Legacy and Current need of the Great Yanton Sioux Tribe
Ihanktonwan Oyate, more commonly known as the Yankton Sioux Tribe, are a band of the Pte Oyate, pronounced “Puh-tay,” (Buffalo People), or The Great Sioux Nation.
Their name translates to “people at the end of the camp.” Their name is pronounced “Ee-huhnk-doe-wah,” where the “wah” has a nasalized sound. Oyate is pronounced “Oh-Yah-Tay.” It means “The People.”
At one time, the Ihanktonwan Oyate roamed the North American great plain’s following the path of the tatanka, which is now known as the American bison.
The Ihanktonwan Oyate are currently located in the south-eastern corner of South Dakota (U.S.A) along the Missouri river on the Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation.
There are approximately 6,500 members of the Ihanktonwan Makoce (Lands) which is still plagued by disease and oppression from the U.S. Government and their own people.
Negative effects of the White Man:
Before Columbus found himself lost on the ocean and found that he was in a foreign land, our people were peaceful, beautiful and universally harmonic.
Since his evasion, we have began declining as an indigenous people, one mind at a time.
The dominant race has taught this country that we should always strive to make things easier and more efficient.
In doing this, much destruction of our earth has taken place and a balance that existed for millions of years has been set off.
We still have our beautiful lifestyle, but it exists in small pockets of tiyospaye (extended families). It is often attacked and criticized when someone wants to be proud of who they are and stand in their traditional attire.
The sickness of oppression comes out and comments such as “check out this guy!, “Who does he think he is?”, “Check out Chief Wahoo!” Is he trying to be more Indian than the rest of us?”
There was a time when a man or woman wearing their traditional clothes was not scrutinized negatively because it was ceremonious and beautiful. Those times have been gone for many years.
Fig 1: Cowry Shell Beaded Necklace and Earrings by Oitancan Mani Zephier 2009
Fig 2: Bracelet by Oitancan Mani Zephier 2009
Artwork and Natural Beauty of the Tribe
Pte Oyate artwork has survived beautifully. I believe it still stands strong. Even the elder person can pick it up with ease if they desired.
It comes natural. The Pte Oyate are genetic artists. It’s in our DNA.
Even deeper than that, it is in our spiritual ancestry and has been passed down from those that allowed us onto this earth to live this life.
We have done beadwork, leatherwork, and stone work, etc. for more than a million years.
There’s an example in figure 1 and figure 2.
Nobility of Warriors
There is also the history of our warriors. That is unmatched in documented history if you ask me. The role that men held amongst the people was of extreme importance in those times.
If you did not have a hunter and warrior in your family then you may have starved to death or froze. However, only after the warriors starved as well. It was their duty to place the people first.
They must clothe all others who needed clothes before themselves. They had to feed all others who needed food before feeding themselves.
If a warrior put their own needs before anyone else’s, they did not meet the expectations and standards of the warrior society. Therefore, they were told to leave the society and were left without that status.
It wasn’t necessary and some excelled without it, but it was something to be proud of if you belonged.
** Tribe members are valuable troops in the US Military.
Far Left: Oitancan Mani Zephier and Battle-Buddies
Oitancan Mani Zephier with his Ambulance in Afghanistan
Honor in Battle
It was the Pte Oyate and the Saeyana or the Cheyenne that defeated George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. We were the only nation to defeat the United States in a battle and capture the U.S. flag.
Capturing the U.S. flag symbolizes much more than just capturing a piece of material. It symbolizes success and honor in a battle.
We captured it and still have it to this day. Only one or a few men alive know where it is now, however, many say they have it. Only a dead man in the ground holds it.
Respect for Earth and Humanity
Since the beginning of this earth we have struggled to keep it in balance. There has been a constant battle between good and bad long before we existed.
For the last 200 years or more it seems to the Pte Oyate that the bad have been winning with an occasional blow from the good.
That good comes in form of a hanbdeceya (vision quest) by one person or a sundance ceremony done by many. The truth of the matter is that the bad will never win. There are too many people that want good to come.
With this in mind some might say, “Why don’t the Indians just get over it all and move on?” I will tell those people, look at it this way and maybe you’ll understand.
There is and has been hundreds of years of physical abuse, chemical war-fare, biological war-fare, genocide, killing, maiming, and smashing new born babies heads against trees. This will leave scars, emotional and physical.
The result of those scars will result in negative feelings towards others, themselves and that in turn will be passed down from generation to generation to generation. They will only start to heal when the abuse and genocide stops.
It has not stopped to date.
Man has contaminated nature
I have recently heard a comment from a relative as he was hospitalized from an almost incurable and contagious disease.
He said that the nurses and doctors believe that what their white families and friends are infected with has come from the Indian people on the reservation.
We believe that it was given to us, purposely and if it has come from our people to the local white people this is the reason why.
However, it didn’t start with us. It started with your hog factories that you positioned next to our children’s schools and/or in your laboratories that grew it.
Harm Done To American Indians by U.S. Government
People love to turn a blind eye in our direction and believe that a government who’s supposed to protect their own people would not do this to its people. Others may call it a conspiracy theory.
Its only conspiracy if you haven’t any proof. The proof is in the hundreds of years of slaughtering my people because of manifest destiny. It has been done in the past and is being done. We live in it. Believe it.
Currently, the Ihanktonwan Oyate, are plagued with poverty.
The majority of employment is from the tribal government, kindergarten through grade twelve school or other federal grant programs, which are usually ran by the tribal government.
Many, but not all, of the youth are faced with a difficult situation at home. Often at times, they have nowhere to turn when a bad home life chases them away.
In all honesty, hand-outs are not the answer. Pride, self-esteem, prayer, and bringing back our traditional way of life is the answer. Our language is a part of that tradition. Currently, the dominant language is English.
Our people need to be re-taught their own language from the few remaining speakers that are left.
Something must be put in place immediately to allow for those fluent speakers to do this fulltime. The donations only help us through current tough times.
Pride, self-esteem, prayer and our old ways will help us survive another million years. Establishing buildings and jobs that will promote anything related to this will aid us more than anything. Only our own people can do this.
A Lakota-Navajo woman and her child in a traditional Navajo cradle board.
Spritual Path and Legacy of the Tribe
The children need direction in the way of our ancestors.
Our ancestors WERE NOT catholic, christian or episcopalian.
They were Dakota, Lakota and Nakota.
When our spirits reach nagi yata (the spirit world) we will see that our way of life is the only way of life we should live here on Unci Maka (grandmother earth).
It is the closest thing to our spiritual path that we can live here. We want our traditional way of life back. Ho hecetu yedo (That’s the way it is – the truth).
Yankton Sioux Tribe
Marty, SD 57361
(605) 454-8355 (Cell)
Note from a Christian friend (John Kaniecki)
Oi has spoken about his people the Ihanktonwan Oyate.
Now I will speak my words about my people the Christians.
We Christians wear the name of Jesus Christ.
Christians should follow the example of Christ in the service, sacrifice and above Love that He has shown. But many, many who wear the name do not follow Christ.
There is no worse evil on the face of the Earth than false Christians.
It is terrible to do wrong but to do wickedness in the name of the God of Love is the worst thing.
False brethren are the Devil’s best workers, outwardly shining while inwardly they are deep darkness.
False brethren spread venom and dissension inside the church destroying the unity of the body by their malice. On the outside they devour and destroy.
Christians should be gentle, meek, compassionate, long suffering and above all full of Love.
Instead these evil pretenders come with lies and hatred, bountiful in hypocrisy. Far from Christ Jesus who came to suffer and to serve these evil ones covet power over others only to prey on the weak.
Conversely, there is no greater force for good than a genuine Christian.
One who loves regardless how much they are hated or how much they suffer.
One who does the right thing, even though it costs them everything.
Jesus was only one man and we can all see the good in our lives from what he had done.
I ask you which Christian has the Ihanktonwan Oyate seen?
The answer is obvious from Oi’s words. I desire to show these people true Christian Love, not evil done in the name of Jesus.
Christianity demands loyalty to God above all.
Serving God is more important than money, friends, family and even country.
Christianity is not one rigid way. It adapts to circumstance and culture.
Paul became all things to all men to win them over to Christ.
Being a traditional Ihanktonwan Oyate does not mean rejecting the message of Jesus. Though this may be hard to understand the two can walk as one.
God has made us stewards of the Earth. It is obvious that humanity has gone astray.
We need peoples of all nations to give their unique gifts. Too long have we hated one another. Too long have we waged war. Too long have we destroyed the environment. Too long has greed and evil reigned.
I ask you to join me as we reach out to Ihanktonwan Oyate.
As the Bible says “It is better to give than receive.”
There is more trying to be accomplished here than giving to those in need.
It is extending a helpful hand in Love, a long over due hand. It is to build bridges, to learn from one another and to share our existences.
The book of James says “to be slow to speak and quick to listen”.
The Ihanktonwan Oyate does not need words.
They have heard too many words from us ‘civilized’ people.
They have heard too many lies from us ‘Christian’ people.
Brethren let us listen and learn.
Let us teach the Love of God not with words but with deeds.
I completely agree with what John has said. Let us work in cooperation with this tribe, and others, and support them in their effort to live in dignity, honor and success.
We can learn much from them.
Love is an action word. It is more than talk.
I read one article where the U.S. government, again, is intruding on their land, which will impose the wrong culture in that region.
Be sure to support the Sioux in keeping their rights respected.
Other resources and references: