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The preparation of this volume may be regarded as one of the contributions to science made by the great Missionary enterprise of the present age. It was not premeditated, but has been a result altogether incidental to our work. Our object was to preach the Gospel to the Dakotas in their own language, and to teach them to read and write the same, until their circumstances should be so changed as to enable them to learn the English. Hence we were led to study their language and to endeavor to arrive at a knowledge of its principles.
About eighteen years ago, Messrs. S. W. and G. H. Pond, from Washington, Conn., took up their residence among the Indians of the Minnesota Valley. In the summer following Dr. T. S. WILLIAMSON and his associates, from Ohio, under the direction of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, reached the same country. They immediately commenced the labor of collecting and ascertaining the meaning of Dakota words.
In the summer of 1837 we joined the mission and engaged in the same labors. Others who reached the country at a later period have rendered much assistance, among whom it is but just to mention the late Rev. Robert Hopkins, of Traverse des Sioux.
In prosecuting this work we have at all times availed ourselves of the best native assistance; but during the first years of our residence among them, the natives did not know enough to give us the help we needed. If we required the meaning of a word, as, for example, kaśka (to bind), the reply generally was, “It means “kaśka, and cannot mean any thing else." It is related of Hennepin, that while a captive among these Indians, on a certain occasion he ran off a little distance, and then, running back again, inquired of the braves who sat near, what they called that. In trying to learn the meaning of Dakota words we have often been obliged to adopt similar expedients.
The preparation of the Dakota-English part of the Dictionary for the press, containing more than sixteen thousand words, occupied all the time I could spare from my other missionary employments for more than a year. The labor bestowed on the English-Dakota part was performed partly by Mrs. Riggs.
A manuscript Grammar of the language, written by the Rev. S. W. Pond, was kindly furnished to aid in the preparation of this work; but as it was not received in New York until midwinter, it has been used only in the latter part. Since my arrival in this city, the Grammar has been entirely remodelled and
rewritten, according to the suggestions and under the direction of Mr. Wm. W. Turner, of the Union Theological Seminary of New York. Of this gentleman's labors in connexion with this work I cannot speak too highly. Not only has he, by his eminent literary qualifications, been able to render valuable assistance in the way of suggestion and criticism, but he has also read with great care the proofsheets, especially of the Grammar, that nothing might be wanting to make the work, under the circumstances, as perfect as possible. It is proper also to mention the name of Mr. Wm. H. Smith, of New York, who assisted in the revision of the latter half of the Dictionary, in the absence of Mr. TURNER.
About the 1st of January, 1851, a prospectus was issued at St. Paul, under the sanction of the Historical Society of Minnesota, to publish the work by subscription, and in this many of the most prominent citizens of the Territory manifested much interest. Among the larger subscriptions may be mentioned those of Governor ALEXANDER RAMSEY, Hon. H. H. SIBLEY, Hon. MARTIN MCLEOD, Rev. E. D. Neill, and H. M. RICE, Esq. The Prudential Committee of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions also made an appropriation for the same object, besides another for defraying the necessary expenses of superintending
These provisions, though liberal, considering the circumstances under which they were made, were not sufficient to warrant the commencement of the publication ; and being informed, in answer to a letter addressed to Professor JOSEPH HENRY, LL.D., that the work, on certain conditions, might probably be accepted as one of the Contributions to Knowledge of the Smithsonian Institution, it was concluded to present it for that purpose. After passing the prescribed examination, it was accepted by the Institution and directed to be printed.
With the manner in which the work has been brought out, its friends will I trust be fully satisfied. Neither pains nor expense has been spared in the publication. The plan had already been followed, in the books printed in the language, of using the vowels with the sounds which they have in Italian and German, and of representing each articulation by a single character. In the present work a few changes have been introduced into the orthography, for the sake of expressing some of the sounds in a manner more perspicuous and consistent with analogy, and more in accordance with the system of notation which is now becoming general among scientific philologists in Europe. It was necessary in consequence to rearrange a great many of the articles in the manuscript Dictionary, and to have a number of new punches made.
With the hope that it may be the means of interesting some in behalf of the Dakotas, of perpetuating memorials of their language, and affording, to some extent, the means of arriving at correct conclusions in regard to their origin, this work, the result of years of toil, is submitted to the kind regards of its generous patrons.
STEPHEN R. Riggs.
New York City, 1852.
The nation of the Sioux Indians, or Dakotas, as they call themselves, is supposed to number about twenty-five thousand. They are scattered over an immense territory, extending from the Mississippi river on the east to the Black Hills on the west, and from the mouth of the Big Sioux river on the south to Devil's Lake on the north. Early in the winter of 1837, they ceded to the United States all their land lying on the eastern side of the Mississippi ; and this tract at present forms the settled portion of Minnesota. During the summer of 1851, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, with Gov. Ramsey of Minnesota, negotiated with the Dakotas of the Mississippi and Minnesota or Saint Peter's Valley, for all their land lying east of a line running from Otter-tail Lake through Lake Traverse (Lac Travers) to the junction of the Big Sioux river with the Missouri; the Indians retaining for their own settlements a reservation on the upper Minnesota, twenty miles wide and about one hundred and forty long. This purchase includes all the wooded lands belonging to the Dakotas, and extends, especially on the south side of the Minnesota river, some distance into the almost boundless Prairie of the West. Beyond this, the Indians follow the buffaloes, which, although evidently diminishing in numbers, still range in vast herds over the prairies. This animal furnishes the Indian with food and clothing, and a house, and, during the summer, with the “ bois de vache” for fuel. In the winter these sons of the prairie are obliged to pitch their tents at or in the little clusters of wood, which here and there skirt the margins of the streams and lakes.
Their name, the Dakotas say, means leagued or allied; and they sometimes speak of themselves as the Oéeti sakowin, Seven council fires. These are the seven principal bands which compose the tribe or nation ; viz.:
1. The Mdewakantonways, Village of the Spirit Lake. Their name is derived from a former residence at Mdewakan (Spirit or Sacred Lake), Mille Lacs, which are in the country now claimed by the Ojibwas. They are divided into seven principal villages, three of which are still on the western bank of the Mississippi, and the others on or near the Minnesota, within twenty-five or thirty miles of Fort Snelling. This portion of the Dakota people have received annuities since the year 1838; and their number, as now enrolled, is about two thousand. They plant corn and other vegetables, and some of them have made a little progress in civilization.
2. The Walipekutes, Leaf-shooters. It is not now known from what circumstance the Walipekutes received their name. They are at present a roving band of about five or six hundred, laying claim to the country on Cannon river, the head waters of the Blue Earth, and westward.
3. The Walipetonwans, Village in the Leaves, probably obtained their name from the fact that formerly they lived only in the woods. The old home of this band is about the Little Rapids, which is some forty-five miles by water from the mouth of the Minnesota river. About three hundred still reside there; but the larger part of the band have removed to Lac-qui-parle and Big Stone Lake. In all, they number about one thousand or twelve hundred souls. They all plant corn, more or less; and at Lac-quiparle, one of the Mission stations occupied by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, they have made some progress in learning to read and write their own language, and have substituted, to some extent, the use of the plough for the hoe.
4. The Sisiton ways, Village of the Marsh. What the meaning of sisi’ is, we have not been able to ascertain satisfactorily, as we do not find it in any other combination in the language as now used. But Mr. Joseph Renville, now deceased, who was half Dakota, and considered as the highest authority in
in a manner which would excite the sympathies of the hardest heart, Hoksidan-sapa, Black-boy, standing on the brow of a hill, addressed himself to the ghostly inhabitants of the spirit-world, in ghostly notes, as follows :
• Koda, ahiton wan yanka wo ;
Koda, ahitonwan yanka wo;
Friend, pause and look this way ;
Dakota Method of Counting.--Counting is usually done by means of their fingers. If you ask some Dakotas how many there are of any thing, instead of directing their answer to your organs of hearing, they present it to your sight, by holding up so many fingers. When they have gone over the fingers and thumbs of both hands, one is temporarily turned down for one ten. Eleven is ten more one, or more commonly again one ; twelve is again two, and so on; nineteen is the other nine. At the end of the next ten another finger is turned down, and so on. Twenty is two tens, thirty is three tens, etc., as will be seen by referring to the section on Numeral Adjectives in the Grammar. Opawinge, one hundred, is probably derived from pawinga, to go round in circles or to make gyrations, as the fingers have been all gone over again for their respective tens. The Dakota word for a thousand, kektopawinge, may be formed of .ake' and "opawinge,' hundreds again, having now completed the circle of their fingers in hundreds, and being about to commence again. They have no separate word to denote any higher number than a thousand. There is a word to designate one half of any thing, but none to denote any smaller aliquot part.
Counting Time.—The Dakotas have names for the natural divisions of time. Their years they ordinarily count by winters. A man is so many winters old, or so many winters have passed since such an event. When one is going on a journey, he does not usually say that he will be back in so many days, as we do, but in so many nights or sleeps. In the same way they compute distance by the number of nights passed in making the journey. They have no division of time into weeks. Their months are literally
The popular belief is that when the moon is full, a great number of very small mice commence nibbling on one side of it, which they continue to do until they have eaten it all up. Soon after this another moon begins to grow, which goes on increasing until it has reached its full size only 10 share the fate of its predecessor; so that with them the new moon is really new, and not the old one re-appearing. To the moons they have given names, which refer to some prominent physical fact that occurs about that time in the year. For the names of the moons most commonly used by the Dakotas living in the Valley of the Minnesota, with their significations and the months to which they inost nearly correspond, the reader is referred to the word 'wi,' Part I. of the Dictionary.
Five moons are usually counted to the winter, and five to the summer, leaving only one each to the spring and autumn; but this distinction is not closely adhered to. The Dakotas often have very warm debates, especially towards the close of the winter, about what moon it is. The raccoons do not always make their appearance at the same time every winter; and the causes which produce sore eyes are not developed precisely at the same time in each successive spring. All these variations make room for strong arguments in a Dakota tent for or against Wićata-wi or Istawićayazan-wi. But the main reason for their frequent difference of opinion in regard to this matter, viz. that twelve lunations do not bring them to the point from which they commenced counting, never appears to have suggested itself.
In order to make their moons correspond with the seasons, they are obliged to pass over one every
Religion. This subject can only be referred to briefly. The Dakotas have, indeed, “ gods many -their imaginations have peopled both the visible and invisible world with mysterious or spiritual beings, who are continually exerting themselves in reference to the human family, either for weal or woe. These spiritual existences inhabit every thing, and, consequently, almost every thing is an object of worship. On the same occasion, a Dakota dances in religious homage to the sun and moon, and spreads out his hands in prayer to a painted stone; and he finds it necessary to offer sacrifices more frequently to the Bad-spirit than to the Great-spirit. He has his god of the north and god of the south, his god of the woods and god of the prairie, his god of the air and god of the waters. No one can witness