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The Oohe-nonpa Or Two Kettles
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Hidatsa



Habitat





Excepting the Asiniboin, who are chiefly in Canada, nearly all of the
Siouan Indians are now gathered on the reservations indicated on earlier
pages, most of these reservations lying within the aboriginal territory of
the stock.

At the advent of white men, the Siouan territory was vaguely defined, and
its limits were found to vary somewhat from exploration to exploration.
This vagueness and variability of habitat grew out of the characteristics
of the tribesmen. Of all the great stocks south of the Arctic, the Siouan
was perhaps least given to agriculture, most influenced by hunting, and
most addicted to warfare; thus most of the tribes were but feebly attached
to the soil, and freely followed the movements of the feral fauna as it
shifted with climatic vicissitudes or was driven from place to place by
excessive hunting or by fires set to destroy the undergrowth in the
interests of the chase; at the same time, the borderward tribes were
alternately driven and led back and forth through strife against the
tribes of neighboring stocks. Accordingly the Siouan habitat can be
outlined only in approximate and somewhat arbitrary fashion.

The difficulty in defining the priscan home of the Siouan tribes is
increased by its vast extent and scant peopling, by the length of the
period intervening between discovery in the east and complete exploration
in the west, and by the internal changes and migrations which occurred
during this period. The task of collating the records of exploration and
pioneer observation concerning the Siouan and other stocks was undertaken
by Powell a few years ago, and was found to be of great magnitude. It was
at length successfully accomplished, and the respective areas occupied by
the several stocks were approximately mapped.(51)

As shown on Powell's map, the chief part of the Siouan area comprised a
single body covering most of the region of the Great plains, stretching
from the Rocky mountains to the Mississippi and from the Arkansas-Red
river divide nearly to the Saskatchewan, with an arm crossing the
Mississippi and extending to Lake Michigan. In addition there were a few
outlying bodies, the largest and easternmost bordering the Atlantic from
Santee river nearly to Capes Lookout and Hatteras, and skirting the
Appalachian range northward to the Potomac; the next considerable area lay
on the Gulf coast about Pascagoula river and bay, stretching nearly from
the Pearl to the Mobile; and there were one or two unimportant areas on
Ohio river, which were temporarily occupied by small groups of Siouan
Indians during recent times.

There is little probability that the Siouan habitat, as thus outlined, ran
far into the prehistoric age. As already noted, the Siouan Indians of the
plains were undoubtedly descended from the Siouan tribes of the east
(indeed the Mandan had a tradition to that effect); and reason has been
given for supposing that the ancestors of the prairie hunters followed the
straggling buffalo through the cis-Mississippi forests into his normal
trans-Mississippi habitat and spread over his domain save as they were
held in check by alien huntsmen, chiefly of the warlike Caddoan and Kiowan
tribes; and the buffalo itself was a geologically recent--indeed
essentially post-glacial--animal. Little if any definite trace of Siouan
occupancy has been found in the more ancient prehistoric works of the
Mississippi valley. On the whole it appears probable that the prehistoric
development of the Siouan stock and habitat was exceptionally rapid, that
the Siouan Indians were a vigorous and virile people that arose quickly
under the stimulus of strong vitality (the acquisition of which need not
here be considered), coupled with exceptionally favorable opportunity, to
a power and glory culminating about the time of discovery.





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