North Dakota: Spirit Lake Reservation


About the Eastern Sioux and the Cuthead Yanktonai: The Sisseton-Wahpeton Band of Mississippi, or Eastern Sioux, and the Cuthead Yanktonai call the Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation home. The Siouan family lived in the lower Mississippi and Atlantic coast regions during the late 1500s and 1600s. Disease and warfare killed many of their people, but some managed to escape their southeastern home. By the late 1700s, the Siouan Indians roamed the upper Mississippi region, from Minnesota to parts of Wisconsin. 

History of the Reservation: In the 1800s, the Eastern Sioux lived in Minnesota, a state on the path of miners intent on the Gold Rush of 1862. The miners swept through Minnesota and pushed the Sisseton-Wahpeton Band into the Fort Totten (now North Dakota) area. The Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation (formerly Fort Totten) was established in 1867 with 732 residents. Today, the reservation encompasses about a quarter-million acres.  

Life on the Reservation: When it was established, most of the Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation residents worked in agriculture. Now, the tribe has two plants that manufacture non-violent armaments such as camouflage nets and helmets, and they operate the Spirit Lake Casino and Resort. Beyond the small-scale industry and casino, tribal and federal governments provide most jobs on the reservation. Federal employees mainly work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service.The tribe has also chartered the state-accredited Cankdeska Cikana Community College, originally named Little Hoop Community College, in the town of Fort Totten. 

The tribe has more than 7,500 enrolled members, and the reservation is home to nearly 2,100 people with an average annual income of nearly $44,000. The joblessness rate is 10%, and 39% of residents live in poverty. 

Concerned about retaining its culture and traditions, the tribe hosts powwows, Native American Church meetings and Sacred Pipe ceremonies. In an additional effort to preserve their heritage, the tribe continues to speak the Dakota dialect. 



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