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.
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.
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.