The proper name for the people commonly known as the Sioux is Oceti Sakowin, meaning Seven Council Fires.
Each of the Seven Council Fires was made up of individual bands, which were based on kinship, location and dialect — Lakota, Dakota or Nakota. From ancient times, each division of the Seven Council Fires had their own lifestyle, traditions and customs, which developed similar but unique cultures. Read more about Lakota culture.
The entire nation hunted from northern Canada, south to the Republic River in northern Kansas. The eastern border of their territory was the Mississippi River and the Bighorn Mountains in the west. The people of the Seven Council Fires migrated from these areas to present-day South Dakota.
Living in separate bands, made up of extended families or thiyóšpaye, they came together at least once a year. This gathering was usually midsummer — the season of the Sundance ceremony. This was when vows were made and fulfilled. It was a time for celebrating, socializing, horse racing, competing, courting and trading.
Today, the nine South Dakota reservations reflect each band’s general region, dialect and traditions.
Sharing a common fire is one thing that has always united the Sioux people. Keeping of the peta wakan — sacred fire — was an important activity. When the tribe moved, coals from the previous council fire were carefully preserved and used to rekindle the council fire at the new campsite.
Read more about South Dakota Reservations.