Reservations – Confinement?

Reservations – Confinement?
© December 31, 2014, John LaBatte

 The 1851 Treaties between the Dakota Indians and the United States set aside 2 reservations in Minnesota: the Lower Reservation for the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands and the Upper Reservation for the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands. Statements suggesting that the Dakota Indians were confined to their reservations are incorrect. During the period 1853-1862, they frequently left their reservations for various reasons.

 Incorrect Statements

 In my reviews, I found the following statements on these subjects to be incorrect. Duplicates have been removed.

  • With the land constantly being stolen away from the native Indians and the colonists wanting more, the Europeans established reservations where the Indians were to move and stay so the colonists could use the land.
  • Relegated to reservations through treaties with the United States, Native people faced diminished homelands and food resources, and became increasingly dependent on government payments and provisions.
  • The Indian came into reservation life reluctantly. He was practically a prisoner, to be fed and treated as such; and what resources were left him must be controlled by the Indian Bureau through its resident agent.
  • After the Dakota signed treaties…they had to move to reservations – small tracts of land they did not sell.
  • After the treaties were signed in 1851 the Dakota Indians were expected to move to reservations.
  • The Mdewakanton people understood when they signed their treaties they would be allowed to hunt in their traditional lands as long as they needed to…
  • [The Dakota were] forced to move to reservations along the Minnesota River.
  • The Dakota people moved into their reservation in 1853.
  • If they left the reservations, they would be shot!
  • They were forced to trade with the fur traders on the reservations.
  • They could not leave to hunt.
  • They could not move around to gather plant foods.
  • By 1858, as Minnesota celebrated statehood, Dakota people were moving onto reservations.
  • In 1858, they were confined to a narrow strip.
  • By 1858 the Dakota had only a small strip of land in Minnesota. Without access to the land upon which they had hunted for generations, they had to rely on treaty payments for their survival.

The 1851 Treaties and Removal

Article 4 of both 1851 treaties stated that money would be paid to the Dakota “…in consideration of their removing themselves to the country set apart for them…which they agree to do within two years, or sooner, if required by the President…”[1] Their leaders agreed to move to these reservations; they were not forced to move. On June 23, 1852, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaties with amendments. The Dakota approved the amended treaties in September 1852.[2]

The 1851 Treaties did not grant ownership of their reservations to the Dakota. The 1858 treaties granted them ownership of their reservations on the south side of the Minnesota River.

In May 1853, Governor Gorman wrote that the Dakota wanted to remain where they were and plant. Nothing was ready for them at the new agency. If they go there, they will suffer. If things aren’t prepared, they should be permitted to stay where they are this winter.[3]

Most of the Mdewakantons and Wahpekutes arrived on their reservation in late October 1853.[4] Some of the Sisseton and Wahpeton Dakota villages were already on their new reservation. Some of the Upper and Lower Dakota never moved onto their new reservations.

Indian Agent Joseph R. Brown said that the treaties of 1851 provided for agricultural and educational improvement among the Dakota to gradually withdraw them from their wandering mode of life, and lead to the adoption of agriculture as the prominent means of subsistence among them.[5]

Primary Reasons Why the Dakota Left Their Reservations

There wasn’t always enough food on the new reservations. This was due to a variety of reasons. Whenever food was scarce on the reservations, the Dakota left in search of food. The food situation on the reservations will be discussed in a later essay.

The Dakota liked to hunt. Big Eagle said, “The Indians wanted to live as they did before the treaty of Traverse des Sioux – go where they pleased and when they pleased; hunt game wherever they could find it, sell their furs to the traders and live as they could.”[6]

Warfare with the Chippewa was an important part of their culture. Big Eagle said, “The whites would not let them go to war against their enemies. This was right, but the Indians did not then know it.”[7] One of the objectionable statements above states: “If they left the reservations, they would be shot!” The speaker obviously implies they would be shot by the whites. This is incorrect. I can find no cases where Indians were shot off the reservations except by Chippewa war parties.

One of the objectionable statements above states: “They were forced to trade with the fur traders on the reservations.” This is incorrect. As shown below, they were in New Ulm trading furs and annuity gold for items they wanted.

Below are reports of Dakota being off their reservations. To accumulate these I scanned Little Crow and the Dakota War by Diedrich, many newspaper accounts, Annual Reports to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and Letters Received, St. Peter’s Agency. There are many more reports of Dakota off their reservations to be found in other sources.

Note that I have normalized the different spellings of the Dakota bands to Mdewakanton, Sisseton, Wahpekute and Wahpeton. I use these words as singular and plural. These reports are sorted in chronological sequence.


In September, Philander Prescott wrote, “The desire to linger near their old haunts, and dislike to abandon the graves of their ancestors, with the fear (real or pretended) that they are destined to starve when separated from their former hunting grounds, have for the present entirely occupied the Indian mind.”[8]

During the 1853-54 winter, Little Crow and his band returned to their former lands. Large numbers of Dakota were reported at Belle Plain and north of Henderson.[9]


In January, settlers in the St. Croix Valley and Rum River areas sent petitions to the Governor asking that the Indians be removed. There had been frequent incursions of the Sioux and Chippewa causing great annoyance to the settlers.[10]

In May, Little Crow’s people were starving.[11]

In May, several hundred Indians had a scalp dance at Traverse des Sioux.[12]

In 1854, Sisseton Chiefs Red Iron, Sleepy eyes and Rattling Moccasin were still planting at their former villages sites at Traverse des Sioux and Swan Lake.[13]

In July, E Le Wah-ke-ah, Lower Sioux Agency wrote to Governor Gorman: “Our people are all starving…Our wish is the payment shall be made soon to prevent starvation among our people. That we may get to our hunting grounds before deep snows.”[14]

In September, Governor Gorman wrote that the Dakota have at times returned to their old hunting grounds. “They come into the settlements to gather wild rice and cranberries, but they are now all returning to their agency tolerably well supplied with rice…It annoys the white settlers to have them near or about them. They alarm the women and children, and steal their corn, potatoes, melons, and pumpkins, and kill and eat, when hungry, their cattle and hogs. True, this is not always the case; yet the complaints made to me by good citizens are satisfactory that it is true, at least, to a certain extent.”[15]

In September, 300-400 Dakota were encamped near LeSueur.[16]

By October, the Dakota were almost in a starving condition. The Agent issued food in later October. Much of it was spoiled. After the payment was made in December, the Indians scattered.[17]

Philander Prescott wrote that Chiefs Wakute, Wabasha, Goodroad, and the Wahpekute “have not made their appearance at the agency this summer, and are roving about, starving and making great complaints against the government, because they are not fed more…”[18]

At the payment of 1854, the Mdewakanton and Wahpekutes had permission from the Superintendent to return to their old hunting grounds for the winter if they would plant on the reserve in the spring.[19]

In November, missionary Dr. Williamson wrote that there was not enough food on the reservation to sustain the Indians through the winter.[20]

In December, Dakota were reported at Shakopee, Chaska, Fulton, White Bear Lake, Bald Eagle Lake, St. Croix River Valley, Rice Lake and St. Paul.[21]


In March, smallpox was reported among the Sioux Indians residing near Red Wood, Crooked River and Spirit Lake. Five persons of the Wahpekute band now at Cannon River have died. [22]

In March, a Dakota War party of about 150 men was seen near St. Croix Falls.[23]

In May, Indian Agent Murphy reported that most of the Dakota were off the reservation. Some were among the river settlements, The Wahpekute were at Cannon Lake. Settlers of the Scotch Lake area, east of St. Peter complained that the Dakota were doing great damage to their cattle and crops. Sissetons under Sleepy Eyes, Red Iron and Rattling Moccasin were still planting on the Cottonwood River with permission from Major Day at Fort Ridgely. The agent had failed to plow land for them at Yellow Medicine. Murphy admitted there was not enough food for them on the reservation.[24]

In June, Mdewakanton committed depredations on settlers near Forest Lake and Sunrise River.[25]

In June, Missionary Thomas Williamson reported that owing to the scarcity of food in this neighborhood, the Dakota were absent…[26]

In August, Wabasha and 6 other chiefs, on their way to St. Paul, camped for 2 days near the new settlement of Northfield.[27]

In September, Philander Prescott reported that seven bands of the lower Sioux planted on their reserve this season. But some members of these seven bands were still roving about among the white settlers. The Wahpekute left the agency last fall and have not returned, except the chief with four or five lodges. They did not plant, and only stopped about three weeks, then moved off again.[28]

In August, the Dakota were destroying cattle and stealing crops of the settlers on Scotch Lake. Two entered one house and demanded flour. When refused, they raised a club to the woman and her daughter, the only persons in the house at the time.[29]

As of September, Chiefs Maza’sa [Red Iron], I’stabiba [Sleepy Eyes?], Maza-e-mani [Walking Iron], Ta-haupe-lida [Rattling Moccasin?], and Ite-wakyan [Thunder Face] had not come on to the reserve.[30]

As of September, part of the Mdewakanton and all of the Wahpekute failed to come on to the reserve. 130 acres of the land plowed in 1854 for the Lower Dakota, remained unplanted. There were Sisseton and Wahpeton who planted below the reserve. However, there were not sufficient lands opened for all of the Sisseton and Wahpeton.[31]

By fall, many Lower Indians were starving. Everyone was paid their annuities, despite the threat to withhold annuities from those who remained off the reservations. They left the reservations again for the 3rd winter in a row.[32]

Last fall, the Dakota were warned that those who did not plant on the reserve would not receive annuities. They promised the agent that if they were permitted to hunt below during the winter, they would return to the reserve in the spring and remain there. Last spring, the Agent had land ploughed, but the Indians refused to occupy it. During this past summer, the Indians remained among the white settlements and committed depredations. The Agent refused to pay them their annuities. The Indians were preparing to move off quietly to heir hunts, when word was received from Governor Gorman directing that all should receive annuities. Indians who remained on the reserves wanted to return to their old hunting grounds. They did not believe the agent when he said they will be punished. The result of this will be that the settlements will be thronged with Indians the coming winter, and next summer there will not be as many Indians on the reserve as there have been the past summer.[33]

Following their payment in November, the Upper Dakota all started off, most of them west to the buffalo region and some down to the settlements. Sleepy Eyes told the Agent that he would not plant on the reserve next year, and other Indians will follow his example. The Little Rapids band will winter below. It is likely that most of the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands will do the same. Our settlements will be burdened with the Indians until their depredations lead to hostilities. It is at present almost impossible for these Indians to winter here on the reservations, as they have not the means of subsistence. That is partly owing to their not planting here last year and partly to the want of sufficient land being prepared for cultivation.[34]

In December, Dakota were reported in Belle Plaine and Ramsey County.[35]


In February, Mr. Shields of Faribault wrote to Commissioner Manypenny that Wabasha the principal chief of the Sioux Indians in this territory and several other chiefs were then in his room. They want to go to Washington to talk to the President. There is very little game now, and they will all die if they do not learn to work like white men.[36]

In the spring, 6 Dakota killed 3 Ojibway near Hastings. A scalp dance followed.[37]

In June, the Dakota had a scalp dance at St. Peter over the scalps of three Chippewas, whom they had recently killed.[38]

In June, Indian Superintendent Huebschmann wrote that the Sioux took about fourteen scalps since spring, while the Chippewas took one scalp. None of the Sioux can be encouraged to cultivate land on the north side of the river because of this warfare.[39]

In the summer, a Dakota war party killed the family of Francis Brunet near Platt Lake east of Swan River. Another war party killed an Ojibway near Hutchinson. Most of the Lower Dakota left the reservation. Some 1200 Dakota were at St. Peter committing depredations. Others left to gather wild rice or to hunt.[40]

In September, Philander Prescott reported that the Indian crops were poor and some, having no corn at all, will be obliged to leave the reservation to subsist during the winter.[41]

In September, Murphy, Indian Agent reported that three Sisseton and Wahpeton chiefs and a large portion of their people “still obstinately refuse to come to the reserve.” For this reason, they did not receive this year’s annuity. “Three of the upper bands still remain off the reserve, and in the midst of the white settlement, giving occasion to constant complaints. Their chiefs at the last council held with them, say positively they will not come to the reserve, but are willing to do so whenever the United States government performs its promises to them.”[42]

Superintendent Huebschmann reported in October that little land was broken for the Sisseton and Wahpeton prior to this season. It is believed that now nearly sufficient ground has been broken for their planting. Fear of the Chippewas prevents them from settling down and making progress in agriculture and civilization.[43]

In October, Wahpekute encamped near Faribault. Little Crow was off the reservation during the fall and winter months.[44]

In the fall of 1856, Little Crow and Shakopee were hunting near Sauk Centre. Other Dakota were at the head of the Crow River, on the Rush River and at Marine St. Croix. In November, two-thirds of the Mdewakanton were hunting in the Big Woods.[45]

 In December in St. Peter: “The Sioux Indians are again in our streets and neighborhood; their annuities received, they make like ‘quarter horses’ for their haunts in more favored days. They have spent a part of the past summer among us, and with many temptations to trespass upon the gardens and fields of our farmers, we have heard of but very few complaints.”[46]

 In December, a meeting was held by the citizens of Washington County to discuss the “expulsion of the Indians from our midst.” Sioux Indians have for many years made “predatory incursions into our country – plundering and stealing whenever opportunity offered – destroying our valuable game and terrifying the inhabitants…they frequently visit the houses of the inhabitants in a state of intoxication…whereas we have frequently petitioned the authorities to remove and keep these pests away form our limits…their visits have increased in frequency and duration…” The citizens asked that the Indians be removed and be kept away from their county. They will now organize for this purpose if nothing is done by the authorities.[47]


 In March, Wahpekute leader Inkpaduta and his followers killed 32 whites and took 4 captives in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.[48] Inkpaduta received annuities in 1855 and 1856. Known for desperate character he was allowed by the Wahpekute to receive these payments with them. He and his followers have since led a wandering and marauding life about the headwaters of Des Moines river.[49]

In May, Superintendent Francis Huebschmann reported that all the bands of the Sioux were seen scattered through the settlements hunting. All of them are on their return to the reservation. Militia volunteers fired upon Sleepy Eyes’ band, who were returning home peaceably, and reported some six killed, but happily only one man’s arm was fractured by their balls. A Mr. Brandt was found shot the next day and it is supposed that he was killed by Sleepy Eyes’ people in retaliation for the attack upon them.[50] Sleepy Eyes’ village was still on Swan Lake.[51]

In September, about 200 Sioux Indian passed through Mankato after visiting the Winnebago. The Sioux had no pass to be off their reservation.[52]

Charles Flandrau wrote that in the summer of 1856, a hailstorm destroyed Dakota crops. The winter was coming on, and there were no means of feeding the Indians. Many of them returned to the lands ceded to the whites.[53]

In September, James Magner reported that the entire crop of wheat and corn was destroyed on the reservations. The wheat was cut off by grasshoppers while yet green. The corn was destroyed by grasshoppers, hail, and blackbirds. There will be an average crop of potatoes. Rutabagas were also destroyed by the grasshoppers.[54]

In September, many of the upper Sisseton were hunting buffalo to the east of the Missouri and northwest of the settlements.[55]

In October, Special Agent Kintzing Pritchette reported that the reservation was insufficient for the wants of the Dakota in their present condition. Except for waterfowl, it is entirely destitute of game. The Dakota are “consequently, in seasons of want, driven off in search of food. The Yankton refuse them the privilege of hunting upon their territory, which abounds in buffalo, and they are consequently driven by necessity upon the settlements in direct collision with the white population. Under these circumstances there is no safety for either.”[56]

After the payment in the fall, most of the Mdewakanton left for the Big Woods. Chief Shakopee went to the Rockford area. Other Dakota were at Grand Lake and Belle Plaine.[57]


In February, Joseph R. Brown wrote that no provisions had been issued to the Upper Indians. Most of them were absent. Those on the reservation had a fair supply of corn which will run out the middle of this month.[58]

In March, most of the Sisseton bands of Sioux had to go farther this winter for buffalo than for many years past. They were all high up the James and Cheyenne rivers, and even as high as Devil’s lake. Some were at Little Wood on the James river 50 miles above Oak Grove. Some were higher up on the James and Cheyenne. Buffalo have been scarce all winter.[59]

In March, from New Ulm: “For a week now, Indian bands are moving in long procession in a westerly direction through the town. They came from the “Big Woods” close to Henderson, where they had spent the winter because of available game. They are now heading toward the Sioux Agency, Fort Ridgely to make sugar from the tree sap, and plant their fields as soon as spring permits.”[60]

In April, drunken Indians were in the streets of New Ulm for several days.[61]

In May, Sioux Indians were constantly moving through New Ulm west toward the Sioux Agency, Redwood. “Scarcely were they gone, then more and then more came from the east…”[62]

In May, from Shakopee: “There are about thirty teepees of Sioux encamped on the east side of town, who have a Chippewa scalp in their possession and are keeping up the most infernal racket over its acquisition, both day and night, that ever we heard, and the disturbance amounts to an intolerable nuisance…Now we do protest against having a band of savages quartered on us at this time, exhibiting the sickening spectacle of a reeking scalp from a human head paraded through our streets. They have no business here but should be on their reservations…”[63]

In June, from New Ulm: “Last week a troop of Indians from the Sioux tribe camped in the thicket east of German Park. They sat around the fire smoking a common pipe. A still bloody Chippewa scalp had been hung up to dry. Recently, scalp dances have frequently been performed in the surrounding areas. “War” between the Sioux and the Chippewa at Shakopee was said to have resulted in 6 – some said 11 – bodies. Scalping is also carried out on the living.”[64]

On July 20, 1858, the Minnesota State Legislature passed “An Act to extend the laws of the State over all the Indian Tribes within the boundaries of the State, and to confine them, to their own lands.” It stated that Indians off their reservations were subject to the laws of the State. They would be punished for misdemeanors and violations of law. They were required to have passes or “passports” from the Superintendent to leave their reservations. Sheriffs and other officers had the authority to remove all Indians not complying with this Act. But, this did little to keep the Dakota on their reservations.[65]

In August, from New Ulm: “Indians, mostly accompanied by French half-breeds, have been visiting our city more frequently since the payment of annuities to play cards etc.”[66]

In September, W. J. Cullen reported that depredations and thefts by the Dakota upon the white settlers seem to be on the increase. They leave the reservations continuously in small bands. They meet the isolated settler and take or destroy his property. The settlers can file claims against their annuities. These claims result in less money to the Indians. The whole tribe suffers for the acts of a few. The identification of the party depredating is not always possible.[67]

In November, about 150 Dakota are in camp at Watertown in Carver County. They have caused much damage. They have shot down cows and let their horses graze in the fields.[68]

In December from New Ulm: “…again Indians are passing by, one by one in a long row of horses, who are pulling travois on which there are children and baggage…These people are going into the Big Woods in Le Sueur County to hunt deer, to the north some hunt buffalo which, because of their enemy, the Chippewas, are limited in that terrain.”[69]

In December, from St. Cloud: There are 200-300 Dakota men, women and children camped west and southwest of town. They have killed about 1,000 deer and a good number of bears and other game. Our citizens want the U.S. to prevent these forays and if this isn’t done, they will organize and drive the Dakota back to their own territory. “In every neighborhood where they come, cattle are driven off, vacant houses robbed and provisions stolen; while the settlers are kept on the perpetual alert to watch their property and resist the most importunate and persevering system of beggary.”[70]

In the winter of 1858-59, most of the Mdewakanton were in the Big Woods. Several hundred were near Mankato. Several hundred were near Manannah in Stearns County. Wahpetons were at the head of Crow River in the Big Woods. Little Crow traded a musket for food in Hutchinson.[71]


In September from New Ulm: “Our red neighbors, the Sioux Indians, have permitted themselves many excesses recently against the property of the citizens of Milford Township.”[72]

In October, most of the Mdewakanton left for their hunts in the Big Woods. About 600 were at Maine Prairie in Stearns County. Some were near Monticello.[73]

In October, Indians recently passed through New Ulm on their way to take up their winter quarters in the “Big Woods.”[74]

In November, Indian Agent, Joseph R. Brown reported that all of the annuity Sioux except those in houses have left to hunt during the fall months. Many of them have gone among the white settlements and Brown is afraid there will be complaints.[75]

In November, complaints were made to the Governor of depredations by the Indians in the neighborhood of Lake Johanna. The Governor sent men to order them to return to their reservation. They found about 150 Indians, under Chief Red Dog, camped on Rice Creek. The Indians said that there was no game on the reservation, and that they were compelled to leave it from fear of starvation, and they laughed at the idea of being driven home by the whites. They denied having committed any depredations upon the property of the whites and promised not to do so in the future. The settlers have, however, suffered very much from these Indians. The Indians were given until next Monday to leave. They were killing 10-12 deer each day.[76]

In November, Agent Joseph R. Brown reported that the annuity Sioux with the exception of those on farms were still absent on their hunts. There were many complaints from the white settlements about the Indians. Brown tried to get them to return. They said if they return to the reservations, their corn will be exhausted before next season and they will starve. [77]

In December, Ojibwa attacked some Dakota from a strong Dakota hunting party camped by St. Cloud. The other Dakotas were quickly on the field of battle. One Ojibwa was killed.[78]

In the winter of 1859-60, settlers complained to Governor Sibley about depredations by Indians in the Big Woods, Norway Lake, Eagle Lake and Fairhaven.[79]


In January, Superintendent Cullen told the Indians they could not go to the Big Woods to hunt.[80]

In February 1860, 17 lodges of Dakota visited the Winnebago south of Mankato. One night they had a scalp dance.[81]

In May, a Dakota war party was reported in the Big Woods near Green Lake.[82]

In May, Dakota who lived near Winona moved to the reservation via New Ulm.[83]

Joseph R. Brown reported that War parties are trespassing on the property of the whites. They annoy the settlers and keep them in a continual state of alarm. “This is fast leading to a collision between the whites and Indians.” Stringent measures are needed prevent the formation of war parties, if possible, and to punish those who go to war with severity. “Among the Sioux most of the leading men are opposed to war…But the young and reckless are deaf to the counsels of the aged and can only be made to abandon warfare through a conviction that a severe punishment awaits every war party upon their return to their houses.”[84]

In May, Ojibway killed 5 Dakota and wounded 3 at Maine Prairie.[85]

In July, from New Ulm: “Indians are now visiting us more often in order to exchange their recently received annuities for decorative clothing and life’s necessities. They are very welcome guests for our store keepers.”[86]

In August, Governor Ramsey and the Indian Agents and the military authorities of the forts have taken energetic steps in order to stop the wandering armed Indians, This is a step for which the border settlements will be thankful.[87]

In September, Major Morris, Fort Ridgely, reported that he has received complaints from settlers above Beaver Creek of depredations in that vicinity by Indians belonging to Shakopee’s band.[88]

In September, Indians broke into a settlers’ house near St. Peter and stole food. In Breckinridge, a band of Dakotas drove off several cattle and a number of horses. Burbank and Company lost seven stagecoach horses and Mr. Mills and Spencer each two. A detachment of military from Fort Abercrombie is pursuing the thieves. [89]

In October, Joseph R. Brown reported that many difficulties are caused by Dakota visiting the settled portions of the State. The Indians commit depredations upon the property of the whites. However, “bad white men” also commit depredations and this is blamed on the Indians. “I am satisfied that many of the depredations for which claims were presented at the last annuity payment, were not committed by the Sioux, but they were encamped in the neighborhood, and the whites who, lost the property believed them to be guilty.” Brown has notified all the Dakota on the reservations that they must not go to any portion of the settled country to hunt. A violation of this order will result in their loss of annuities at the next payment. The bands will be held responsible for depredations by their members. Many Dakota are now among the white settlements.[90]

During 1860-61, Little Crow wintered in the Big Woods.[91]


In July, in New Ulm: “Since the Indian Payment, our city offers a very lively, busy look; day after day the city is swarming with Indians, who, pockets full of money, are doing their shopping here. Already early in the morning, even before daybreak, they are standing at the doors of our business places, knocking on the doors, waking our merchants out of their beds and not until it gets dark, do they return to their “tipies” to enjoy their purchases.”[92]

In August in New Ulm: “Last Wednesday the temperature rose to 104 in the shade. At this certainly “pleasant” temperature a troop of Indians did us the pleasure of performing in our streets several of their wild dances.”[93]

In August, following the Indian payments, many drunken Dakota were in New Ulm.[94]

In August, the Indians were informed that anyone who goes off the reservations without permission will not receive their annuities. This was done because war parties were committing depredations on the white settlements.[95]

In November, 1861, Little Crow camped at Lake Judson near Hutchinson. He visited Forest City. Dakota were at Long Prairie, Lake Shetek and Martin County. Settlers of Pope, McLeod and Sibley Counties complained that Dakota were committing depredations.[96]

In November, William Duly reported from Lake Shetek that drunken Indians killed 2 of their own people and threatened the lives of some of the whites.[97]

In October, near Forest City, there was a fight between Dakota and Ojibway. The Ojibway were traveling up the Crow River in two canoes. The Dakota lay in ambush and shot two of their enemies in the front canoe, the others escaped into the brush.[98]

In November from New Ulm: “The fur trade has begun and daily one sees crowds of Indians and half-breeds in the city who are trading their pelts for other needs. The stores are busier as a result. Masses of muskrats and other pelts are in good supply and the New Ulm fur trade this year will clearly far surpass earlier years.”[99]

Thomas Galbraith, Indian Agent, reported that in 1861, the harvest was light especially with the Upper Dakota. Cutworms destroyed all of the corn of the Sisseton and greatly injured the crops of the other bands. He provided for those in need. In February, a tremendous snowstorm delayed the Dakota from starting their spring hunts.[100]


In January, from New Ulm: “In New Ulm we see Indians almost daily and for the most part they are welcome guests.”[101]

In August, from New Ulm: “Several columns of Dakotas passed through our city to go to the Big Woods to make sugar or to hunt and came back from these activities to their reservation.”[102]


On August 17, 1862, four Dakota men, who had separated from a larger Dakota hunting party, killed 3 men, a woman and a young girl in Acton Township, Meeker County. This event was the primary cause of the Dakota War of 1862.

At the start of the Dakota War, most of the Lower Dakota were on their reservation. The following villages of the Upper Dakota were located off their reservation: Waanatan and Sweet Corn were a little north of the middle of Lake Traverse on the west side. Uniform was about 20 miles west of Big Stone Lake. Limping Devil, Sleepy Eyes, White Lodge and Lean Bear were north of the Pipestone Quarry.[103]

My Opinion

It is obvious that the Dakota were not confined to their reservations. The complaints from the white settlers of Dakota depredations caused the U.S. and State of Minnesota to make efforts to try to keep them on their reservations. But, this didn’t work. They continued to leave their reservations for various reasons throughout the Dakota reservation period in Minnesota.

At times there was not enough food on the reservations. The Dakota had to leave or they would starve to death. As shown above, this shortage of food was not always the fault of the whites as some people think.

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