The tribal name Santee is one that has caused a fair amount of confusion, since it has been
applied to two Native American tribes in entirely different parts of the country. In South Carolina, there was
a small Catawban tribe known as Santee,
whose name came from the word for a river in their language, Santa. Most of the time, however,
the name Santee is used to refer to the Santee Dakota, which is one of the
major divisions of the Sioux Nation with several communities in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska.
The name of the Santee Dakota comes from a placename, Isanti (or Isan'ati,) which means
"knife place." Both these tribes did speak Siouan
languages, but they were only very distantly related to each other-- similar to the relationship between English
and Russian (which are both Indo-European languages, but cannot be understood by speakers of the other language.)
The Catawban Santee language has not been spoken in centuries, but Santee Dakota is still spoken by more than 10,000
people today. Santee Dakota is an endangered language, because most of its speakers are older and few children are
being raised to speak it, but some young Santee people are working to keep their ancestral language alive.