This study focuses on the vocal music of the Dakotan-speaking American Indian peoples of the Northern Plains of the United States and Canada: the Lakota, Dakota, Assiniboine, and Stoney. The study seeks to understand why and how through three and a half centuries of recorded history the Dakotan musical system survived and even thrived by investigating three key questions: What is the Dakotan musical system, what does it do, and how does it do it? In order to answer these questions the dissertation draws on several methodologies from anthropology and linguistics, including the ethnography of speaking, ethnohistory, reading back, reading forward, and reading across. Part One introduces the concept of the song event and identifies and discusses their component parts of singer(s), song(s), and singing. Part Two identifies, categorizes, and analyzes Dakotan song events in three sections that represent chronological time periods: Cultural Florescence, 1660-1890; Cultural Destruction and Change, 1890-1934; and Cultural Revival, 1934-2000. The study concludes with a summary and brief analysis of Dakotan singing today.