The name Dakota, Lakota, or Nakota means "friendly people." This is what the three groups called themselves. French priests called them the "Sioux." This name came from another Indian tribe. It meant "snake" or "enemy." This name stuck. Most European explorers and traders called them the Sioux. So did most South Dakota settlers. Today we use all these names.

     The Sioux Nation is made up of seven major tribes, or "council fires." They speak three different forms of the same language. These are known as dialects. Those who speak the Dakota dialect are sometimes called the Santee. This group includes the Wahpeton, Sisseton, Mdewakanton, and Wahpekute tribes. Many now live in northeastern and central South Dakota and eastern Minnesota.

     Tribes speaking the Nakota dialect are the Yankton and Yanktonnais tribes. Many now live in southeastern and north-central South Dakota.

     The Teton tribe speaks the Lakota dialect. There are seven large groups of Lakota speakers, or Lakotas. They are the Oglala, Brule (Sicangu), Two Kettle (Oohenunpa), Sans Arc (Itazipco), Blackfeet (Sihasapa), Hunkpapa, and Minneconjou. Many now live in central and western South Dakota and southwestern North Dakota.