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The "Sioux" Name and Dialects


The name Sioux comes from Nadowe Su, which is Algonquin meaning "Little Rattle." The story, as recorded, says the phrase comes from the rattling sound a snake makes before it bites. French traders and trappers changed the spelling from Su to Sioux and dropped Nadowe. This is how the great Oceti Sakowin became commonly known as Sioux.

Sioux language has three dialects: Lakota, Dakota and Nakota. These dialects developed because the Sioux were spread out over the vast plains region of North America.

Today, Lakota and Dakota are the two main dialects, with the Nakota being the least frequently used. Speakers of the dialects have no difficulty understanding one another. From these three divisions emerge the Seven Council Fires, or the Oceti Sakowin.

Lakota means "allies, friends or those who are united." Dakota comes from the word Da meaning "considered" and Koda or "friend." Most Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people live on South Dakota's nine reservations. There are also Sioux reservations in North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Minnesota and Canada.

Today, as a result of the Indian Reorganization Act, about one-third of the total Indian population lives off reservations in urban areas.