In the early days of the Sioux, tribes or oyate — the people — lived in tiyospaye or camp circles with large extended families united by a sense of kinship and community. An appointed leader created a deep understanding of identity and belonging for the tiyospaye.

This sense of community is a deeply rooted part of their cultural identity and plays a significant role within the oyate. Personal relationships and social bonds are integral within the Oceti Sakowin and instrumental to conducting trade, family, combat, and religion. 

Native American family past and present

The Siouan belief system holds the premise that everything is connected: the earth and the stars, the sun and the moon, the plants and the animals, the plants and the people, the animals and the people, and people to people.

They also believed wakan tanka, the Great Spirit, created the universe, the prayers and dreams were a way of connecting to the ancestral world. Their beautiful creation story encapsulates their belief system. 

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the Sioux tribes encountered various challenges that continue to threaten their territory and culture. 


Today, the Great Sioux Nation lives on reservations across almost 3,000 square miles in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, and Nebraska. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota is the second-largest in the United States, with a population of 40,000 members.

In 1995, the Lakota formed the Alliance of Tribal Tourism Advocates to “enhance and promote tourism as a means of economic development and growth, while preserving, protecting and maintaining respect for tribal traditions and lands.”

Today, nearly 100,000 Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota live in the U.S. and 10,000 in Canada.

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