U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Indian Health Service: The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives
A - Z Index:
Aberdeen Area


Early Reservation Life

image of history map, click to view larger

Click the above map to view larger image of map.

The treaties, agreements, and federal laws in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries provided reservations for the Northern Plains Tribes. This land base represented only a small part of what was once their homeland. Confinement to specific geographic areas initially was very frustrating for the early residents of the reservation. Compounding their frustration, the federal government did not always provide the supplies and care that had been promised and numerous policies and experiments were attempted in an effort to assimilate the Native people into the white man's culture. The most notably heinous of these policies was the practice of sending young Indian children to boarding schools where they were forbidden to speak their language or wear their traditional clothing. Over the years, this victimization reached traumatic proportions particularly in terms of cultural identity and perceptions of self worth, the effects of which are felt even today in Native American communities.

Efforts to change the Indian by using punitive measures have resulted in two to three generations facing issues of parenthood and cultural identity. It is a constant struggle to balance being effective, caring Native mothers and fathers within the context of today's demands for livelihood and development. In the 1920's, special investigatory groups came to Indian Country and found living conditions to be deplorable. In 1921, Congress established the Bureau of Indian Affairs within the Department of the Interior, and in 1924 Congress finally granted U.S. Citizenship to Native Americans. Many Native Americans felt this gesture was long overdue because so many had served in the Armed Services in World War I.

In 1934, Congress enacted the Indian Reorganization Act which authorized the Tribes to organize their own government as federal corporations and to govern themselves. However, some of the Tribes asserted that their last treaty with the United States had already authorized their right to self government. Today all Tribes within the area have very active Tribal governments and organizations with non-federal sources of income and revenues.

The Three Affiliated Tribes

Both archeologists and scholars have written extensively about the area which was originally inhabited by a people called Village Dwellers. These people have also been referred to as the Mound Builders because of the shape of their earthen homes. Their descendants are the Mandans, Hidatsas, and Arikaras. Prior to the seventeenth century, each tribe had achieved a self-sufficient agricultural way of life. The Arikaras had originally settled in the Platte Valley in Nebraska. The Hidatsas lived along the Knife River in North Dakota. The Mandans inhabited the area that is now Minneapolis. Today, the Three Affiliated Tribes reside along the banks of the Missouri River on the Fort Berthold Reservation in central North Dakota.

The Chippewa Tribe

The Chippewa were primarily trappers, traders, entrepreneurs, and guides. North Dakota's first family, they occupied an extensive territory extending indefinitely back from the northern and eastern shores of Lakes Superior and Huron. During the three centuries following the discovery of America, they filtered through the Ste. Marie into what are now Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. They moved into the Dakotas, pushing the Sioux southward in many fierce conflicts over the rich hunting grounds.

The Winnebago Tribe

The Winnebago were originally woodland people from northern Wisconsin. The expansion and migration of other tribes and the white man pushed them west until 1865 when they settled in their present location in northeastern Nebraska.

The Omaha Tribe

The original home of the Omahas was east of the Missouri River on what is today the Nebraska/Iowa border. The Omahas were farmers and hunters with strict moral codes and a complex social structure. Non-nomadic by nature, they were builders of permanent earthen homes. The tribe eventually settled in the Blackbird Hills above the Missouri River in northeastern Nebraska.

The Sioux Tribe

Originally from the eastern woodlands, the Sioux Tribe was actually comprised of a loose confederation of seven Bands of common ancestry known as The Seven Council Fires. The word Sioux was a name given by the Chippewa meaning enemy or snake. The Sioux manifested three tribal divisions based on kinship, dialect, and geographic proximity. The eastern division was originally called Isanyeti, meaning Knife Makers. Today they are known as the Santees and are comprised of four Bands; Mdewakanton (Spirit Lake Dwellers), Wahpkute (Shooter Among Leaves), Wahpeton (Dwellers Among the Leaves), and Sisseton (Fish Scales in the Village). They speak the distinctive "D" Dakota dialect, and have been known as powerful healers and spiritual advocates. The middle division consisted of the Yanktons and Yanktonnais (Village at the End) who speak a distinctive "N" Nakota dialect and are the acknowledged Keepers of the Sacred Pipestone located in western Minnesota. The western division is the Tetons (Dwellers on the Prairies). They are the largest Band and speak the "L" Lakota dialect. The Tetons moved westward to the plains and west of the Missouri, spreading out and settling in the sacred lands of Paha Sapa, the Black Hills.

Tribes of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa

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