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Dakota family, about 1907. Postcard, MHS collections."The ultimate aim of Dakota life, stripped of accessories, was quite simple: one must obey kinship rules; one must be a good relative. No Dakota who has participated in that life will dispute that. In the last analysis every other consideration was secondary--property, personal ambition, glory, good times, life itself. Without that aim and the constant struggle to attain it, the people would no longer be Dakotas in truth."

Ella Deloria, Yankton Dakota, in Speaking of Indians,1944

Hau mitakuyepi. Anpetu de cantewaŝteya nape ciyuzapi do.- Hello my relatives. Today I greet you with an open heart.

Tioŝpaye--the Dakota word for extended kinship or family--formed the basis for traditional Dakota social structure and brought with it certain expectations for behavior. To be considered truly Dakota, a person needed to be generous and act as a good relative to everyone. Newcomers could be welcomed into Dakota communities through ritualized ceremonies where the obligations of kinship were bestowed upon the individuals involved. Community governance was accomplished through consensus, with all concerned parties being able to speak and be heard.  Beginning in the 1600s, European and European-American fur traders utilized these kinship networks to foster trade and establish political ties with Dakota communities, practices later adopted by the U.S. government. 



Anderson, Gary Clayton. Kinsmen of Another Kind: Dakota-White Relations in the Upper Mississippi Valley, 1650-1862. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1997

Deloria, Ella. The Dakota Way of Life. Sioux Falls, SD: Mariah Press, 2007.

Kenney, Dave. Northern Lights: The Stories of Minnesota’s Past. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2003.

Knudson, Nicolette, Snow, Jody, Canku, Clifford. Tokaheya Dakota Iapi Kin, Beginning Dakota: 24 Language and Grammar Lessons with Glossaries. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2011.

Resources for Further Research: 


Dakota Wicohan 

Historic Fort Snelling. The Dakota People

Indians of the Midwest: Past and Present. The Newberry.


Deloria, Ella Cara, and Vine Deloria. "Kinship's Role in Dakota Life." Speaking of Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1998. 24-74.


Knudson, Nicolette, Jody Snow, and Clifford Canku. Beginning Dakota = Tokaheya Dakota Iapi Kin : 24 Language and Grammar Lessons with Glossaries. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society, 2011.

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