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
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.