Totem Talk

Working With The Animal Totems

LAKOTA CULTURE with Larry Salway


Explore Native American culture with a Native American! Larry Salway presents part 1 of 17 of the Life Initiatives training series, "Lakota Culture". View this video with additional material at or

Larry Salway grew up on the Rosebud Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. He rose out of the poverty of his childhood and became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and later, a professor at the Oglala Lakota College campuses in Kyle and Rapid City, SD. He served for five years as Tribal Judge in Pine Ridge, SD. Mr. Salway has also served as pastor of churches in Arizona and South Dakota. Larry is Co-President of Life Initiatives.

This video is part of a series Life Initiatives produced for mentor development.



The Sioux are a confederacy of several tribes that speak three different dialects, the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota. The Lakota, known for their hunting and warrior culture, are comprised of seven tribal bands and are the largest and most western of the three groups, occupying lands in both North and South Dakota . The Dakota, or Santee Sioux, live mostly in Minnesota and Nebraska , while the smallest of the three, the Nakota, primarily reside in South Dakota , North Dakota and Montana.

The Sioux have been a proud people with a rich heritage. They were the masters of the North American plains and prairies, feared by other tribes from the great lakes to the Rockies .

Migrating west from Minnesota , the Sioux became nomads of the plains, taking advantage of horses which were originally brought to the Americas by the Spanish in the 1500s. Following the buffalo, they lived in teepees to allow them quick mobility.

Though the Sioux were known as great warriors, the family was considered the center of Sioux life. Children were called “Wakanisha” which meant sacred and were the center of attention. While monogamy was most often practiced, Indian men were allowed to take on more than one wife. However, infidelity was punished by disfigurement.

The roles of men and women were clearly defined with the men expected to provide for and defend the family. Hunting was taken very seriously and infraction of the hunting rules could lead to destruction of a man's teepee or other property. Women were the matriarchs, ruling the family and domestic lives of the band.

The Sioux are traditionally a deeply spiritual people, believing in one all-pervasive god, Wakan Tanka, or the Great Mystery. Religious visions were cultivated and the people communed with the spirit world through music and dance. Rituals of self-sacrifice, by inflicting slashes upon themselves or other self-inflicted wounds, asserted their identity as Indian warriors. This was also practiced by mourners during burial ceremonies.

War and battles were another underlying principle of the Sioux people, because through it, men gained prestige, and their prestige was reflected in the family honor.

THE LAKOTA ~ The Seven Tribes

This association of seven tribes was known as warriors and buffalo-hunters. Sometimes called the Tetons, meaning “prairie dwellers,” the seven tribes include:

Oglala ("they scatter their own," or "dust scatterers")

Sicangu or Brule ("Burnt Thighs")

Hunkpapa ("end of the circle"),

Miniconjou ("planters beside the stream"),

Sihasapa or Blackfeet (Not to be confused with the separate Blackfeet tribe)

Itazipacola (or Sans Arcs: "without bows")

Oohenupa ("Two Boilings" or "Two Kettle")

This band migrated west from Minnesota after the tribe began to use horses. There were about 20,000 Lakota in the mid 18th century, a number which has increased to about 70,000 today, of which approximately 1/3 still speak their ancestral language.

The Lakota were located in Minnesota when Europeans began to explore and settle the land in the 1600s. Living on small game, deer, and wild rice, they were surrounded by large rival tribes. Conflict with their enemy, the Ojibwa eventually forced the Lakota to move west. By the 1700s, the Lakota had acquired horses and flourished hunting buffalo on the high plains of Wisconsin , Iowa , the Dakotas, and as far north as Canada . The Tetons, the largest of the Lakota tribes dominated the region.


Views: 2861

Reply to This

© 2018   Created by Terri Benning.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service