A Horse is Not a Home

A Year in the Life of an Americorps VISTA on the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota

Crow Creek History 1783-1862: The Sioux Uprising in Minnesota

Show notes:


Hello, and welcome to another installment of “A Horse is Not a Home.” As promised, I’m going to take you through a brief overview of the Dakota Sioux Uprising of 1862 and the formation of the Crow Creek reservation in South Dakota.

Disclaimer: This post is only intended to document my own research and to provide a perspective for the videos that follow. I am not a historian, nor do I claim to have all the facts from either side of this story. Much of this comes straight from Wikipedia but I did what I could to follow references and track down a few more sources. That being said, not only do I fully welcome corrections and discussions, I STRONGLY encourage them.

Sept 3, 1783
The Second Treaty of Paris is signed at the end of The American Revolutionary War, and a small piece of land to the east of the Mississippi river is obtained, in what is now modern day Minnesota.

July 4, 1803
President Jefferson announces Louisiana purchase to US citizens. This is a giant tract of land that encompasses over 1/3rd of the continental united states. Included with this land, is the part of Minnesota to the west of the Mississippi and to the south of the Minnesota river.

Over the next few years, daring Americans start exploring these new lands, including one Zebulon Pike. In 1805, he bargained with Native Americans to acquire land where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers meet.

Fort Snelling was built on this land between 1819 and 1825. This became the foundation for modern day Minneapolis as more settlers, tourists and squatters came and settled near the fort. In 1839, the Army actually forced them to move downriver, and they settled in the area that became St. Paul.

March 3, 1849
This area officially becomes the Minnesota Territory. Settlers now come en masse and begin farming, hunting, logging and trading. Tensions between the Native tribes grow. These tribes include the Dakota Sioux.

May-July 1851
Two treaties are signed that cede most of the land in Minnesota to the Americans: the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, and Treaty of Mendota. The language of these treaties suggest good intentions, but one interesting fact remains. During the ratification process, The United States Senate deleted Article 3 of each treaty, wherein a detailed description of the Minnesota reservations were laid out and guaranteed to the tribes in perpetuity.

It is also worth noting that the land bought from the Sioux was sold back to white settlers at a massive profit, in most cases ten to twelve times the original cost.

May 11, 1858
When Minnesota became a state on May 11, 1858, representatives of several Dakota bands led by Little Crow traveled to Washington, D.C., to negotiate about enforcing existing treaties. This ended badly, with the northern half of the reservations ceded by the Dakota. This also severely damaged Little Crow’s reputation among his people.

This leads us to 1862.
The money that was promised to the Sioux was delivered via government appropriations and filtered through either the Upper Agency or the Lower Agency on the Sioux land. What ended up happening often in these situations was that traders would give the Sioux goods based on credit, and then keep inappropriate sums of money for themselves. Payments from the government were also often late due to the demands of the American Civil War.

The Dakota complained and pleaded several times. They were often successful, but in early August things escalated further.

Early August, 1862
The Dakota arrive at the Lower Agency and are met with insults, and derisive remarks. The most famous of which is Andrew Myricks “[you can] eat grass, for all I care.” Later, as the story goes, he was found murdered with grass stuffed in his mouth.

August 16, 1862
The treaty payments finally arrive, but too late to prevent violence.

August 17, 1862
Four young Dakota men were on a hunting trip stole food and killed five American settlers. Soon after, a Dakota war council was convened and their leader, Little Crow, agreed to continue attacks on the European-American settlements to try to drive out the whites.

This is where things become controversial. The Dakota warriors basically marched down the Minnesota river from settlement to settlement, burning and killing most anybody they encountered, including women and children. The final death toll is said to be between 1200-1800.

Most Dakota fighters surrendered shortly after the Battle of Wood Lake at Camp Release on September 26, 1862. Little Crow himself escaped capture, but was killed over a year later. He and his son had wandered onto the land of white settler Nathan Lamson, who shot them to collect the bounty.

In total, 303 Dakota warriors were captured and brought to Mankato, Minnesota to face military tribunal. They are quickly tried and convicted of murder and rape. Some of the trials last less than 5 minutes. All are sentenced to death. However, President Lincoln commuted many of their sentences which reduced the number to 39. One more man was eventually spared.

December 26, 1862
38 Dakota men were hung at Mankato. This event remains the largest public execution in American History. The survivors were interned at Fort Snelling through the winter, and the reservations in Minnesota were thereby abolished.

May 1863
Dakota survivors were forced aboard steamboats and relocated to the Crow Creek Reservation, in the southeastern Dakota Territory, a place stricken by drought at the time. The land would later be flooded without warning.

Modern day Crow Creek is inside Buffalo County, South Dakota. This county has the distinction of being the poorest per capita in the nation. Conditions are similar to that in Pine Ridge, with a low life expectancy and a high level of unemployment.


9 responses to “Crow Creek History 1783-1862: The Sioux Uprising in Minnesota

  1. elizabethtool March 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Good job! I love Wikipedia but a mini documentary is so much better. I’m computer illiterate for the most part so I marvel at your abilities. I am excited to see how you will use your talents once you get settled in!

    • AphelionZ March 22, 2011 at 11:45 pm

      I’m excited too! I have a ton of ideas but of course I won’t know what will be needed until I get there. I fear being too presumptuous.

  2. skybondsor March 22, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    This is heavy. While I’d like to think the 20th century brought a change in the relationship between the US gov’t/white settlers and the Dakota Sioux, I doubt you’d be needed there if that were the case.

    • AphelionZ March 22, 2011 at 11:51 pm

      Thanks for commenting, and welcome 🙂

      One of the more public figures that I’ve seen from Crow Creek is Peter Lengkeek – this video (which I’m honored to have as one of the related videos to the one I posted) describes ‘ilkishicha’ or deep, genetic depression. It’s even heaver.

      Watch it here.

  3. elizabethtool March 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    Well what you plan to do and what you will do will most likely be two different things. It usually is. When you start keep in mind not so much of how much you can give but how much you can receive. I’m not talking material stuff but ideas and views.

    Your enthusiasm already shows…just don’t lose it!

  4. Pingback: Onsite VISTA Training: Day 2 « A Horse is Not a Home

  5. Pingback: Crow Creek Historical Time Line | Dacotah Tipis – Habitat for Humanity

  6. bigeagle300@msn.com August 31, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Your research is appreciated 🙂

  7. Peter Lengkeek December 31, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Hello, my name is Peter Lengkeek , member of the Hunkpati nation (Crow creek Sioux Tribe) I descend from those you incorrectly wrote about. Nobody mentions that the first settler to be killed was a known ” indian killer” with historical documents to back that up, They did not “march from settlement to settlement killing”, a lot of the settlers (who chose to live with the Dakota) were warned by the Dakota and were told to go somewhere safe , and their homes were never touched. There were over a thousand cases of rape and murder reported by the Dakota, prior to 1862 that were never followed thru on or investigated by the local/state law officials. Also the traders commonly produced inflated and fake bills of sale to the Gov’t agents so they would receive more money. All this I just posted is common knowledge and backed up by historical records.

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