“Wintertime for the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate: Over One Hundred Fifty Years of Human rights Violations by the United States and the need for a Reconciliation Involving International Indigenous Human Rights Norms”
By Angelique Townsend EagleWoman
Wm Mitchell Law Review, Volume 39:2.
Reviewed December 6, 2014
Items of Interest
The author lists human rights violations committed by the U. S. against the Sisseton and Wahpeton Dakota Indians from early white contact to present day.
The author provides interesting information on life on the Lake Traverse Reservation of the Sisseton- Wahpeton – allotments – poverty – inadequate quality of life – applying “UN DRIP” to the Sisseton-Wahpeton / U.S. relationship – solutions.
Only that part of the essay related to the Dakota up to their exile from Minnesota is being reviewed.
- Incorrect – I believe that when an author uses another author’s published material, that the user must verify the accuracy of this material. Just because I find it in a book, does not mean it is correct.
- Incorrect and Unbalanced – The author uses terms such as “genocide” and “concentration camp.” If the Dakota camp at Fort Snelling was a concentration camp, then the camps of white and mixed-blood hostages must also be called concentration camps. If it is said that the whites committed genocide, then it must also be said that the hostile Dakota committed genocide.
- Disrespectful – I believe that if anyone in history is criticized, solid primary source proof must be provided.
- Incorrect – General statements are made about the Dakota that do not apply to all Dakota.
- In court cases against the U.S. in the 1900s, the Sisseton and Wahpeton proved that only a few of their people participated in the Dakota War of 1862. The U.S. agreed and paid Sisseton and Wahpeton descendants for land and annuities taken in 1862.
- Many complicated subjects within this essay need more discussion.
Most Objectionable Statements
Another new product for the Dakota was liquor. The traders made it available throughout the entire trading era. An act was passed that forbade this practice, but plenty of alcohol was smuggled into Dakota country and traded for valuable furs.
—Unbalanced – Dakota mixed-bloods and full-bloods also transported and traded liquor.
This history of treaty making for a span of approximately thirty-five years with the United States was fraught with human rights violations. Negotiating the treaties with open-ended or less than-value payment provisions intentionally seeking to intoxicate tribal leadership prior to entering into a treaty for land cessions, failing to provide payments due under the treaties sanctioning the ability of the White traders to submit unverified claims to be deducted from the treaty payments were regular occurrences by U.S. officials.
—Incorrect – Prove that these statements are based on fact and not just opinions.
Even in receiving payments due under the treaties, “[t]he Indians were frequently required to go a long distance, at a great inconvenience to themselves, to receive the money due them, in order that they might be convenient to the post of some of the traders, where they could spend it.”
—Incorrect – The source cited does not pertain to the Sisseton and Wahpeton.
The documented accounts that survive from this era also refer to abuses of Native women by White men that went unpunished.
—Incorrect – In the source cited, one white man is named as using his position to exploit Dakota women. The source does not state that he went unpunished.
The greatest human rights violations were a result of the secret policy of land dispossession and genocide that was the underlying U.S. government plan for American Indians. This secret policy would become overt with the events of 1862.
—Absolutely Incorrect – Prove that the U.S. had a secret plan of land dispossession and genocide.
Others continued the seasonal lifestyle, but found it more difficult as deer, elk, and other animals relied on became scarcer with White encroachment.
—Incorrect – The source cited does not state that “White encroachment” caused game to become scarcer.
Within these communications, it was acknowledged that the traders sold items to the Dakota at enormous profit and kept the Dakota in debt.
—Disrespectful – The Dakota chose to trade with the traders. They chose to accept credits. They were not forced to trade with the traders; they could go elsewhere.
—Disrespectful – The fur trade needs more discussion that what is presented.
Further, rather than stop the abuses of the traders, the advice was to limit the payments to the Dakota for land cessions or to distribute payment in agricultural implements, tools, or educational expenses as approved by the U.S. Indian department.
—Incorrect – The U.S. was concerned that the Dakota were wasting their money on unnecessary items.
[1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux]
The negotiations that followed were prime examples of the deliberate deception, bullying tactics, and outright swindling practices by U.S. treaty commissioners.
—Incorrect and Disrespectful – Prove that these statements are correct.
In the texts documenting the negotiations, at least one witness to the council mentioned large quantities of champagne were present.
—Incorrect – The source cited states that a wedding occurred at this time. The champagne was for the wedding. Prove that this champagne was used in negotiating the treaty.
At the conclusion of the signing, James Goodhue, the editor of the Minnesota Pioneer newspaper, reportedly stated: “Thus ended the sale of twenty one millions of acres of the finest land in the world.”
—Incorrect – The sale was not complete at this point. The 1851 Treaty of Mendota needed to be signed. Both treaties had to be ratified by the U.S. Senate.
—Incorrect – 21,000,000 acres was an estimate. This land cession was never surveyed. It is not known how many acres were ceded.
…the principal of $1,665,000 was never intended to be the purchase price, but would revert to the U.S. government. From the negotiated price of ten cents per acre, the actual price, due to this provision, would amount to only about six cents per acre due to the misrepresented payment term to the Sisseton and Wahpeton.
—Incorrect – The Mdewakanton and Wahpekute also were also paid for this same land. The total amount of the 2 treaties was $3,075,000.
—Incorrect – Because we do not know how many acres were sold, we cannot say how much was paid per acre.
As for the homeland reserved by the Sisseton and Wahpeton in the 1851 Treaty, the assurances of Indian Commissioner Lea would prove to be further lies on behalf of the U.S. government. In fact, upon ratification and proclamation in February of 1853, article 3 of the Treaty with the Sisseton and Wahpeton, reserving a permanent reservation in Minnesota on the north and south sides of the Minnesota River, was stricken by the Senate…
—Disrespectful – According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of “lie” is to make a statement one knows to be untrue. Prove that Lea lied.
As soon as the treaties were signed, Whites had swarmed into the Dakota lands supposedly guaranteed forever to the Dakota.
—What does this mean? Where did the settlers swarm?
To add further injury to the Sisseton and Wahpeton, they were also informed that during the treaty signing tribal leaders had been deceived into signing a “traders’ paper” for treaty payments to be distributed to pay off debts presented by the local trading posts.
—Incorrect – Some of the Dakota leaders knew that these papers were for traders’ debts.
—Unbalanced – Besides whites, there were mixed-bloods and full-blood Dakota involved in the fur trade. Debts owed to them were also included.
Through the lens of human rights, the U.S. government and its officials were practicing deliberate genocide on the Dakota peoples by depriving them of all means of survival and purposefully exacerbating the starvation conditions being experienced in the 1850s…Willis A. Gorman…attempted to persuade the Dakota leaders to move from their villages to the strips of land along the Minnesota River.
—Incorrect – The words “deliberate genocide” are not found in the source cited.
—Incorrect – Prove that the U.S. purposefully exacerbated starving conditions.
—Disrespectful – Gorman wanted the Dakota to do what they agreed to do in their treaties.
—Incorrect – The Dakota were not confined to their reservations. They continued to leave their reservations to hunt and gather.
—Incorrect – At 20 miles wide and combined 139 miles long, these were not strips of land.
With a shortage of annuities following the 1851 Treaties, the Dakota continued to hunt in the ceded area where there was better hunting than in the reservation area. In addition, Whites flooded the areas ceded and even sought to set up homesteads within the reservation area.
—What does this mean? – A “shortage of annuities?”
—Incorrect – Very few if any whites knowingly settled within the reservation area.
In Minnesota, Whites panicked, organized into militia groups, and attacked Dakota villages to the southwest of the Minnesota River reservation.
—Incorrect – They attacked Dakota camps. No one was killed.
Soon after this, White public sentiment turned to dividing up the Dakota reservation lands into farming plots and having the northern half opened to further White settlement.
—Incorrect – Public sentiment had nothing to do with creating these farming plots on reservation lands south of the Minnesota River for those Dakota who wanted farms.
…Taoyateduta spoke on behalf of the Dakota peoples regarding the great injustices that had occurred, the failure to establish the reservation boundary as promised in 1852 and later in 1854…
—Incorrect – When did the U.S. promise to establish the reservation boundary in 1852 and 1854? The boundaries of the reservations were not surveyed because the Dakota did not own their reservations until the Treaties of 1858. The boundaries were surveyed in 1859.
The result was a further land cession for the northern portion of the reservation along the Minnesota River with an open-ended payment term for the U.S. Senate to fill in.
—Incorrect – This was not a land cession. The U.S. already owned this land. The Dakota were asked to move to their reservations on the south side of the Minnesota River.
Upon being informed of the 1858 Treaty provisions, the Sisseton, Wahpeton, Mdewakanton, and Wahpekute became disillusioned and bitter over the continuous deceptive acts of the U.S. government to take their lands and cheat them of any negotiated payments.
—Incorrect and Disrespectful – Prove they were all disillusioned and bitter.
This was a better price than the Senate amendments to the 1851 treaties had allowed them—ten cents an acre—but the 1860 resolution also gave settlers on those lands the right of pre-emption at a price of $1.25 an acre! Brown thought the lands worth five dollars an acre.
—Incorrect – This land was not all good farm land. Costs were added to this land for surveys and land offices. Settlers had to improve this land in order to get ownership. Was Brown correct?
There was still worse to follow. When Congress finally appropriated $266,880 for the lands, nearly all payment to the lower Sioux and a large part of that to the upper bands went to pay the “just debts” of the traders, and the Indians saw little of the money. Thus the disillusionment and bitterness they had come to feel toward the government was compounded by this treaty, supposedly designed for their benefit.
—Incorrect – Yes, almost all of the Mdewakanton/Wahpekute money went to their fur traders. The Sisseton/Wahpeton did not have as many debts, so a lessor amount went to their traders. The balance of their money probably went into their Civilization Funds to help those who chose to become farmers. In my opinion, paying their debts to the traders caused the traders to be more willing to continue to give credits.
—The U.S. gave them $266,880 for land that the U.S. already owned. The U.S. gave them ownership of land on the south side of the Minnesota River that the U.S. had paid for in the 1851 Treaties. The 1858 Treaties helped Dakota who wanted to become farmers.
—Incorrect – These generous actions on the part of the U.S. do not support the author’s contention that the U.S. had a secret genocide policy as stated earlier.
Through the treaties, the United States carried out its policy of forcing the Dakota peoples into ever smaller portions of their homelands on which they could do little more than starve to death as refugees.
—Incorrect – By 1862, there were 250 Dakota families on farms. The U.S. could not keep up with the demand of Dakota who wanted farms. Not all the Dakota were starving. They were not confined to their reservations.
U.S. officials appointed to carry out U.S. policies throughout this time period took an active role in allowing the enrichment of traders to the detriment of the Dakota peoples…All too often, the merchants cheated them shamelessly, and the government willfully ignored its solemn treaty commitments.
—Incorrect and Disrespectful – Prove that the U.S. favored the traders to the detriment of the Dakota.
—Incorrect and Disrespectful – Prove that the merchants “cheated them shamelessly.”
The Sioux had become economic prisoners, constantly being told that they owed more and more money to the storekeepers. As the buffalo, deer, and game birds on which they had once lived so well became scarce, because of the encroaching white settlements, the Indians were ever more dependent on the goodwill of the traders and the promises of the federal government.
—Incorrect – They owed more because they were asking for more credits. But, not all Dakota owed credits to the traders. The better hunters were still bringing impressive amounts of furs.
—Incorrect – The settlers competed for available game off the reservations. But there had been a noticeable decline in the fur-bearing animals before the settlers arrived. The Dakota had over-hunted their fur-bearing animals.
In addition, armed White settlers moving into reserved Dakota lands were not repelled by the United States as guaranteed in treaties putting the Dakota in a no-win situation to either clear out the White settlers or allow their homelands to be taken in violation of U.S. governmental promises.
—Incorrect – Prove that “armed White settlers” knowingly settled on reservation land.
—Unbalanced – Generally, the Dakota were better armed than the settlers.
—Incorrect – Prove that this was a cause of the Dakota War.
[Dakota War of 1862]
“…they [Dakota] found themselves cut off from every natural resource, on a tract of land twenty miles by thirty, which to them was virtual imprisonment.”
—Incorrect – They continued to leave their reservations to hunt and gather.
—Incorrect – By 1862, their reservations were 10 miles wide and combined 139 miles long.
Prolonged human rights violations resulted in the eventual retaliation of the abused, and thus the majority of Dakota men would go to war.
—Incorrect – The causes of the Dakota War were many and they were complicated.
—Absolutely Incorrect – The majority of the Mdewakanton/Wahpekute went to war. The majority of the Sisseton/Wahpeton did not go to war. Many who opposed war were forced to join the hostile Dakota. The majority of all Dakota men either did not go to war or they were forced to go to war.
The breaking point for many was reached in the summer of 1862 when the treaty annuities were late in arriving…families were on the brink of starvation…
—Incorrect – Many, but not all, Dakota families were already starving.
At least one historian has suggested that there was a motive by the area White settlers and officials to deliberately provoke an Indian war as a pretext for seizing the reservation lands.
—Absolutely Incorrect – This is an opinion. Prove this is correct.
The conflict between the Whites moving into Dakota land areas and the failure of the United States to curb White lawlessness added to the Dakota peoples’ feelings of oppression and injustice in their dealings with the Whites.
—Incorrect – When and where did Whites move into Dakota land?
—What does this mean? – “White lawlessness”
During the summer of 1862, when the majority of the people on the Sioux reservation were going hungry, the farmer Indians ate well and continued to receive food from the agency warehouse, sometimes within sight of their starving brothers.
—Disrespectful – The Farmer Indians shared what they could with others. Non-farmers often raided the fields of the farmers.
By July 14, an assembly of 4000 Dakota and 1000 Yankton had gathered for the payment with little to nothing to eat. Galbraith finally responded to the needs of those gathered by doling out just enough provisions to keep the Dakota and Yankton alive for the next three weeks
—The Yankton were not involved in the annuity distribution. Did they obtain food intended for the Sisseton/Wahpeton?
During this time, the local traders cut off all credit accounts, which further impoverished the Dakota peoples. Myrick’s statement was, “So far as I am concerned, if they are hungry, let them eat grass.”
—Incorrect – Not all traders cut off credits.
—Myrick’s statement was a primary immediate cause of the Dakota War of 1862.
—Disrespectful – Myrick learned that a Soldiers’ Lodge planned to drive up their debts and then refuse to pay when the annuities arrived.
—It was the responsibility of the U.S. to feed the Dakota.
Taoyateduta, in attendance at the upper agency, requested that Galbraith also issue provisions to those at the lower agency. Galbraith promised he would and then did not.
—This was a primary immediate cause of the Dakota War of 1862.
So it was on August 17 when four young men went out hunting, argued over the courage to eat eggs found near a White family farm, and ended up killing three White men and two White women.
—Incorrect – There are so many versions of the murders in Acton Township that it is not possible to state why 3 men, 1 woman and a girl were killed.
When the young men returned to Rice Creek village, the elders and leaders met in council and considered the military retaliation that was expected…the decision was made to go to war…
—The decision for war was not made in a formal tribal council of all Dakota leaders. Gary Clayton Anderson wrote, “They had abandoned traditional patterns of consensus politics designed to prevent hasty decisions. They refused even to consult with the major civil chiefs. A decision so crucial, so important to the welfare of the tribe, should have been reached by consensus in a formal tribal council. Only about a hundred men came to Little Crow’s house to argue for war, and they came predominantly from young Shakopee’s and Red Middle Voice’s villages, where the soldiers’ lodge had been the strongest.” See Anderson, Little Crow…, 133.
The Dakota Forces Strike Out Against Whites in the Minnesota River Valley
—Incorrect – They also struck out against whites outside of the river valley.
When the Sisseton and Wahpeton at Pejutazi (Yellow Medicine) met in council on whether to join in the war, they were of many views with supposedly the Sisseton urging the killing of all the Whites and the Wahpeton in favor of merely plundering all the goods held by the Whites.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Sisseton leaders were present in this council.
Over the span of about a month, the U.S.-Dakota War raged on for thirty-eight days…White traders, Whites in towns near the reservation, and White soldiers were killed by Dakota men angered over the great injustices that had been brought to bear on their families.
—Incorrect – More than 550 white civilians were killed across the frontier. About 100 white soldiers and citizen soldiers were killed.
Dakota warfare had never had the goal of killing whole communities and many of those involved lost heart as the purpose of the war lost meaning to them.
—What does this mean? If the hostile Dakota had broken through the barricades at New Ulm, they would have killed everyone.
Dakota families were also aware of the statements made by Minnesota Governor Ramsey about exterminating the Sioux or driving them forever from the state.
—Is this correct? Can we say what Dakota families knew?
—Ramsey represented the popular public opinion.
In this charged atmosphere, the Dakota men involved in the war sought to bring it to a close. Captives were taken during the war and viewed by the leaders as bargaining chips to lead to eventual negotiations on concluding the war…On September 12 Little Crow [Taoyateduta] gave the Long Trader [General Sibley] one last chance to end the war without further bloodshed. Sibley sent a cold reply to Taoyateduta and offered no way to make peace.
—Incorrect – Little Crow’s Soldiers’ Lodge opposed giving up the hostages. Their plan was to use them as a shield if Sibley attacked.
—Incorrect – Sibley demanded the release of the hostages held by Little Crow and called for Little Crow’s unconditional surrender.
—Incorrect – Little Crow knew that peace was not possible because many white woman and children had been killed.
—Disrespectful – Hostile Dakota had just killed more than 550 white men, women and children. They held more than 300 white and mixed-blood hostages. How should Sibley reply?
In the aftermath of the battle [Wood Lake], White soldiers scalped and mutilated the bodies of the Dakota men killed at the site.
—Unbalanced – Now discuss the many atrocities committed against innocent white men, women and children by hostile Dakota.
…most of the male Santees—about 600 of the camp’s [Camp Release] 2,000 Indians—were chained together in pairs and imprisoned there.
—Incorrect – 600 is much too high.
In reading many of the non-Indian narratives on the U.S.- Dakota War, the context and rationale for the Dakota men to go to war is completely missing and unanalyzed.
—The author needs to be more specific. Most of the books written on this subject do detail the Dakota reasons for war.
In actuality, many of the settlers in Minnesota and the Dakota Territory held views of White superiority and a racial hatred for the Dakota peoples.
—Disrespectful and Unbalanced – It cannot be stated what many settlers felt. There were many good relationships between the Dakota and the settlers. As stated above, Big Eagle said, “…the Dakotas did not believe there were better men in the world than they.” It cut both ways.
It should be no wonder, then, that no aid by Whites was provided to the Dakota peoples when they were starved and cheated as part of U.S. Indian policy.
—Incorrect – We do not know how many whites on the frontier provided food to the Dakota.
—Incorrect – Prove that starvation and corruption was part of U.S. Indian policy.
In Minnesota, as the Dakota War ended, the newspapers were full of racial hatred for the Dakota peoples.
—Incorrect – The newspapers were full of hatred for Dakota because hostile Dakota had just killed more than 650 white men, women and children, some in the worst way imaginable.
First, those Dakota who were not convicted were marched to Fort Snelling…they were attacked by a mob in the town of Henderson. “As the wretched prisoners traveled through Henderson, the people—men, women, and children—with guns, knives, clubs, and stones, rushed upon them and, before the guard could drive them back, maltreated many.
—Unbalanced – Now, give graphic details of atrocities committed by hostile Dakota during the Dakota War.
Then, “on the night of December 4 a mob of citizens stormed the prison camp [Mankato] intent upon lynching the Indians.
—Incorrect – This mob was stopped before they reached the prison camp.
As many as twenty to fifty people died each day from starvation, the cold, and a plague of measles in the concentration camp at Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect – Prove that any died from starvation or cold.
—Incorrect – This was not a concentration camp.
The largest mass execution in the history of the United States took place on December 26, 1862 when the thirty-eight Dakota men who had sought protection at Camp Release were hanged…
—Incorrect – This was the largest simultaneous mass execution in U.S. history.
—Incorrect – Of the 38 hanged, there was at least one white and several mixed-bloods.
—What does this mean? – “…sought protection at Camp Release?”
—These 38 men were implicated in the murders of at least 99 white civilians.
—Unbalanced – Now discuss the execution of more than 50 innocent white men, women and children in Milford Township on August 18 by hostile Dakota.
“At Fort Snelling, thirteen hundred Sioux were still captive by the spring; three hundred had died over the winter.”
—Incorrect – The official U.S. Army report stated that about 102 died.