Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate

Experience vibrant Indigenous culture in northeast South Dakota

Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate

The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate consists of the Sisseton, or People of the Marsh or People of the Fish Village/Peninsula, and the Wahpeton, or People on Lake Traverse or People Among the Leaves/Leaf Shooters. The Sisseton and Wahpeton bands are subdivisions of the eastern or Dakota/Dakotah Indians and two bands of the eastern Isanti or Santee division who speak the Dakota dialect. The word "Dakotah" can be translated into English as "friend" and is the preferred identification of the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands. The real significance of the word, "Dakotah" derives from the word 'WoDakotah,' which means "harmony."

At the time of initial contact in the mid-1700s with European traders and missionaries, the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands resided in villages extending from Manitoba, Canada, to the present homelands on the Lake Traverse Reservation and further south in Minnesota and northern Iowa. In the mid-1850s, other missionaries identified and described the villages of the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands, noting that a typical village ordinarily would consist of 25 to 150 lodges, and each village was comprised of tiospaye, meaning one's extended family. Missionary Rev. Stephan Riggs reported that in the 1850s, the many Sisseton-Wahpeton villages had a population ranging from 5,000 to 9,000 residents.

Gabriel Renville (1825-1892) was Chief of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe from 1866 until his death in 1892. As part of a large fur-trader family of French and Sioux origins, he was an unlikely candidate as Chief of the Sisseton Wahpeton. However, with the coming of the Dakota War of 1862, his fortunes changed. In 1863, he was appointed to the post of Chief of Scouts in the service of Minnesota state militia by Colonel Henry Hastings Sibley, who later became the first governor of the state of Minnesota. Renville's service to the U.S. Army ended in 1865. For his loyalty, he was appointed by Sibley as Chief of the Sisseton Wahpeton. His people seconded Sibley's appointment a year later by declaring Renville chief-for-life. His tenure as chief saw the creation and dissolution of the Lake Traverse Reservation and the transition of his people into the modern world. He is buried atop a bluff near Old Agency, South Dakota.

Paul War Cloud (1930-1973), a Sisseton Wahpeton, was born near Sica Hollow. A self-taught artist, War Cloud realistically depicted Dakota culture and tradition in his paintings. A War Cloud mural, "Unity Through the Great Spirit," hangs at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. War Cloud died in 1973.


Agency Village is home to Sisseton Wahpeton College. The distinctive Song to the Great Spirit building honors the traditions and past of the Dakota people, while also functioning as an academic building. It is built in the shape of four drummers sitting around a drum, and can be seen from Interstate 29.

Mystery lurks within the area's hills and valleys. When the Dakota settled in northeastern South Dakota, they encountered a wooded area, or hollow, filled with unusual occurrences. Phenomena such as glowing tree stumps, moaning sounds and a stream that ran red, led the Dakota to call this enchanted hollow "sica," which means "bad." Today, Sica Hollow State Park is known for its hiking and horseback riding trails. Each fall, the hollow draws visitors who come to see an incredible display of autumn colors. The park is located northwest of Sisseton.

The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate owns three casinos. They are the Dakota Sioux Casino and Hotel in Watertown, the Dakota Connection Casino and C-Store in Sisseton, and the Dakota Magic Casino and Golf Resort near Harkinson, N.D. In consideration and respect for the alliance between the Seven Council Fires, the Sisseton and Wahpeton Bands have erected seven torches in front of the Dakota Magic Casino's entry, and each torch is representative of each of the seven bands among the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people. These seven torches also are representative of the seven district council communities on the Lake Traverse Reservation.

The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Buffalo Farm at Enemy Swim is where the tribe maintains a small herd. Tours are available.

The Tiospa Zina Tribal School building at Agency Village is constructed in the shape of an eagle.


Sisseton, Agency Village, Rosholt, Veblen


Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tourism Office
Agency Village, South Dakota
(605) 693-8217

Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate
Agency Village, South Dakota
(605) 698-3911

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