Book: The Red Road and Other Narratives of the Dakota Sioux

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This book presents two of the most important traditions of the Dakota people, the Red Road and the Holy Dance, as told by Samuel Mniyo and Robert Goodvoice, two Dakota men from the Wahpeton Dakota Nation near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada. Their accounts of these central spiritual traditions and other aspects of Dakota life and history go back seven generations and help to illuminate the worldview of the Dakota people for the younger generation of Dakotas, also called the Santee Sioux.

“The Good Red Road,” an important symbolic concept in the Holy Dance, means the good way of living or the path of goodness. The Holy Dance (also called the Medicine Dance) is a Dakota ceremony of earlier generations. Although it is no longer practiced, it too was a central part of the tradition and likely the most important ceremonial organization of the Dakotas. While some people believe that the Holy Dance is sacred and that the information regarding its subjects should be allowed to die with the last believers, Mniyo believed that these spiritual ceremonies played a key role in maintaining connections with the spirit world and were important aspects of shaping the identity of the Dakota people. 

In The Red Road and Other Narratives of the Dakota Sioux, Daniel Beveridge brings together Mniyo and Goodvoice’s narratives and biographies, as well as songs of the Holy Dance and the pictographic notebooks of James Black (Jim Sapa), to make this volume indispensable for scholars and members of the Dakota community.

When people think of the Dakota or the Oceti Sakowin (the Seven Council Fires) we and they forget the Oceti Sakowin territory extended from modern-day Wisconsin and Minnesota west to beyond the Missouri River and northwest to Ontario and the prairies. The Dakota maintain they had substantial presence in Canada: when the Dakota went north into Canada in the1800’s they were returning to territory they already knew. The Dakota occupied and controlled the area from Lake Superior in the northwest to Lake Winnipeg and the Red River.

With the voices of Samuel Mniyo and Robert Goodvoice, this book “The Red Road and Other Narratives of the Dakota Sioux”, explains the concepts of the Red Road and Wakan Wacipi or Medicine Dance. For many Indigenous people to follow the Red Road simply means to live in a good way.
According to the elders Samuel and Robert, these concepts of Canku Duta (RED ROAD) and Wakan Wacipi (Holy Dance) were closely related. The road was a way of living in a good way, the way of peace and harmony, and right relationships. Wakan Wacipi was the ceremony or a way to maintain the Cunku Duta.

“The Red Road and Other Narratives of the Dakota Sioux” has an abundance of information. It details the structure of the Oceti Sakowin, origins of the people. The elders Samuel and Robert wanted the younger generations to learn who they are and where they come from. They hoped the book Red Road and Other Narratives would be use in schools for educational purposes. “The RED ROAD and OTHER NARRATIVES of the DAKOTA SIOUX” was fascinating to me because of all the new information I received by from this book.

Review by Anita Comeau


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Additional Info

Additional Info

Samuel Mniyo & Robert Goodvoice
Book Details:
Hardcover, 336 pages
Publication Details:
February 2020