As DAPL Moves Forward, a Reflection on the Power of Words

Words matter.

The label “Sioux,” for instance, is a derogatory term meaning “snake” or “serpent,” derived from Anishinaabe and French words. (See this article in the Lakota Times.) Those in power were able to impose that term on Minnesota native peoples through treaties and reservation names. The term “Sioux” continues to be used for historical reasons, but it is not the preferred term for many.

The proper term for the people referred to as “Sioux” is Oceti Sakowin, (Och-et-eeshak-oh-win) meaning Seven Council Fires, according to the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center. It refers to the people of the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota nations.

Oceti Sakowin also is the name of the main camp of Water Protectors trying to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, an effort that has brought native people together from across the country. Continue reading