Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Elise Boxer


In 1867, the Sisseton Wahpeton signed the Lake Traverse Treaty and settled on the Lake Traverse Reservation in Northeastern South Dakota. As part of the growing westward expansion of settlers, the U.S government confined Indigenous peoples to reservations and tried to destroy their culture. Federal and state governments since then have continued to eliminate, relocate, and assimilate Indigenous people. For Indigenous peoples, the land is life, and assimilation through boarding schools served to sever them from their land and enforce white superiority. In this thesis, I argue that the Sisseton Wahpeton found ways to engage in cultural resilience utilizing Indigenous paradigms of doublespeak, the rhetoric of refusal, survivance, and healing. Chief Gabriel Renville saved whites in the U.S.-Dakota War and used settler views of him as “friendly” to work for the creation of the Lake Traverse Reservation. Sam Brown served within the settler safety zone as an example in the larger national agenda of what defined a civilized Indian. But this also allowed him to support cultural resilience within the Sisseton School in subtle ways. The children who attended the school carved out paths of cultural resilience and refused to say that all was well in the community. Finally, the boarding school closed in 1919, and the Catholic Tekakwitha Orphanage opened in the 1930s as another method of settler colonial assimilation. Under a color-blind racial ideology, Catholic Oblate priests believed white families must adopt Indigenous children to save them. Yet, Sisseton Wahpeton children who experienced these traumas found ways to heal the soul wound of their trauma with a return to traditional methods of healing. By the late 20th century, the Sisseton Wahpeton created new pathways for cultural resurgence through self-determination and educational reclamation. Survival schools like Tiospa Zina used grassroots curriculum and Dakota language to renew their Indigenous identity and culture. From one generation to the next, the Sisseton Wahpeton rejected paternalistic narratives of assimilation and survived. Instead, through various Indigenous paradigms of doublespeak, resilience, and healing, they shifted their identities in new ways to keep their culture alive.

Subject Categories

History | Native American Studies | United States History


Dakota, Lake Traverse Reservation, Native American, Native American boarding school, settler colonialism, Sisseton Wahpeton

Number of Pages



University of South Dakota



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