The Lakota Sioux roamed the whole country north and west of the regions claimed by the Otoe, Omaha, Ponca and Pawnee tribes. In what is now Nebraska it numbered from 10,000 to 20,000 people. It had no permanent villages, but followed the buffalo herds. About the time the first white men came, the Lakota Sioux were driving the Crows westward into the Rocky Mountains.
The main source of food for the Sioux was the buffalo. The women usually cooked the meat but sometimes had it raw. They ate wild fruits such as cherries, berries, and plums, and wild vegetables such as potatoes, rice, spinach, corn pumpkins, beans squash and prairie turnips. They drank herb tea.
In the winter, when buffalo were hard to hunt, the Sioux ate dried buffalo meat, called pemmican. The Sioux also ate other meats such as bear, deer, antelope, rabbits, and wild turkey and hens. The Sioux did not plant gardens because they were always on the move and could not take care of them. Food was shared or traded by all the members of the tribe.
At first they lived in bark-covered wigwams. They also lived in tipis. Women made tipis by tying three of the lodge-pole pine trees together at the top. They hoisted the poles into the air and spread them out at the bottom. Then they rested eight or ten more poles against the frame to make it strong. Teton women made tipi covers out of bison hides. The women drove stakes into the ground and stretched hides across them. They cleaned excess flesh and muscle from the hides using scraps made from bone or elk antler. After the hides dried, they were cleaned again. This time women removed the fur. Stiff, clean hides were soaked in water for several days.
Men sometimes drew paintings on the tipis and put up frames made of wooden poles. They then used buffalo hides for the seats, beds and covers
The Indians used every part of the buffalo. Some parts were used for clothing. The hide was used to make moccasins, leggings, shirts, gloves, jackets, vests and dresses. They used thicker skins for blankets and for heavier robes for the cold weather. Women mostly wore knee-length dresses and leggings reaching up to the knee. The women were responsible for making articles of clothing that were worn by all the people. Buffalo was used for clothing but most of the clothing was sewn from the soft, tanned skins of deer and elk. Sioux women did some awesome bodywork using a bunch of colors. They sewed beads onto their clothing. Clothing that had a lot of beads was saved for special occasions. Men used dyes to decorate their clothing.
The Lakota Sioux believed everything had a life of its own. Spirits (like rock spirits, tree spirits, and cloud spirits) could change their shapes to become animals, people, or even invisible. The earth was the mother of all the spirits, and the sun had great power because it gave light and warmth. There were also spirits for east, west, north, south, the earth, and the sky. The greatest power was Wakan Tanka, or Great Spirit, because Wakan Tanka sent them buffalo. The Sioux danced and gave gifts to the spirits.
The most famous tribal ceremony was the Sun Dance which took place every year before the big buffalo hunt. It lasted many days, and everybody took part to ask the spirits to bring them plenty of buffalo.
The Sioux had pipes that they considered to be sacred. The men usually owned these pipes. The pipes had stems that were 5 feet long. They were used on religious holidays.
Young adults often participated in a ceremony called a Vision Quest. They looked for visions of spirits who would become guardians for them. Although Vision Quests were mostly important for men, many women also looked for guardians. Before looking for these guardians, men and women prepared themselves by fasting for four days. At the end of this period, they went through a sweat bath. Sweat baths cleansed people's minds. The Vision Quest itself lasted four days. The seeker left camp alone and proceeded to a place to think and pray for help. During this period, the person did not sleep. All the seeker's thoughts and actions focused on meeting a spirit. Seekers offered prayers to the spirit world asking for guidance.
The Sun Dance was held in the summer. Hundreds of people came to it. The Sun Dance was one of the Sioux's main ceremonies. Getting ready for the Sun Dance began months before the summer.
At first the Sioux traveled in birch bark canoes. They also used snow shoes. After they crossed the Missouri River around 1750 they began to use horses for transportation. The Sioux got their horses from the Spanish. The Sioux also used travois. The travois were made from two logs attached to the horses's or dog's shoulder blades. A piece of leather was attached at the open end of the logs. This piece of leather was used to carry people or loads.
Games were part of everyday life for the Sioux. They had a special purpose for each game they played. .
The Sioux placed their tipis in a circle because they believed all round things had special powers.
Girls learned how to cook by older women teaching them.
In the winter the Sioux kids made sleds out of scrap buffalo bones and pieces of wood.
Children were scolded if they were naughty by each family member.
Mother's made dolls for their children before they were born. The name given to the doll was the name given to the child. Even if they gave the doll a boy's name and their child was a girl, the girl would still take the name.