Bulletin No.


Document Type



Department of Rural Sociology


In order to fully understand and appreciate those events which led to the final submission of the American Indian to the majority white culture, it is necessary to look to the historical antecedents predating white Indian contact. The original ways of living of the American Indian are not easily understood by the modern man who believes the material progress of his generation to be the highest advancement of civilization. In all societies there is a strong tendency for the majority group to assume that its values, attitudes, and behavior are superior in all regards to the habit patterns and customs that dominate the lives of minority groups. They are suspicious of strange practices which conflict with their ideas of the appropriate and correct ways of living. If they exhibit some curiosity about the customs of the minority, they are usually anxious to learn of them for the purpose of making an invidious comparison with their practices. It is the unusual person who is able to suppress his own prejudices and view clearly the ways of minorities through the value system of the minority group rather than through his own pattern of beliefs.
Often one hears that such behavior as alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, unemployment, suicide, etc., when exhibited by Indians, is but a carry-over from the old culture which was typified by such characteristics. Nothing could be further from the truth. The traditional cultures of the American Indian possessed many of the same values and virtues upheld by the protestant ethic. Such deviant behavior must be seen as a result of an acculturation process which denied the American Indian the right to retain those institutions of family, religion, and economics which served to uphold his traditional values. Such behavioral patterns as reflected in high rates of alcoholism, suicide, and unemployment are fairly recent phenomena in the life of Indian people. Through a better understanding of the lasting traditional culture of one group of American Indians, the Dakota, it is hoped that such misconceptions of cause and effect may be alleviated.


Dakota Indian acculturation, Dakota Indian history



Publication Date









South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station, South Dakota State University