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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