If You Lived With the Sioux Indians (If You)

What I Learned Section 1 -- Answer the Following Questions:
1. Where did the Sioux live?
In the Great Plains also known as present-day North Dakota and South Dakota. In the 1800's, there were thirty-one tribes living in the Great Plains, and the Sioux tribe was one of the most famous of all the Plains Indians. Did you know Dakota was another name for the Sioux tribe? The Sioux were hunters and relied on buffalo for food, clothes, shelter, and other things. Because they followed the roaming buffalo, the Sioux lived in tipis which could be packed up and moved quickly. A tipi (TEE-pee) was a tent made of tall wooden poles and covered with tough buffalo hides.

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2. What did the Sioux eat?
Buffalo, other meat, and wild fruits and vegetables. The Sioux ate mostly buffalo -- boiled, broiled, dried, and sometimes raw. After a buffalo hunt, the Sioux ate fresh buffalo. In the winter, when buffalo were hard to hunt, the Sioux ate dried buffalo meat, called pemmican. The Sioux also ate other meats (bear, deer, antelope, and wild turkey and hens), wild fruits (cherries, berries, and plums) and wild vegetables (potatoes, spinach, and prairie turnips). The Sioux did not plant gardens because they were always on the move and could not take care of them. Food was shared or traded by all the members of the tribe.

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3. What did the Sioux wear?
Long dresses, shirts, leggings, breechcloths, and moccasins. The clothes were made by the women from softened animals skins (deer, elk, and antelope). Women wore long dresses and leggings every day and wore dresses with decorations (elk teeth, bear claws, feathers, and fur) for special occasions. Men wore deerskin shirts and leggings. In warm weather or when they were hunting buffalo, men wore only a strip of leather (breechcloth) and a pair of moccasins. In the winter, the Sioux wore a buffalo robe to keep warm.

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4. How did the Sioux learn?
By playing and helping their parents work. Learning was done all the time, rather than by attending school. Until the age of five, boys and girls all learned swimming, horse riding, and hunting small animals. After the age of five, the boys were taught to make and shoot arrows, hunt, and ride their horses without a saddle. The girls were taught how to make soft leather from animal skins, make and repair clothing and tipis, cook, care for a baby, paint beautiful designs, and decorate with porcupine quills.

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5. Did the Sioux hunt buffalo?
Yes. A buffalo hunt was very serious and carefully planned. Scouts would find the buffalo, and the tribe would move as close to the buffalo herd as possible. On the day of the hunt, hunters would mount their horses, the chief would give a signal, and the men would charge. The buffalo ran fast, and the hunters shot only three arrows before the stop-shooting signal was given. The Sioux only killed as many buffalo as the tribe could use. The women followed the hunters with their pack horses. The men and women would skin the buffalo, cut up the meat, and load it on the horses. Then they all rode back to the camp for fun and feasting.

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6. What was the Sioux religion?
They believed everything had a life of its own. Spirits (like rock spirits, tree spirits, and cloud spirits) could change their shapes to become animals, people, or even invisible. The earth was the mother of all the spirits, and the sun had great power because it gave light and warmth. There were also spirits for east, west, north, south, the earth, and the sky. The greatest power was Wakan Tanka, or Great Spirit, because Wakan Tanka sent them buffalo. The Sioux danced and gave gifts to the spirits. The most famous tribal ceremony was the Sun Dance which took place every year before the big buffalo hunt. It lasted many days, and everybody took part to ask the spirits to bring them plenty of buffalo. The Sioux also placed their tipis in a circle because they believed all round things had special powers.

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7. Could any boy become a Sioux Chief?
Yes. A tribe had many chiefs. Chiefs were not like kings, and the chiefs' sons did not become chief because of their birth. To become a chief, a boy would have to grow up to be a brave man and lead many battles. A boy would also have to be very generous because chiefs gave away everything they had. Chiefs gave many feasts and gave away their horses and buffalo robes. All the chiefs met at a tribal council to make rules for the tribe. Did you know there were rules for times of peace and rules for times of war?

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What I Learned Section 2 -- Define the following words:
Rawhide: hard leather made from buffalo hide

Wakan Tanka: The Great Spirit that sent them buffalo

Sun Dance: A worshipping ceremony performed once a year before the big buffalo hunt to ask the spirits to bring the Sioux plenty of buffalo

Shaman: a medicine man who had special powers to cure the sick

Heyoka: a person who made people laugh by doing things backwards, like saying yes when he meant no or acting cold on a hot day

Powwow: a ceremony with parades, dances, and contests to judge the best dancing and costumes

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Bonus Questions (Answer 1 of the Following Questions for Your FREE Bookmark):
a. What did the Sioux make out of a buffalo?
The Sioux used every part of the buffalo for many things. The meat was used for many meals. The bones were used for toys, tools, painting sticks, and an awl (a special kind of needle). The muscles were used for thread and bows. The horns were used for spoons and cups. The stomach was used for a pot for cooking and carrying food and water. The tongue was used for special religious celebrations. The dried buffalo droppings were used for fuel for camp fires. The hair was used for ropes, fancy belts, and decorations. The ribs were used for sleds. The hide was used to make rawhide (for drums, rattles, and bags to hold dried meat and clothing, glue, and splints) and to make soft cloth (for bags, moccasins, clothing, pipe holders, and tipis).

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b. What happened to the Sioux when the American settlers came?
When the American settlers came, the Sioux were tricked and lost their homes. The settlers shot the buffalo and the buffalo disappeared. They brought strange, new germs, and thousands of Native Americans got sick and died. They thought the Sioux should be farmers and should not perform their most important ceremony, the Sun Dance. By 1860, 150,000 settlers had taken over the land where the Sioux had lived. Today, most Sioux live on reservations in North and South Dakota. The Sioux want to decide for themselves how they will live and need better houses, schools, and hospitals. The Sioux of today are still doing some of the things their great-grandparents did -- the Sun Dance is one of them.

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c. Use five of the words in Section 2 in a sentence.
Answers will vary. Here are sample sentences from our young readers:
My mom has a purse made out of rawhide.

The Sioux prayed to Wakan Tanka before the big buffalo hunt.

The Sun Dance is a very festive time.

My mom takes me to the shaman when I am sick.

The heyoka makes me laugh with his goofiness.

We had a powwow with lots of dancing and parades.

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d. Have a parent or friend give you a spelling test with EACH of the words in Section 2.

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More Valuable Information about the Sioux:
Plains Indians (National Park Service)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe

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Native Americans In Depth:
Native Americans Main Page
Cherokee in Depth  |  Hopi in Depth
Iroquois in Depth
 |  Sioux in Depth

 


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