by Lyn Horner
Minnesota River valley in an attempt to drive whites out
of the area. No official report
gives an accurate count of how many settlers were killed. In Abraham Lincoln's
second annual address, he stated that not less than 800 men, women, and
children had died. Over 500 may be closer to the truth.
Most Americans are familiar with the story of Custer’s Last Stand and the Great Sioux War of 1876, but many know little about the Sioux Uprising of 1862 (also called the Dakota War of 1862.) Indeed, some have probably never heard of it, yet this months-long war between the Eastern (Santee) Dakota and
eventually the U.S. Army, was a deadly precursor of what would follow fourteen
years later. Minnesota
|Siege of New Ulm, Minnesota, August 19, 1862, ca.1902|
Called “one of the most tragic events in Minnesota’s history” by author Peg Meier, the 1862 uprising left hundreds of people dead, property burned and looted, white residents terrorized and the Dakotas driven out of the state. All of which could have been avoided had the Indians been treated fairly. Sound familiar? This nation does not have a stellar history when it comes to treatment of Native Americans.
The Dakota, called Sioux (meaning “snake”) by enemy tribes and by whites, had given up almost all their traditional lands under the treaties of 1805, 1837, 1851 and 1858. Constrained to live on two narrow reservations along the
useless for hunting, and pushed into farming which was unfamiliar to them, they
depended largely on goods and cash owed them by whites as per the various
By the summer of 1862, the government was months behind on the Indians’ annuity payments. At the same time, unscrupulous traders and Indian agents often stole what was earmarked for the Dakota. They were starving, a fact most whites ignored or didn’t care about. A storekeeper named Andrew Myrick was reported to have said, “Let them eat grass.” When the uprising began, Myrick was one of the first whites killed. The Indians left his body with grass stuffed down his throat.
The killing began on August 17, 1862. Four young braves were hunting off the reservation when they came across a hen’s nest near a white family’s cabin. A discussion over whether or not to steal the eggs ensued and on a dare, one brave entered the cabin and shot the white man inside. He and his companions killed five settlers, including two women, then hastened back to the reservation.
|Chief Little Crow, ca. 1857|
That night, a council of Dakota chiefs and warriors gathered in the home of Chief Little Crow (Taoyateduta) and debated going to war. Little Crow was against it. Called a coward, he defended his stance, telling the others they were like little children; they didn’t know what they were doing. He warned that no matter how many whites they killed, more and more would come. Even so, he gave in, saying, “Taoyateduta is not a coward: he will die with you.”The Dakota decided to attack settlements along the
For several months, the Dakota battled settlers and later, the United States Army, but ended up surrendering. By late December 1862, more than a thousand Dakota were imprisoned in
jails. After trials and sentencing, 38 Dakota were hanged on December 26, 1862.
This was the largest one-day execution in American history. In April 1863, the
rest of the Dakota were removed from Minnesota Minnesota
to Nebraska and , and their reservations were
closed down. South Dakota