Siouan-Catawban Language Family

Alternate Names: Siouan proper, Western Siouan,Central Siouan, Iowa-Oto-Missouri, Southeastern Siouan, Eastern Siouan, and  Catawban.

The Siouan languages are a Native American language family of North America, and the second largest indigenous language family in North America, after Algonquian.

The Siouan language family is related to the Catawban language family, together making up the Siouan-Catawban family.

Some authors use the term Siouan to refer to the Siouan-Catawban family and the term Siouan proper to refer to the Siouan family.

Some authors call this family simply Siouan. Other writers favor the name Siouan-Catawaban so that Catawban is clearly indicated as a separate branch of the family and not under Siouan proper.

The Siouan family consists of 17 languages with various sub-languages.

The Catawan language family contains two languages that are thought to be related to the Siouian family.

While the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota comprise “the Great Sioux Nation”, the language family is much broader and includes “the old speakers”, the Ho-Chunk and their linguistic cousins, the Crow.

The Siouan family also extends eastward to Virginia and southward to the Gulf of Mexico.

Linguistic and historical records indicate a possible southern origin of Siouan people, with migrations over a thousand years ago from North Carolina and Virginia to Ohio.

Some Souian people continued down the Ohio River to the Mississippi and up to the Missouri, and others across Ohio to Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, home of the Dakota.Another view of both the Dakotan and Mississippi Valley branches is to represent them as dialect continuums.

Some linguists associate Siouan languages with Caddoan and Iroquoian languages in a Macro-Siouan language family. However, such linguistic associations are yet to be proven.

I. Missouri River Siouan (a.k.a. Crow-Hidatsa)

1. Crow (a.k.a. Absaroka, Apsaroka, Apsaalooke, Upsaroka)
2. Hidatsa (a.k.a. Gros Ventre, Minitari, Minnetaree)

II. Mandan Siouan

3. Mandan

a. Nuptare

III. Mississippi Valley Siouan (a.k.a. Central Siouan)

A. Dakotan (a.k.a. Sioux-Assiniboine-Stoney)

4. Sioux

a. Santee-Sisseton (a.k.a. Santee, Eastern Sioux, Eastern Dakota)

i. Santee
ii. Sisseton

b. Yankton-Yanktonai (a.k.a. Yankton, Central Sioux, Eastern Dakota)

i. Yankton
ii. Yanktonai

c. Lakota (a.k.a. Lakhota, Teton, Western Sioux)

i. Northern Lakota
ii. Southern Lakota

5. Assiniboine (a.k.a. Assiniboin, Nakhóta, Nakhóda)
6. Stoney (a.k.a. Alberta Assiniboine, Nakhóda)

B. Chiwere-Winnebago (a.k.a. Chiwere)

7. Chiwere(a.k.a. Ioway-Otoe-Missouria, Ioway-Otoe)

a. Iowa (a.k.a. Ioway)
b. Otoe (a.k.a. Oto, Jiwere)
c. Missouria (a.k.a. Missouri)

8. Winnebago (a.k.a. Hocák, Hochunk, Hochank, Hocangara, Hotcangara, Hochangara)

C. Dhegiha (a.k.a. Dhegihan)

9. Omaha-Ponca

a. Omaha
b. Ponca (a.k.a. Ponka)



a. Kansa (a.k.a. Kanza, Kaw) (†)
b. Osage


Quapaw (a.k.a. Kwapa, Kwapaw, Arkansas)

IV. Ohio Valley Siouan (a.k.a. Southeastern Siouan)

A. Virginia Siouan

12. Tutelo
13. Saponi (a.k.a. Saponey) (†)
14. Moniton (a.k.a. Monacan) (†)
15. Occaneechi

B. Mississippi Siouan (a.k.a. Ofo-Biloxi) (†)

16. Biloxi (†)
17. Ofo (a.k.a. Ofogoula) (†)

(†) – Extinct (dormant) languages

II. Catawban (a.k.a. Eastern Siouan) (†)

18. Woccon (†)
19. Catawba (†)

Quapaw, Saponi, Biloxi, Ofo, Woccon, and Catawba are now extinct (†).



Article Index:

Chiwere language

Language Classification:

 Siouan -> Western Siouan -> Mississippi Valley -> Chiwere–Winnebago -> Chiwere


Language Dialects:

Chiwere  (also called Iowa-Otoe-Missouria or Báxoje-Jíwere-Ñút’achi) was the language of the Ioway, Otoe, and Missouria. It is a is a Siouan language dialect originally spoken by the Missouria, Otoe, and Iowa peoples, who originated in the Great Lakes region but later moved throughout the Midwest and Plains. The language is closely related to Ho-Chunk, also known as Winnebago.

Christian missionaries first documented Chiwere in the 1830s, but since then virtually nothing has been published about the language. Chiwere suffered a steady decline after extended European-American contact in the 1850s, and by 1940 the language had almost totally ceased to be spoken.

Currently, neither the Iowa of Kansas-Nebraska or the Iowa of Oklahoma have language programs.

Number of fluent Speakers:

The last two fluent speakers died in the winter of 1996, and only a handful of semi-fluent speakers remain, all of whom are elderly, making Chiwere critically endangered. As of 2006, an estimated four members of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians still speak the language semi-fluently, while 30 members of the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma are also semi-fluent. There are no speakers left in the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. 

Meaning of Name

The Iowa tribe refers to their language as Báxoje ich’é or Bah Kho Je. The Otoe-Missouria dialect is called Jíwere ich’é. The spelling Chiwere, used mostly by linguists, derives from the fact that the language has an aspiration distinction rather than a voice distinction, resulting in a mispronunciation that created an English spelling error.

Báxoje is often misrepresented to mean “dusty noses,” based on the misunderstanding of the first syllable as , or “nose.” However, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma says Bah-Kho-Je means “grey snow,” due to their winter lodges being covered with snow stained grey by smoke from their fires.


The phonology of Chiwere consists of approximately 29 consonants, three nasal vowels, and five oral vowels. Chiwere has five oral vowel phonemes, /a e i o u/, and three nasal vowel phonemes, /ã ĩ ũ/. Vowel length is distinctive as well.


Chiwere grammar is agglutinative; its verbal complex is central to the structure of the language. Verbs are formed by addition various affixes to a verb stem, each of which corresponds to a part of speech, such as a preposition, pronoun, case marker and so forth. Concepts such as possession, reflexivity and grammatical number, as well subject-object relation and case (including nine instrumental prefixes) are also expressed via affixing. In this way, large, complete sentences can be formed out of a single complex word.

Aside from its complex verbal morphology, Chiwere differs from English in a number of significant ways. There are separate male and female registers, and interrogatives are formed with the question particle je, though this is omitted in informal speech. Finally, Chiwere word order is subject-object-verb, in contrast to English.


The Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Oklahoma’s Otoe Language Program teaches weekly classes in Edmond, Oklahoma.

easy to follow phonetic chart teaches Lakota language pronunciation

AUTHOR: David Melmer

For some people, unless they have heard a word before,
its proper pronunciation can be quite difficult.

Such can be the case with languages that never had a written version but
are now translated into printed form. For anyone who has studied a second
language, the difficulty is learning when and how to use the correct tense,
gender, verb conjugation and pronunciation.

The Lakota language – and any other American Indian language – is no
different. Pronunciation, the proper use of modifiers and knowledge of
sentence structure is important when it comes to saving a language that was
never written. The intent is to preserve the language as close to its
original form as possible.

Earl Bullhead, a Lakota educator on the Lower Brule Reservation in South
Dakota, has developed a phonetics chart that is easy to follow and offers
proper pronunciation.

Sioux languages include the Lakota (or Lakhota), Dakota, and Nakota dialects

The Sioux Language Dialects

The Souix language, also known as the Dakotan language, is an amalgam of three groups of seven different tribes (known as the Great Sioux Nation) that speak three different languages, with several dialects among them. The Siouan languages are a family of Native American languages indigenous to North America.

Truman Washington Dailey,last native speaker of the Otoe-Missouria dialect of Chiwere
What does Wasichu mean?