Dakota Social Customs

Among the eastern Dakota the phratry was never a permanent organization,

but it was resorted to on special occasions and for various purposes, such

as war or the buffalo hunt. The exponent of the phratry was the tiyotipi

or soldiers' lodge, which has been described at length by Dr Riggs.(3)

While no political organization has been known to exist within the

historic period over the whole Dakota nation, the traditional
lliance of

the Seven Council-fires is perpetuated in the common name Dakota,

signifying allied, friendly.

Among the Dakota it is customary for the rank and title of chief to

descend from father to son, unless some other near relative is ambitious

and influential enough to obtain the place. The same is claimed also in

regard to the rank of brave or soldier, but this position is more

dependent on personal bravery. While among the Omaha and Ponka a chief can

not lead in war, there is a different custom among the Dakota. The

Sisseton chief Standing Buffalo told Little Crow, the leader of the

hostile Santee in the Minnesota outbreak of 1862, that, having commenced

hostilities with the whites, he must fight it out without help from him,

and that, failing to make himself master of the situation, he should not

flee through the country of the Sisseton.

Regarding chieftainship among the Dakota, Philander Prescott(4) says:

The chieftainship is of modern date, there being no chiefs hefore

the whites came. The chiefs have little power. The chief's band is

almost always a kin totem which helps to sustain him. The chiefs

have no votes in council; there the majority rules and the voice

of the chief is not decisive till then.

On the death of a chief, the nearest kinsman in the right line is

eligible. If there are no kin, the council of the band can make a

chief. Civil chiefs scarcely ever make a war party.

The Dakota woman owns the tipi. If a man has more wives than one, they

have separate tipis, or they arrange to occupy different sides of one.

Sometimes the young man goes to live with his wife's kindred, but in such

matters there is no fixed rule. To purchase a wife was regarded the most

honorable form of marriage, though elopement was sometimes resorted to.