The Lakota Indians are a group of Indians that are considered part of the much larger Sioux tribe and are often referred to as Teton or Dakota. Traditionally, the Sioux was a collective term used to describe a group of tribes that formed a political alliance but today the tribes are mainly divided along cultural lines.
The Lakota were traditionally a nomadic culture of hunters that migrated to the western plains, in the areas of North and South Dakota as well as Minnesota. After European settlers introduced horses to the region, the Lakota Indians were able to use horses to follow the buffalo their main source of food. The Lakota diet also consisted of corn and wild animals like deer and elk.
Like other Amerindians, the Lakota have strong ties to nature and the spirit and belief in many different gods. A popular element in the Lakota religion has been the use of vision quest to pray to the Gods and as a rite of passage into adulthood. The buffalo was not just a source of food to the Lakota it was used in the making of clothing, teepees and shields. A number of the Lakota legends such as the story of the White Buffalo center around the animal.
During the westward expansion and discovery of gold in the Black Hills, Lakota chief Sitting Bull helped defeated Lt. Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Lakota chief Crazy Horse also fought to preserve his people's way and life by protesting the takeover of Lakota lands and forced movement of Lakota Indians to reservations.
The Lakota language is part of the Siouan language family and can be understood by those speaking different dialectics. The Lakota language uses nasal and oral vowels with different words being used based on which sex the user is addressing.
Today, about half of the Lakota Indians live in reservations located in the Dakotas and are made up of seven bands. Others live in Nebraska, Minnesota and Canada. In total there are believed to be around 70,000 Lakota. Though the Lakota are considered citizens of America or Canada, Lakota reservations in these countries exist as separate nations. Lakota reservations are self-governed, having their own sets of rules, laws, constitutions, police and elected leaders. One of the largest Amerindian reservations in the United States is the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which is home to the Hunkpapa branch of the Lakota.