The oral traditions and histories of a people’s belief systems are one means by which the relationships between a people and their environment are embodied. Environmental aspects of a people’s belief system are reflected in their use of their habited space(s) because beliefs help structure actions. Ergo, an examination of a people’s oral traditions and histories has the potential to provide valuable insight to the archeological record of the places potentially occupied by their ancestors or close relatives. Investigation of this aspect of archeology is a relatively new pursuit and is almost completely unexplored in Minnesota. The relationship between the natural environment and the cultural environment, that is, the belief systems, of Dakota peoples may be analyzed and further understood through the dual analysis of published ethnographic works and known archeological sites in Minnesota. As the behaviors of a people are directed in part by their belief systems, and the natural environment contributes in part to the structure of a peoples’ belief systems, it should be possible to use Dakota oral traditions and histories and associated toponyms to elucidate environmentally derived influences on Dakota belief systems which may be reflected in the archeological record. Therefore, it is suggested that an ethnoarcheological approach may be used to investigate and further contribute to Dakota archeology in Minnesota. In this thesis, a survey of published ethnographic works detailing aspects of Dakota belief systems relevant to the environment is used in conjunction with an adapted historical map – based on oral interviews, published ethnographic sources, and historic records and maps – to construct a tentative interpretive framework against which to compare known site locations and site contents – both with and without, or suspected, documented Eastern Dakota components – in an effort to ascertain whether or not Dakota beliefs about the natural environment are reflected in known site data.


Ronald C. Schirmer

Committee Member

Kathryn Elliott

Committee Member

Kathleen Blue

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Science (MS)

Program of Study

Applied Anthropology


Geography and Anthropology


Humanities and Social Sciences



Rights Statement

In Copyright