A to Z challenge · Bloggers · languages

D is for … Dakota

Blogging from A to Z

Theme: Languages of the World


Dakota belongs to the Dakota branch of the Siouan-Catawban language family. There were some 25,000 speakers of all Siouan dialects among an ethnic population of slightly over 100,000.

Like all indigenous languages, the Dakota languages are endangered because very few monolingual and L1 speakers are left, and most remaining fluent speakers are older adults. At the same time, there is cause for some modest optimism because the population of speakers is relatively substantial and even growing, so the tide could potentially be turned by instituting sustained revitalisation programs.

Fascinating facts about the Dakota Indian


There is no real difference between the Lakota and Dakota Sioux. “Lakota” and “Dakota” are different pronunciations of the same tribal name, which means “the allies.” One Sioux dialect has the letter “L” in it, and the other dialect does not. This is only a pronunciation difference, not a political one. “Sioux,” on the other hand, is not a Lakota or Dakota name. It comes from the Ojibway name for the tribe, which means “little snakes.” Many Lakotas and Dakotas use the word Sioux to refer to themselves when they’re speaking English, however.

The original Dakota homelands were in what is now Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota and South Dakota. The Dakotas travelled freely, however, and there was also significant Dakota presence in the modern states of Iowa, Nebraska, Montana, and northern Illinois, and in south-central Canada. Today, most Dakota people live in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Saskatchewan.

The Dakota people lived in large buffalo-hide tents called tipis (or teepees). Tipis were carefully designed to set up and break down quickly. An entire Dakota village could be packed up and ready to move within an hour. Originally tipis were only about 12 feet high, but after the Dakota acquired horses, they began building them twice that size. Today, most Dakota families live in modern houses and apartment buildings.

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