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Biological Survey

Reptiles & Amphibians Of Mankato



                    Herping the Siouxland.                                     

What's This??? Sounds funny doesn't it. Well, let me explain. I've been debating whether I should call it that or not...but when you get down to it, it really is the most accurate description of what I've been doing around here for years. OK. First of all. A few definitions are in order.                                                          

Herpetology: The study of Reptiles and Amphibians.                

Herpers: The People who study Reptiles and Amphibians.       

Herps: Slang for individual Reptiles and Amphibians. Many of which can often times make nice pets. Not to be confused with...    

Herpes: A sexually transmitted Viral Infection, which certainly does Not make a nice pet at all.  

We can all thank this terminology to a Swedish Botanist and Physician named Carl Linnaeus  who laid down the foundations for the modern scheme of taxonomy and is also known as one of the founding fathers of modern ecology. However...Carl was a 'Plant Guy' and apparently didn't like Reptiles and Amphibians very much at all: 

 ...."These foul and loathsome animals are abhorrent because of their cold body, pale color, cartilaginuos skeleton, filthy skin, fierce aspect, calculating eye, offensive smell, harsh voice, squalid habitation, and terrible venom; and so their Creator has not exerted his powers to make more of them." - Carolus Linnaeus (1758) 

(So it would seem...this is how we got stuck with the terminology.)   

 Thanks a lot, Carl! 

Now...On to the next word...

"Siouxland":                                                                                                                     This area includes present day Southwest Minnesota, Northwest Iowa and Eastern South Dakota. My earliest recollection of the name "Siouxland" came from reading the works of Frederick Manfred...an early literary hero of mine who also lived ON the Blue Mound itself before that portion of the quartzite highlands became part of Blue Mounds State Park. It was at this place that he wrote some of my favorite works: "Scarlet Plume"..."Lord Grizzly"...and "Conquering Horse."...etc.  All tales of the frontier from a local perspective.

    OK. Moving right along. The word "Sioux" is a name commonly used to describe the 7 tribes of the Dakota Nation. The word itself originated from a bit of nasty 'name calling' by their old neighbors to the north...the Ojibwe.

 Here is a description of how it came to be from my old friend Emmett Smith (independent professor and amateur historian) who was "adopted" by a Chippewa family years ago and learned their language:

    "IT [/sioux/] is abbreviated from the French phonetic rendering of an Ojibwe word for the Lakota peoples (Dakota, Lakota, Nakota, ie): /Nadowessioux/ (w/an >accent grave< over the /e/), or  'little snakes'.

 In /ojibwemowin/ (phonetically) this is: 'Nah doh way sue'

  IT Is a diminutive of /nadowe/ ['nah doh way'], or '(big) snakes'

--and THAT was an uncomplimentary Chippewa name for (you guessed it!) ...The Iroquois. (back East)!

  (MY Adopted people have done rather well in the business of fobbing off uncomplimentary tribal names for neighbors, onto the goggling white people.)
  Hence, now we call the /Ho Chunk/ people 'Winnebagoes', which means [approximately] 'Dirty Water Folks', probably because they lived mainly downstream from the Ojibwe, at least in historical times, in Wisconsin.)
  ONE Source indicates that 'nah doh way sue' means also, specifically, massasauga rattle-snake(s)--if so, this must be northern /ojibwemowin/, as the only name for snake that I learnt, as I recall, is 'kanabec'."
  ...ALL (Belatedly!) for now, Prof Corbeau. (Thanks Emmett!)

    And so now we have the full explanation of the terminology for "Herping the Siouxland." ...or "Searching the 'Small Snake' country.   >---(:-~-~-~-~-~- - -  The map up above pretty much shows the range limits of my annual wanderings. The major river valleys shown are (from left to right) ...the James, the Big Sioux, the Rock river, Des Moines river, the Blue Earth and finally...the Minnesota. I'll be interested to hear from anyone who lives in or near the circle. Let me know what you see crawling around out there!    

   Email:  tjessen2040@gmail.com

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