North and South Dakota recognized
in treaties with the United States. The current reservation is in
South Dakota except for a small portion in North Dakota. The
Tribe claims jurisdiction over all right-of-way, waterways,
watercourses and streams running through any part of the
reservation and to such others lands as may hereafter be added to
the reservation under the laws of the United States. The original
reservation was greatly reduced to its present size through
subsequent Homestead Acts to provide land for non-Indian
The Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe operates
under a constitution and is governed by a Tribal Council. The
Tribal Council consists of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary,
and Treasurer and additional Council people who are elected by
the tribal members.
The Tribal Council Chairman serves as the
administrative head of the Tribe. The Tribal Chairman, Officers
and Council serve a term of two years. One Council member is
elected from each district. The majority of the population now
live in the community and district known as Old Agency Village.
Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribal Districts:
|1. Old Agency||3. Lake Traverse||5. Buffalo Lake||7. Enemy Swim|
|2. Big Coulee||4. Long Hollow||6. Veblen|
|Old Agency Village, South|
|Counties:||Roberts, Day, Marshall,|
Codington, and Grant in South Dakota; Richland and
Sargeant in North Dakota
|Language:||Dakota and English|
The Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe is located in
the northeastern corner of South Dakota and in the southeastern
corner of North Dakota on Interstate 29. The reservation
boundaries extend across three counties each in North and South
Dakota. The reservation covers an area over 400 square miles
within the six counties. Of this area one third is owned by the
Tribe and two thirds by tribal members. The Sisseton-Wahpeton
Sioux Tribe maintains the right and responsibility to provide
environmental authority in compliance with tribal and Federal law
for protection of the land and resources within the exterior
boundaries of the reservation through code development and
regulatory mechanisms. The maintenance and protection of the land
is very important to the Dakota people and our future
The Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota are members of the
Great Sioux Nation. The people of the Sioux Nation refer to
themselves as Dakota which means friend or ally. The United
States government took the word Sioux from (Nadowesioux), which
comes from a Chippewa (Ojibway) word which means little snake or
enemy. The French traders and trappers who worked with the
Chippewa( Ojibway) people shortened the word to Sioux.
The Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe is composed
of descendants of the Isanti people. The Isanti is comprised of
four bands that lived on the eastern side of the Great Sioux
Nation. The Isanti speak the 'D' dialect of Siouan language. Both
were a river-plains people who did some farming as well as
The government identified all the Tribes with
similar languages as the Sioux people. The oral tradition of our
people relates that the Lakota and Dakota people were one nation.
The Lakota people moved frequently and live in the west, forming
their own nation. The Dakota people still practice their sacred
and traditional ceremonies which encompass the seven rites of
Dakota Nation brought by the White Buffalo Calf Woman.
Social activities such as powwow, rodeos, and
races are celebrated in the summer months. Special powwows are
held for individuals who reached a certain stage in their lives
such as graduation or acceptance into the armed forces with
traditional honoring ceremonies, give aways, and feasts to
celebrate their accomplishments. The oral tradition is still
passed down from the elders to the youth.
The future of our people is in the hands of our
children. The children of the Great Sioux Nation will bring us
into the 21st century with pride.
The Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe is part of
the Great Sioux Nation which recognizes our land base in
accordance with the 1805, 1851, 1858, 1865, and 1868 treaties
with the U.S. government. At one time The Great Sioux Nation
extended from the Big Horn Mountains in the west to the west side
of Wisconsin. The Isanti Division is composed of four bands:
Mdewakanton, Wahpetowan, Wahpekute, and Sissetowan. The Dakota
inhabited the eastern part of the Nation in what is now
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
The Black Hills are located in the center the
Great Sioux Nation. The Black Hills are sacred to the Lakota/
Dakota people and today are considered an important part of our
spiritual lives. A direct violation of the 1868 Treaty was
committed in 1874 by General George A. Custer and his 7th
Cavalry. The 7th Cavalry entered the Black Hillsand found gold in
the Black Hills. The Gold Rush started the conflict between the
United States and Great Sioux Nation. The Great Sioux Nation
opposed this violation of the treaty. The United States
Government wanted to buy or rent the Black Hills from the Lakota
people. The Great Sioux Nation has refused to sell or rent their
After Little Crow’s War in Minnesota in
1862, many of the Isanti people were scattered across the western
parts of the Nation and Canada to escape persecution and live
life in peace. Others shared a different fate as 38 men were hung
in Mankato, Minnesota as punishment for the uprising. The
remainder of the 300 were imprisoned. The rest of the survivors
were rounded up and relocated to Fort Thompson and present-day
Niobrara, Nebraska. Some of the Isanti moved to Fort Totten,
North Dakota and Flandreau, South Dakota while the remainder live
on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Reservation in northeastern South
The 7th Cavalry under General George A. Custer
was requested to bring the Sioux bands in and place them on the
reservation lands. On June 25, 1876, the Battle of the Little Big
Horn took place at Greasy Grass, Montana between the 7th Cavalry
and Lakota Nation with their allies the Cheyenne and Araphoes.
The Sioux Nation won a victory over General George A. Custer and
his 7th Cavalry.
The Great Sioux Nation scattered, some to
Canada and others surrendered to the reservations. The United
States Government demanded that the Dakota nation move to the
reservations. The Allotment Act of 1887 allotted Indian lands in
160 acre lots to adult male heads of household and 80 acre lots
to adult males to further divide the nation.
The Act of 1889 broke up the Great Sioux Nation
into smaller reservations, the remainder of which exist today at
about one half their original size in 1889.
The average rainfall is 16 to 17 inches during
the summer season. The growing season lasts three months, from
June to August. The snow fall averages from moderate to heavy for
winter weather. The temperature in the winter is from 30 degrees
below zero to 25 degrees above zero. The average temperature in
the summer is 80 degrees but will range from 69 degrees to 110
degrees from June to August. The wind averages 14 mph per day
annually. The area suffers from occasional droughts in the summer
and severe blizzards in the winter. The spring and fall seasons
are very pleasant.
The Sisseton-Wahpeton Reservation includes
Highway 10 on the west to a junction on east with Interstate 29
which runs north to south along the entire length of the
reservation. Other transportation arteries include
Highway 25, also north and south and Highway 12 connecting
with Interstate 29 in the east. There is a newly- constructed
truck stop on Interstate 29 that is owned and managed by the
Nation. There are some charter buses and limousine services for
patrons of the Dakota Sioux Casino near Watertown, South Dakota.
The Greyhound Bus services are located in Watertown, South Dakota
and Fargo, North Dakota. The nearest commercial airline is in
Watertown, South Dakota, 60 miles south of Old Agency Village.
The major economic occupation on the
Sisseton-Wahpeton reservation is cattle ranching and farming for
a number of Tribal operators. The Nation employs a number of
people in their plastic bag manufacturing industry. The Tribe
operates an irrigated farm, a hunting program for small game, big
game, and waterfowl. The Tribe also operates the Dakota Sioux
Casino and Agency Bingo. A new gambling operation and bingo hall
are included in the new truck stop complex.
Commercial business by private operators
include: a convenience store, laundromat, auto repair shop, a
video arcade/fast food shop, and arts and handcrafts.
The majority of employment is provided by the
Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, Sisseton-Wahpeton Community
College, Dakota Sioux Casino, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the
Indian Health Service.
The Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe has some of
the finest hunting and fishing in the area. Water sports are
enjoyed by many on the numerous lakes on the reservation. The
Tribe operates the Dakota Sioux Casino and Restaurant with high
stakes bingo games and gambling at both the Sisseton and
Watertown, South Dakota locations.
The Tribe sponsors two annual pow wows, one on
the 4th of July and one on Veterans Day. In addition to the
dancing competition, the summer event also includes a rodeo and a
softball tournament. There are several beach areas and boat ramps
for fishing and water sports. During the year other sports
activities such as softball, volleyball, and basketball
tournaments are also held during the year.
Electric utility services for the
Sisseton-Wahpeton Reservation are provided by Northwestern Public
Service. US West Communications Company provides telephone
service to the reservation. The Tribe operates the water
department to supply clean water for the district communities
from lakes, rivers and wells.
The Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe provides an
Elderly Nutrition Program and Youth Cultural/ Recreational
Activities. There is also an area Horseman’s Club for rodeo
sports. Health care is provided by the Indian Health Service at
the Health Center Clinic and the Tribal Health Department
Community Health Represen-tative and Ambulance Service. The
Health Department also provides examinations and eyeglasses to
all residents at reduced rates.
The Sisseton-Wahpeton Housing Authority manages
over 500 housing units in the district communities and on rural
scattered sites through HUD Low Rent and Mutual Help home
ownership housing programs. Other housing is available through
the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service for their
employees. Private housing stock is limited.
The Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe desires to
continue their progress in providing for the people and the
development of increased self-sufficiency. There are plans to
develop natural and cultural resources to preserve, educate, and
strengthen the economy on the reservation. The Tribe will
continue to search for ways to maintain our culture and develop
new economic opportunities for our future generations.
Reservation Water System: Water is the key to
increasing the quality of life and promoting full economic
development on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Reservation. An adequate
supply of good quality water is needed by many of the 5000
Indians living on the reservation.
Problems with water quality and inadequate supply are common
throughout the reservation. This condition has a detrimental
effect on health and quality of life as well as deterring
economic growth. The availability of a plentiful and high-quality
water supply is vital to the health and well being of the people
living on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Reservation. The level of health
and quality of life of the general population is directly related
to the quality of their domestic water supply. Many residents
currently depend on poorly-constructed or low-capacity individual
wells. These sources are often contaminated with bacteria or
undesirable minerals, provide an inadequate quantity of water,
and are costly to maintain and operate. Many people who wish to
return to their family lands or relocate to rural areas to raise
their families are limited by the unavailability of water.
Agriculture is the primary industry on the Sisseton-Wahpeton
Reservation and the key to the full development of this industry
is water. Surface water in small streams, lakes, and dugouts is
scattered throughout the area. Surface water, however, can be an
unreliable year-round supply as many of the lakes have pollution
problems. Shallow groundwater is scarce and unreliable and deep
groundwater, while generally more plentiful, is highly
mineralized and of poor quality. This lack of an adequate water
supply has also reduced the livestock production on the
reservation. The grazing lands cannot be fully utilized and
valuable resource is wasted. The lack of stability in the
production of feeder-cattle also discourages related industrial
development such as cattle feeding, packing plants, and other
value added industries.
Hydrologic Setting: Shallow groundwater is not
obtainable on most of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Reservation, and
where it is found, it is often of poor quality. Surface waters,
though valuable and widely distributed resources, are
undependable because of scanty and erratic precipitation and
water quality. Artesian water from deeply buried bedrock aquifers
underlies all of the reservation. These aquifers are not, and
probably will not become, highly developed sources of water
because of the high-to-very-high salinity and other mineral
content of artesian water in most of the area.
Water Availability and Use: Surface water from lakes,
rivers, and aquifers are the major water sources for the
reservation. Other reservation streams have extremely variable
flow patterns and are not reliable enough for a year-round
supply. Groundwater is not as abundant as surface water nor is
the quality as high and where available it is usually adequate
for only small scale use. This impacts both domestic and
livestock water supplies and expansion therein. For these
reasons, the Tribe intends to develop a rural water supply system
for the reservation.
Terrain: Rolling hills, woodlands, river valleys and
lakes dominate the reservation.
Environmental Problem Statement: In 1996, Tribal
environmental staff identified the water quality in Enemy Swim
Lake as too poor to use the water body for full contact water
sports as the major reservation environmental problem which
is a hazard to the health of reservation residents.