The “Ultimately, the traditionals are not finding

The Culture
and Lifestyle of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been around for decades and they are still around
today, maintaining their culture and ways of life. The tribe is a part of a larger
group of Indigenous people: The Sioux people. These plains people have since
dispersed throughout the Unites States and currently live in several different tribes.
Many don’t live in tribes anymore, instead they have integrated themselves with
the average American. This paper is going to examine the Standing Rock Sioux
Tribe and how they are living their contemporary lives as a recognized
indigenous group of people.

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the idea of sovereignty comes to mind when related to First Nations tribes, we
tend to think of them being headstrong and independent in governing themselves.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is no exception to either of those ideas. They are
one of the federally recognized Native American Tribes in the U.S., meaning
that they practice sovereignty in their own ways of self governing themselves. There
is a tribal council that helps decide on how to handle situations and disputes
affecting the Sioux people. Ways that they practice their sovereignty would be
dealing with environmental issues, managing the tribe’s land, handling business
endeavors, and passing ordinances to keep their residents safe (Standing Rock,

Standing Rock tribe provides services to their members that is separate from
the U.S. government. School, clubs, and banks name just a few services that
define them as a sovereign nation. One aspect that has caused controversy in
recent years that involves sovereignty is the growing number of casinos run by
the Sioux tribe. Standing Rock has become more and more open to the idea of
opening up casinos in order to expand themselves economically. This notion has been
said to be a threat to the traditional values of the tribe, but some say
otherwise. According to James V. Fenelon, “Ultimately, the traditionals are not
finding problems with any particular form of gambling on Standing Rock but
rather, with a general weakening of the cultural forms that have sustained
resistance for more than 100 years” (p.394, 2006). This being said, casinos are
now being seen as a common form of practicing sovereignty within the Standing
Rock tribe.

Reservation Status

Standing Rock Sioux Reservation was established in 1868 and was originally a
part of a much bigger reservation that included more Sioux tribes called The
Great Sioux Reservation. The area in which the reservation is located in on the
east side of the Missouri River in the state of South Dakota (Standing Rock,
2017). This reservation sits on the vast plains of South Dakota situated right
on the Missouri River which is seen as a sacred source of water for the Sioux
tribe. They take a lot of pride in this land they had to fight for in order to
get what they have today.

In the
mid to late 1800s, the Treaty of Fort Laramie was established and declared
which tribe the Black Hills would belong to. The Black Hills is a sacred piece
of land that was initially located on what would be the Standing Rock Reservation
today (Standing Rock, 2017). The treaty states that no piece of land would be
taken from them unless there was a vote of three-fourths of the men in the
tribe to allow a piece of land to be given away. Unfortunately, Congress did
not abide by this law of the Sioux and the Black Hills was taken from them and
made a part of federal land. According to Sarah Krakoff form the Washington Law
Review, “The Great
Sioux Settlement of 1889 reduced the Great Sioux Reservation to six separate
reservations: Rosebud, Lower Brule, Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Crow Creek,
and Pine Ridge” (p. 1115, 2012). The Standing
Rock Reservation today is still much as it was back then, without a portion of
what used to be theirs, but still with an area of plains where they have
remained since.

Language Status   

many First Nations tribes, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe faces extinction when
it comes to their native language. The language that is spoken in this area of
Sioux people is called Lakota (Cox, 2016). There are a few forms of this
language but each have their own dialect depending on where the tribe is
located. Many of the Sioux people do not currently speak Lakota anymore due to
the way they have become integrated into society in the past several decades. Parents
have stopped passing the language down to their kids more and more as each
generation passes. Although the Lakota language is at risk, there are steps that
are being taken to preserve the language.

his article, Patrick Cox introduces Marie Kills in Sight who is a native Lakota
speaker who grew up in the Standing Rock Sioux reservation (2016). Marie’s
father has since established a system for teaching children the Lakota language
so that it lives on. Some don’t like the system because of inaccuracies, which started
the development of a new system that helps maintain some of the sounds that are
key to the Lakota language (Cox, 2016). In addition to that, there is an
immersion school and camps that are offered on the reservation. Younger
generations are teaming up with the elders to bring back this dying language
little by little.

Social/Clan Structure  

            The Standing
Rock Sioux tribe has had a long running clan system that consists of two subdivisions:
The Hunkpapa and the Blackfeet (Standing Rock, 2017). These subdivisions work
together in all aspects of government, rather than being seen as completely separate
groups of people. Together, one of the biggest things these two clans do is
advocate for education within their tribe. Colleges such as Sitting Bull
College, United Tribes Technical College, and other tribal colleges and universities
are the main focus on educating members on ways to save the environment, which Standing
Rock tribal chairman Dave Archambault III strives to accomplish (Paskus, p. 20,
2017). There are several majors that are offered at these colleges, giving
members a chance to pursue a wide-range of career choices. The graduation rate
is lower than they have hoped for at the moment because people are needed for
various jobs instead. Since this is an issues, the chairman and other tribal
council members are working to raise the graduation rate because they so
strongly believe in educating Sioux members on the environment and their


are many specific cultural practices that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe
maintain as a contemporary tribe. One of these practices would be powwows.
Powwows have been held in the Standing Rock tribe for decades and is still practiced
regularly to this day. There are so many occasions that call for powwows, most
being a significant milestone in one’s life. Graduation from high school or
college and acceptance into the armed forces name just a few of the joyous
occasions for powwows. During these events, there are traditional ceremonies
held to commemorate the individual and then a feast is always to follow
(Standing Rock, 2017). Powwows can be comparable to graduation or birthday
parties that the average American tends to celebrate. They are always happy occasions
celebrated with family members and other members of the community.

of the Standing Rock tribe being situated on the plains, farming is one of the
cultural aspects that has continued on from long ago. It’s no secret that the
tribe believes the environment is one of the most sacred things in life, so
they take a lot of pride in finding environmentally friendly and efficient ways
to farm. Farming also happens to be one of the main sources of economic growth
and businesses. There are numerous farms on the reservation and they continue
to to become even more vast. The Standing Rock website says “Standing Rock Sioux Tribe established various
industries for the Tribe on the reservation and plans to develop more
enterprises” (2017). We can except to see a growth in the farming and cattle
ranching industry for the Sioux in the near future.


a culture that has been around for so long is not the simplest task to do. Nevertheless,
the people of Standing Rock have found ways to do just that. Many Sioux people,
not just from Standing Rock, have devoted their lives to keeping their culture
alive by joining various organizations, such as the American Indian Movement
(Waldman, 2006). This organization fights for the rights of several native
cultures, which includes the Standing Rock tribe. They promote and encourage others
to help give indigenous people more opportunities to help sustain their ways of
life. The AIM is devoted to bring their values and beliefs into each tribe to
educate their members on ways that they can help maintain their tribe. This extends
to schools within the reservation and smaller outreach programs.

organization that has contributed to sustaining the Standing Rock tribe would
be the Boy Scouts of America. Waldman states that Sioux member, Charles
Eastman, was one of people who helped create the Boy Scouts of America (2006).
This organization is not only recognized by the Sioux tribes, but by the entire
United States. It has become a national project to help non-natives become
familiar with the ways of native people. This is extremely important in
sustaining their culture because the more people that are educated on the
culture, the better chance they have in sustaining it.   

has occurred in the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in the form of philosophy and
writing. According to Waldman, “During
the 20th century, the Sioux have rebuilt their lives. Many Native American
writers and philosophers have been Sioux” (2006). There have been several books,
articles, textbooks, and philosophical manuscripts that were written with the
intent of educating the public on the Sioux lifestyle, and more specifically,
the Standing Rock tribe. The writings contain information regarding culture,
government, language and so much more. As mentioned before, this form of sustainability
is important so that education can take place inside and outside of the

Two Additional Topics

As I
spent time researching the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, I kept coming across the
apparent alcohol problem that has been taking place over the past few decades.  The Standing Rock tribe, along with several
other Native American tribes, have battled with alcohol and other drug abuse due
to the regression of their culture and identities. Philip A. May and J. Phillip
Gossage wrote in an article for the American
Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research, “Whittacker (1962; 1982)
studied the Standing Rock Sioux and found a declining rate of drinking over a
twenty-year period” (p. 3, 2001). This is very promising news, but the authors
also state that to this day it is still an issue that plagues the Standing Rock
Sioux tribe. With the rates declining, a hopeful future for the Sioux people
can be seen in the near future.

One of
the biggest issues that the Standing Rock tribe is facing is the Dakota Access
Pipeline controversy. This news has brought the tribe back into the spotlight.
The government wants to put a pipeline in the ground that would go right by the
Standing Rock reservation. The Sioux are concerned about this because of
possible contamination to their waters since it would be fed under the Missouri
River, their main water source (Worland, 2016). Protests have been happening
since 2014 when the project was first announced, and there are still protests
happening. The project has been halted and started on numerous occasions, with
a final start that is going on right now.

The Sioux
tribe are not the only ones who oppose the pipeline. They are supported around
the country and internationally by other fellow natives and non-natives alike.
The results of this protest have been profound. It has brought so many people
together and shed some light on the environmental issues that could result from
this. This kind of interaction is what the Standing Rock Sioux people are all
about; bringing everyone together in harmony to peacefully fight for the
environment and for what they believe is right. The addition of the Dakota
Access Pipeline could have disastrous effects, which is why I believe the Sioux
people will continue to fight.

Prior Knowledge  






This was
one of the images I chose for the first written assignment. When I first found this
picture I knew it was a very stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans, but I
didn’t have much knowledge on the topic. This is not an accurate representation
of indigenous people and also not an accurate representation of the Standing
Rock Sioux tribe. These headdresses are worn on occasion by men in power, but
as far as contemporary goes, this is not what they wear. Based on what I have
learned throughout the semester; most indigenous people wear typical modern
American clothing including the Sioux. In a way, they have meshed with the rest
of the U.S. citizens in certain aspects of their lives, one being how they
dress. I’ve learned that one important thing to keep in mind is that indigenous
people are often stereotyped inaccurately, which means the rest of us need to
keep an open mind and be aware of there inaccuracies.


people of all tribes live lives that can be seen as either vastly different from
ours, or very similar to ours. After examining the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,
we can see they have some very distinct qualities within their culture and their
lifestyle that make them unique in respect to other tribes. Whether it be ways
of practicing their sovereignty or how they are sustaining their culture, the
Standing Rock Tribe has proved to be a strong contemporary group of people who
stay true to themselves and continuously fight for what they believe in. Digging
deep into the Sioux lifestyle has shed a new light on the ways they and other
indigenous tribes live and I believe every person can benefit from learning
about this remarkable tribe.


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