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Being Dakota

Being Dakota

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Tales and Traditions of the Sisseton and Wahpeton

Author Amos E. Oneroad, Author Alanson B. Skinner, Edited by Laura L. Anderson

Minnesota Historical Society Press (June 1, 2005)

A unique collection detailing the customs, traditions, and folklore of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota at the turn of the twentieth century, with descriptions of tribal organization, ceremonies that marked the individual's passage from birth to death, and material culture


At the beginning of the twentieth century, a few members of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota community in northeastern South Dakota, while living in the white world, quietly worked to preserve the customs and stories of their ancestors in the face of federal government suppression and the opposition of organized religion.

Amos E. Oneroad, a son of one of those families, was educated in the traditional ways and then sent east to obtain a college education, eventually becoming a Presbyterian minister. For most of his life, he moved in two worlds. By fortunate coincidence he met Alanson B. Skinner, a student of anthropology and kindred soul, in New York City. The two men formed a bond both personal and professional, collaborating on anthropological studies in various parts of the United States. The project closest to Oneroad's heart was the collection and preservation of the stories and traditions of the Sisseton and Wahpeton. Oneroad wrote down the stories and gave them to Skinner. The men intended to polish the resulting manuscript and publish it, but Skinner's untimely death in 1925 thwarted their plans.

Oneroad and Skinner collected descriptions of everyday life, including tribal organization, ceremonies that marked the individual's passage from birth to death, and material culture. Several of the folk tales included relate the exploits of Iktomi, the trickster, while others tell of adventures of such figures as the Child of Love, Star Born, and the Mysterious Turtle.

Laura L. Anderson, who teaches anthropology at the University of Oklahoma, found the neglected manuscript among Skinner's papers in a California library and has edited it for publication. Being Dakota succeeds in fulfilling its authors' original intent by conveying these long-ago stories and traditions to the children and grandchildren, and being true to Amos Oneroad's voice.

Author information

Amos Oneroad (1884-1937) was a Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota and an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Alanson Skinner (1886-1925) was an anthropologist and on the staff at the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation, and was curator of anthropology at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

Laura L. Anderson teaches anthropology and Cherokee at the University of Oklahoma and lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

  • 214 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873515306

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