Standing Rock Sioux Reservation


Last Updated: 3 years

The lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe were reduced to a reservation by the Act of March 2, 1889. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal members are descendants of the Teton and Yankton Bands of the Lakota/Dakota Nations.

The Great Sioux Nation is also called The Lakota Nation, Tetons and the Western Sioux. The people of the Sioux Nation refer to themselves as Lakota/Dakota which means friend or allie.

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.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Government:

The United States Government works on three levels: Federal, State and Tribal. The tribal reservations have a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

The Great Sioux Nation signed treaties in 1851 and in 1868 with the United States which are binding documents that established their original boundaries and recognized their rights as a sovereign government.

Standing Rock Sioux Reservation 

The Tribal government maintains jurisdiction on all reservation lands, including all rights-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 law of the United States.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe operates under a constitution approved on April 24, 1959 by the Tribal Council of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The Tribal Council consists of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, a Secretary and 14 additional Council people which are elected by the tribal members.

The Tribal Council Chairman is the head of administration of the Tribe. The Tribal Council Chairman and Council serve a term of four years, six of whom without regard to residence in any district or state. Each of the remaining members are elected from their District. The At-large Council members are elected by the Tribe.

Standing Rock Reservation Eight Districts

District Population
1. Fort Yates, North Dakota 1,961   5. Little Eagle, South Dakota 695
2. Porcupine, North Dakota 219   6. Mclaughlin (Bear Soldier), SD 758
3. Kenel, South Dakota 259   7. Bullhead (Rock Creek), SD 692
4. Wakpala, South Dakota 707   8. Cannon Ball, North Dakota 847


Tribal/Agency Headquarters: Fort Yates, North Dakota
Counties: Sioux County, North Dakota; Corson, Dewey and Ziebach Counties, South Dakota
Federal Reservation: 1873
Population of enrolled members: 10,859
Reservation Population: 6,171
Density:: 0.4 persons per square mile
Labor Force: 3,761
Unemployment percentage rate: 79
Language: Lakota/Dakota and English
Lakota/Dakota Bands: Hunkpapa, Blackfeet, Yanktonia, Cuthead


Land Status: Acres
Total Area 2,300,000
Tribal Owned 866,072
Tribal Owned Allotted 542,543
Total tribal owned 1,408,061
Non-Indian Owned 1,283,000
Reservoir Taken area 55,993


The Standing Rock Sioux Tribal members are descendants of the Teton and Yankton Bands of the Lakota/Dakota Nations. The Reservation is thirty-four miles south of Mandan, North Dakota.

The Cannon Ball River runs along the north side of the reservation and Ceder Creek in the northwest side. The reservation ends at the Perkins County and Adams County line in the west and the Missouri River on its east side. The southern line of Standing Rock Reservation ends with the Cheyenne River Reservation line.

The total land area of the Standing Rock is 2.3 million acres and of that 1,408,061 million is tribally owned. The land is an important part the Lakota/Dakota people’s lives.


The Great Sioux Nation is also called The Lakota Nation, Tetons and the Western Sioux. The people of the Sioux Nation refer to themselves as Lakota/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 Standing Rock Sioux Tribe encompasses the bands of Hunkpapa and Blackfeet of the Lakota Nation, and Hunkpatinas and Cuthead bands of the Yanktonais of The Dakota Nation. The Lakota Nation or Great Sioux Nation includes Oglala, Burle, Minnecoujou, Hunkpapa, Blackfeet, Without Bows and Two Kettle.

The Lakotas speak an ‘L’ dialect of Siouan language and were horsemen and buffalo hunters on the plains. The Yankton and Yanktonias are called the Middle Sioux. The Cuthead band belongs to the Upper Yanktonais and the Hunkatina are the Lower Yanktonais. Both live on Standing Rock Reservation.

The Yanktonias speak the ‘D’ dialect of Siouan language. The Yanktonais were a river-plains people who did some farming as well as buffalo hunting.

The government put all the Tribes with similar languages into the Sioux people. The oral tradition states that the Lakota and Dakota people were one nation.

The Lakota people broke away and formed their own nation. The Lakota/Dakota people still practice their sacred and traditional ceremonies which encompass the seven rites of Lakota Nation brought to them by the White Buffalo Calf Woman.

Social activities such as powwow, rodeos, and races are celebrated in the summer months.

Special powwows held for individuals who accomplished a stage in their lives such as graduation or acceptance in the armed forces with traditional honoring ceremonies, give away, and feasts to celebrate the accomplishments.

The oral tradition is still passed down from the elders to the youth.

The future of these people is in the hands of the children. The children of the Great Sioux Nation will bring us into the 21st century with pride.

Places to visit Native American culture exhibits in North Dakota USA

Places to visit Native American culture exhibits in South Dakota


The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is part of the Great Sioux Nation with the Hunkpapa and Blackfeet Sioux bands. The Great Sioux Nation retains land base in accordance with the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. The Great Sioux Nation extended from the Big Horn Mountains in the west to the east side of Missouri River.

The Heart River is the North boundary and the Platte River in the southern boundary. The Great Sioux Nation was reduced in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty to the east side of the Missouri River and the state line of South Dakota in the west.

The Black Hills are located in the center the Great Sioux Nation. The Black Hills are sacred to the Lakota/ Dakota people and today considered an important part of their  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 Hills, the center of the Great Sioux Nation and found gold in the Black Hills. The Gold Rush started the conflict between the United States and Great Sioux Nation. The Great Sioux Nation oppose 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 refused to sell or rent their sacred lands.

Sitting Bull was a spiritual leader of the Hunkpapa band. Sitting Bull fought to preserve the Lakota way of life. He refused to sell any part of the sacred land and move to the reservation. Sitting Bull had a dream of a great victory over the cavalry soldiers the summer of 1876. T

he 7th Cavalry under General George A. Custer was requested to bring the Sioux bands in and place them on the reservation lands. On June 15, 1876, the Battle of the Little Big Horn between the 7th Cavalry and Lakota Nation with their allies Cheyenne and Arapahoes at Greasy Grass, Montana took place. 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 Lakota nation move to the reservations. The people finally surrendered after being cold and hungry and moved on the reservations. The government still insisted buying the Black Hills from the Lakota people.

The Sioux (Lakota) Nation refused to sell their sacred lands. The United States Government introduced the Starve or Sell Bill or the Agreement of 1877, which illegally took the Black Hills from the Great Sioux Nation. The Lakota people starved but refused to sell their sacred land. The Agreement of 1877 also allotted Indian lands into 160 acre lots to individuals to divide the nation.

The Act of 1889 broke up the Great Sioux Nation into smaller reservations of which two million acres formed the Standing Rock Reservation: the Yanktonais and Cuthead on the North Dakota side and the Hunkpapas and Blackfeet on the South Dakota side of the reservations.

Sitting Bull objected to the reduction of the land and fought to preserve their way of life. Major James McLaughlin, Indian Agent for the Standing Rock Reservation, ordered the arrest of Sitting Bull for participating in the Ghost Dance. In the process of the arrest Sitting Bull was shot by Indian Police on December 15, 1890.

The Hunkpapa who lived in Sitting Bull’s camp and relatives fled to the south. They joined Big Foot Band in Cherry Creek, South Dakota then traveled to the Pine Ridge reservation to meet with Chief Red Cloud. The 7th Cavalry caught them at a place called Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890.

The 7th Cavalry took all the weapons from the Lakota people. The 7th Cavalry massacred 300 people at Wounded Knee and left the bodies to freeze in the snow. The people of the Great Sioux Nation slowly recovered from this injustice and continued to survive in their homeland.


The average rainfall is 16-17 inches during the summer season. The growing season lasts three months, 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 17 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 area suffers from occasional drought in the summer and severe blizzard in the winter. The spring and fall time is pleasant.


The Lewis and Clark Trail or historical highway 1806 runs along the Missouri River. The 1806 runs into Highway 24 which runs along the communities of Cannon Ball, Fort Yates and back to 1806 on the South Dakota side. Highway 1806 runs along the communities of Kenel and Wakpala.

Highway 6 runs from Mandan, North Dakota to Highway 12 extends from Mobridge to Lemon, South Dakota and crosses east to west of the reservation.

Highway 65 runs from Flasher, North Dakota south by Mcintosh, South Dakota.

There are no major transportation facilities existing on the reservation.

Charter buses and limousine services come to Prairie Knights and Grand River Casino daily. The Greyhound Bus services are located in north Bismarck. The nearest commercial airline is in Bismarck, North Dakota, 40 miles north of the reservation.


The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s major economic occupation is cattle ranching and farming. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe established various industries for the Tribe on the reservation and plans to develop more enterprises.

In the area of economic development the Tribe currently operates the Prairie Knights Casino and Lodge and Prairie Knights Quik Mart, Grand River Casino, Standing Rock Farms, and Standing Rock Sand and Gravel.

The district also operates businesses such as the Bear Soldier Bingo, Big Foot Bingo in Little Eagle, bingo operations in Cannon Ball, Fort Yates and Porcupine which support their local districts. Bear Soldier has a grocery store, Cannon Ball has a convenience store/gas station, Bullhead has a trading post and Little Eagle has a laundromat.

Enrolled members of Standing Rock own their own businesses: The Standing Rock Cable Vision Inc, White Buffalo Store, Missouri Drift Inn, Taco Johns, Henry’s Standard, Tim’s Conoco & Laundromats, Richie’s Ponderosa Plaza, Beauty Saloon, Pelican lounge and restaurant, Missouri Drift Inn Video, Pelican Video, and Sweat Shop Gym in Fort Yates.

There are non-Indian owned businesses throughout the reservation, primarily in McIntosh and McLaughlin, South Dakota and in Selfridge and Solen, North Dakota.


Schools providing K-12 educational services are located in every community on the reservation. The Bureau of Indian Affairs operates the elementary and secondary schools in Ft. Yates, North Dakota. The Tribe also provides preschool education through the Head Start program.

Public schools are located in McIntosh, McLaughlin, and Wakpala, South Dakota and in the Ft. Yates District, Selfridge and Solen, North Dakota. A private parochial school, St. Bernards, provides K-6 education in Ft. Yates, ND.

Post secondary education is available on the reservation at Sitting Bull College, offering Associate Degrees including Human Services, Education, and Business Management.

A Bachelors Degree in Teacher Education is also offered in conjunction with Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.


The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has two Casinos, the Prairie Knights Casino located near Cannon Ball, North Dakota and the Grand River Casino near Wakpala, South Dakota.

The Prairie Knights Lodge opened in July and is stationed next to the Prairie Knights Casino ten miles north of Fort Yates, North Dakota and 8 miles south of Cannon Ball, North Dakota. We are developing plans to build an RV park next to The Prairie Knights Casino. Hotel and motel accommodations are located in both Mobridge, South Dakota and Bismarck, North Dakota, the two largest towns nearest the reservation.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe District PowWows

Memorial Day PowWow Kenel, SD Traditional/Contest
2nd Weekend in June Cannon Ball Contest
3rd Weekend in June Porcupine Traditional
1st Weekend in July Bear Soldier Contest
4th Weekend in July Little Eagle Contest
1st Weekend in August Fort Yates Contest
2nd Weekend in August (VJ Day) Rock Creek Traditional
3rd Weekend in August Wakpala Traditional
    • Standing Rock College sponsors a Graduation Powwow in May.
    • Chemical Prevention Program Annual Sobriety Run in May
    • Elementary School Powwow in May
    • Veteran’s Day Powwow in November


Other activities that are recreational and honoring with special meaning:

    1. Big Foot Ride in December in memory of all that died at Wounded Knee
    1. Little Big Horn Ride in memory of Victory for the Lakota Nation
    1. Annual Calf Roping events are held in the surrounding Ranches
    1. Annual Rodeos Fort Yates first weekend in August
    1. McLaughlin Major James Days

During the year other sports activities such as basketball, softball, volleyball and horseshoe tournaments are also held in the districts. Water sports such as boating and fishing are popular along the Missouri River, Grand River and Cannon Ball River.


Montana-Dakota Utilities Company and Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Coop Inc. supplies Electricity and natural gas to the reservation. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will be developing its own utilities company and telephone company. The West River Telephone Company provides telephone service to the reservation. Lakota Energy, which is owned by a tribal member, supplies fuel and gas to homes in the districts. The MR & I Water Distribution System supplies water lines to the districts to bring clean water to all enrolled members. Most enrolled members in the rural districts still use well water.


The U.S. Indian Health Service operates a hospital at Fort Yates and smaller clinics in the Fort Yates, Mclaughlin, Wakpala, Cannon Ball and Bullhead districts. The Tribal Health Department provides a number of health services including the Community Health Representative Program, health education, eye examinations, eyeglasses, and Emergency Health Care including ambulance services. The Tribe also provides an elderly nutrition program and youth recreational activities.


The Standing Rock Housing Authority constructs and manages over 650 homesfor Tribal members living on the reservation. This includes homes on scattered sites built through the HUD Mutual Help home ownership program on individual land or Tribal land leased for homesites.

The other housing in the districts is low-income HUD Low Rent for individual Indian residents in reservation communities. As private housing stock is limited, some of the Standing Rock members own their own homes in the rural areas through other private financing.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service have some housing available in McLaughlin and McIntosh for their employees.The Tribe plans to build a number of apartment complexes in the future.

The need for housing is great on Standing Rock. The Tribe is looking into Habitat for Humanity homes and the government Home Grant project.

The number of persons per household in the Standing Rock Service Area is 4.60 compared to 3.27 for the State of North Dakota and 3.27 for the State of South Dakota. The number of persons per family for U.S. All Races is 3.80.


The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe strives toward self-sufficiency for its people and its land. The Tribe has plans to develop its own bank. The Tribe encourages new business ideals for the Standing Rock Reservation. The Tribe wants to expand the Standing Rock College to include a tribal archives and genealogy center. There is a plan for a cultural resource center/museum on the reservation.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe wants to ensure that their people, culture, tradition and way of life continue into the 21st Century. The Tribe wants to ensure that their children carry on the knowledge of their traditional language and culture. The Elders pass tribal history to the youth which make them valuable resources and enable the Tribe to grow as a people with its own culture, history and way of life.

Environmental Summary:

Effect of Pick-Sloan Act: The following infrastructure was lost to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribes as a result of the creation of Lake Oahe:

190 domestic water systems 22,000 acres of waterbed 3 rodeo arenas
50 ranch water systems 95 miles of main roads 2 race tracks
55,944 acres of land 190 housing units 3 sawmills

Reservation Water System: Water is the key to increasing the quality of life and promoting full economic development on the Standing Rock Reservation. An adequate supply of good quality water is needed by many of the (8,278) Indians and (3,838) non-Indians living on the reservation. Problems with water quality and inadequate supply are common throughout the reservation and have 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 those living on the Standing Rock 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 or have water hauled to underground cisterns. These sources are often contaminated with bacteria or undesirable minerals, provide an inadequate quantity of water, and are costly to maintain and operate.

The Indian communities of Little Eagle, Porcupine, Kenel, Bullhead and Cannonball each depend on one or more wells for their water supply. Fort Yates obtains its water from the Missouri River. Water for Wakpala is delivered by pipeline from a Missouri River source at a site some 5 miles distant.

The non-Indian communities of Keldron, McIntosh, Morristown, Thunder Hawk, Walker, Wataugua, Mahto, Solen, Selfridge, and McLaughlin depend on wells as their source of supply.

Agriculture is the primary industry on the Standing Rock 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, is a unreliable year-round supply and generally available only during the wet periods of spring.

During drought periods, these sources of ten dry up, and livestock must be sold or moved off the reservation. 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 packing plants, cattle feeding and canneries.

Hydrologic Setting: Shallow groundwater is not obtainable on much of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, and where it is found, it is often of poor quality. Surface water, with the exception of the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers, though valuable and widely distributed resources, are undependable because of scanty and erratic precipitation. Artersian 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 of artesian water in most of the area.

Water Availability and Use: Surface water is the major water source for the reservation with the Missouri River providing by far the largest part of the surface water supply. 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 and where available it is usually adequate for only small scale use. For these reasons, the Missouri River is the obvious sources for a reservation water supply system.

Fort Yates currently utilizes the Missouri River as a water source. The U.S. Census data list total farm acreage for Corson County at 1,561,000 acres and for Sioux County, 686,000 acres or 2,247,000 acres total. Also given is cropland of 345,000 acres for Corson County, and 151,000 acres for Sioux County for a total of 496,000 acres.

Subtracting the total cropland acres from the total farm acres yields 1,751,000 acres serving as pasture or grazing land.

The total peak day water needs for this area at 300 gallons per day per section are 821,000 g.p.d. Of this amount, 292,000 g.p.d. are provided as part of the Indian Range Units and 72, 000 g.p.d. as the livestock water needs for State Line Rural Water System members, leaving a balance of 457,000 g.p.d. for non-served pasture lands (peak day) and 343,000 g.p.d. (average day).

Terrain: Rolling hills, woodlands, river valleys and lakes dominate the reservation.

Tribal Lands 2,247,000
Agriculture 496,000
Grazing 1,751,000


Environmental Problem Statement: In 1996, tribal environmental staff identified illegal dumping sites as the major reservation environmental problem which may cause human health problems and which may be polluting soil or contaminating groundwater in the area of dumping sites.