Some 62,000 Native Americans call South Dakota home (10 percent of the state), almost all of them Sioux; no surprise that the movie Dances With Wolves was filmed here in the late 1980s. Known to themselves as the Oceti Sakowin (“seven council fires”), the Great Sioux Nation can be loosely divided into three dialect groups (Santee-Dakota, Yankton-Nakota and Teton-Lakota), and further divided into bands such as the Oglala and Hunkpapa (both Lakota), though there are nine official tribes (each with a reservation) in the state today.
For decades after Wounded Knee, Sioux history and culture were outlawed; until the 1940s, it was illegal to teach or even speak their language. Today, more Sioux live on South Dakota’s six reservations than dwelled in the whole state during pioneer days, but their prospects are often grim. Native American traditions are still celebrated, however, at powwows, held in summer on or near the reservations (especially big in Rapid City); local tourism offices offer annual dates and locations. Check also sdtribalrelations.com.