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Understanding Indigenous Culture in ND Series: Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

The Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate (in the Dakota Language: Sisituŋwaŋ-Waĥpetuŋwaŋ), are located on the Lake Traverse Reservation. This reservation primarily exists in South Dakota and extends just across the line into North Dakota’s southeastern corner in the Richland and Sargeant counties.

The word "Dakotah" can be translated into English as "friend" and is the preferred identification of the Sisseton and Wahpeton Bands. The true significance of the word "Dakotah" derives from the word 'WoDakotah," which means "harmony,” "a condition of being at peace with oneself and in harmony with one another and with nature", and "a condition of lifestyle patterned after the natural order of nature."

The Dakota people still practice their sacred and traditional ceremonies which encompass the seven rites of the Dakota Nation brought by the White Buffalo Calf Woman (Pt ecincala Ska Wakan). Sacred White Buffalo Calf woman gave the Lakota people a sacred pipe and small round stone to be used for the seven Lakota rites. When a Lakota person smokes a sacred pipe, his or her voice is sent to the Great Spirit- Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka. The bowl of the pipe was made of red stone, representing earth. A buffalo head was carved on the pipe, symbolizing all four-legged animals that roam the earth. The pipe’s stem was made of wood representing nature, twelve eagle feathers hung from the place where the bowl joined the stem, symbolizing all birds. The round stone was made of the same red earth as the pipe and had seven circles on it representing the seven rites.

Please view the following video for detail on White Buffalo Calf Woman (4:25- 5:25) and the Seven Sacred Rites including Sundance, Rite of Purification, Crying for a Vision, Making of Relatives, A Girl’s Coming of Age, Keeping of the Soul, and Throwing of the Ball (5:30--53:40). (*The Seven Rites will be given more attention in future posts)


Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate member Master Sergeant Woodrow Wilson Keeble served in the Korean War with the U.S. Army. Although he passed away in 1982, he was awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor posthumously by President George W. Bush in 2008.


Dakota Western Corporation (DWC) was established in 1988 as part of the tribe's economic and industrial development program. DWC primarily creates film and sheeting roll stock. In 2005, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Plastics (SWO Plastics) were created, and they manufacture trash can liners. These are two separate corporations but share one management team. In 2007, DWC and SWO Plastics entered the bio-degradable and compostable markets with their traditional trash can liners. Both corporations are in Sisseton, South Dakota. The tribal headquarters is in Old Agency Village in South Dakota. There are seven political subdivisions located within the original boundaries of the Lake Traverse Reservation. The tribal council consists of seven council members, one elected from each of the seven districts.

  1. Big Coulee: trailhead – natural game trail the people followed to get over the hills

  2. Buffalo Lake: Buffalo in the Trees Lake- the buffalo were chased onto the lake during hunts where they fell in the thin ice.

  3. Enemy Swim: Swim Enemy- due to the battle between the Chippewa and the Dakota, this was called out over and over as the Chippewa swam away

  4. Lake Traverse: A Long the Lake- the district was named after the lake at which it resides.

  5. Long Hollow: Longest Hollow- named due to the hollows that stretch as far as Sica Hollow and is the longest hollow in the area.

  6. Old Agency: Home of the BIA Superintendent- The district is located near the original site of the Sisseton Agency.

  7. Veblen: Mountain Head-Where the range of hills starts and spans out for over 300 miles into Minnesota

Lesson 1

Goal – Older students will read about the hero Sergeant Woodrow Wilson-Keeble.

  • The teacher will need to download the free online game Kahoot. I have found that it is an engaging digital tool for

older students. Students get excited about making up their own questions for the game.

  • The teacher will make copies of the article about the Sisseton- Wahpeton hero.

  • Students will write one question about the article with the answer for a Kahoot created by the teacher.

  • Play and watch the fun.

  • Allow students to share family members who are currently or were in the military.

Lesson 2

Goal – Younger students will compare and contrast the flag of the Sisseton – Wahpeton Tribe with the North Dakota Flag.

In groups of three, students will name as many symbols as possible for each flag given 10 minutes. The teacher will take one response from each group to be listed on chart paper, symbols can only be named once.

What do the flags have in common? What are the differences?

For more detailed and historical information, visit:

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