Standing Rock Reservation takes its name from a natural formation that resembles a woman with a child on her back. Today, this sacred stone stands on a monument outside the Standing Rock Agency’s office in Fort Yates, North Dakota.
The reservation is home to two bands of the Lakota Nation: the Sihasapa (or Blackfoot) and the Hunkpapa (or Campers at the Horn). The Dakota people of Standing Rock include the Upper Yanktonai (called the Ihanktonwana or Little End Village) and the Lower Yanktonai (called the Hunkatina or Cut Heads). The Hunkpapa and Sihasapa people were known as the horsemen of the plains and primarily hunted buffalo for their needs. The Yanktonai were a river-plains people who did some farming and buffalo hunting.
The lower half of the Standing Rock Reservation is located in South Dakota and includes the communities of Little Eagle, Wakpala, Kenel, McLaughlin, McIntosh and Bullhead. The reservation is most accessible via Highways 65, 12 and 63.
Standing Rock is the birthplace of Sitting Bull (1831-1890), one of the most widely recognized figures in Native American history. Known in his language as Tatanka Iyotake, Sitting Bull was a medicine man and an Itancan (or Leader of the People). He was born along the Grand River and lived the traditional lifestyle of his people. In his lifetime, he fought to preserve and protect the ways of the people and stood firm against all attempts by the U.S. Government to buy land sacred to the Lakota and Dakota people or relocate his people to the reservation set aside for the Sioux Nation.
Sitting Bull was killed on December 15, 1890, during an attempt to arrest him. Two burial sites memorialize Sitting Bull. The original burial site is located at Fort Yates, North Dakota and features a rock and bronze sign. However, the site where his remains were reportedly relocated to sits across the Missouri River from Mobridge, South Dakota. The site is marked with a bust carved by original Crazy Horse Memorial sculptor Korzcak Ziolkowski. The detailed bust of Sitting Bull overlooks the western bank of the Missouri River on the eastern boundary of the reservation.
Near the memorial bust of Sitting Bull in northern South Dakota stands a marker erected as a tribute to Sakakawea (1788-1812), the Shoshone woman who traveled with explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their journey to the Pacific Ocean. Six years after that historic journey, Sakakawea (also known as Sacagawea) entered the spirit world at Fort Manuel near Kenel, South Dakota. The Fort Manuel Replica, a recreation of where Sakakawea spent her last days, stands on the river bluffs near Kenel where visitors can admire the natural beauty and peace of her final resting place.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
The Standing Rock National Native American Scenic Byway runs along historic S.D. Highway 1806 and S.D. Highway 24 for 86 miles. It crosses the lands of the Lakota and Dakota people and features memorial markers, interpretive signs and monuments that commemorate the heritage of the Lakota and Dakota nations, honor the history of several explorers, trappers and chiefs who were essential in the shaping of the American West, and allow visitors to experience history from the Native American and early settlers’ points of view.
Just off the reservation in nearby Mobridge is the Klein Museum. The complex has some amazing Native American artifacts on display including a Ghost Dance garment, a turkey feather blanket, and a bonnet made of eagle feathers. There are also sections devoted to Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and other legendary Native Americans. (Hungry visitors should check out the nearby West Side Meats in Mobridge. There are a variety of products, but people come from miles around for the buffalo jerky.)
Standing Rock offers fishing, boating and other water recreation on Lake Oahe. The Bay, located in Indian Memorial Recreation Area near Grand River Casino and Resort near Mobridge and Prairie Knights Marina, provides RV hookups, camping areas, and ample space for boating and fishing.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Fort Yates, North Dakota (701) 854-8500standingrock.org