The Kul Wicasa Oyate is a band of related families of the Lakota Nation called the Sicangu or Burnt Thighs. Brule comes from the French word brulé (burnt), the name French fur traders used for the Sicangu in the late 1600s. The Sicangu divided into the Lower Brule and the Heyata Wicasa, or Upper Brule, in the late 1700s. The Lower Brule favored lands where the White River empties into the Missouri River, while the Upper Brule lived further south and west.
The Lower Brule Indian Reservation occupies an area of more than 400 square miles on the west side of the Missouri River Valley and in the uplands that roll westward from the Missouri River to the Black Hills. The construction of the mainstem dams along the Missouri River in the 1950s and 1960s flooded about 35 square miles of the tribe’s prime forests, hunting, fishing and gathering grounds, agricultural lands, and settlements, creating the Lake Sharpe and Lake Francis Case reservoirs. The Crow Creek Indian Reservation is on the eastern side of these reservoirs.
Chief Iron Nation (1815-1894) led the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe through some of its most challenging years. He worked diligently, both as a warrior and statesman, to ensure the survival of his people. Iron Nation signed the treaty to establish the Great Sioux Reservation in 1868. He has been described as a just and noble leader.
The Native American Scenic Byway crosses the Lower Brule Reservation. Following the Missouri River, the route provides stunning vistas from the crests of lofty river bluffs and views of rolling hills as it descends into the fertile river bottom.
Along the route and north of the town of Lower Brule, is the Big Bend of the Missouri River and the location of the tribe’s Narrows Historical Interpretive Area, a Scenic Byway facility.
The Big Bend is the largest natural meandering loop in any river system in the United States. It features a narrow “neck” of land, formed around a chain of hills approximately one and one-half miles wide. These hills forced the Missouri River to meander 30 miles in order to continue its flow southward. This natural landmark was widely known by the indigenous people of North America who lived and traded for thousands of years in the Missouri River Basin. In more recent history, this area became a landmark for fur trappers, frontiersmen and military personnel.
The Narrows Historical Interpretive Area is located near the area where travelers traditionally crossed the neck by land to avoid the long trip around the Bend. The interpretive area contains a Lakota tipi encampment and an Arikara earthlodge, representing the tribes that settled here over the past thousand years. Visitors who walk the Narrows Recreational Trail to the top of the hills will be rewarded with a stunning view of the entire Bend.
The tribe maintains a herd of bison in three ranges covering approximately 6,200 acres. One of these preserves, the Big Game Unit, is located near the town of Lower Brule and is also home to almost 200 elk.
The Lower Brule Department of Wildlife, Fish and Recreation is located three miles north of the town of Lower Brule. Surrounded by the tribe’s bison and elk range, the wildlife facility offers unique interpretive exhibits and displays of area wildlife and native trees, plants and grasses.
The Lower Brule Buffalo Interpretive Center is located on original tribal homelands next to the Missouri River. Hands-on exhibits, interpretive videos and special programs, and tours of the buffalo pasture offer visitors a unique educational experience. It is located on S.D. Highway 1806 seven miles southeast of Fort Pierre on the Native American Scenic Byway.
The Lower Brule Tribal Administration Building is a state-of-the-art facility, and a spectacular Tribal Council Meeting Chamber symbolizes revitalized growth and economic development, while preserving the traditions and culture of the past.
The Tribe’s Golden Buffalo Casino and Resort, located in the town of Lower Brule, offers gaming, a restaurant, a 40-room motel, a convention center and an RV park open year-round.
Lower Brule Sioux Tribe
Lower Brule, South Dakota