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A History of Minneapolis: an Overview by Staff at the Hennepin County Library

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Featuring historical photos and items from the collections of the Hennepin County Library, with contemporary photos from the Phototour of Minneapolis by Chris Gregerson.

Mdewakanton Band of the Dakota Nation (Part II)

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In 1851, the Mdewakanton signed the treaty of Traverse des Sioux. With this treaty, the lands west of the Mississippi River were purchased from the Dakota and the area opened for settlement the following year. The Dakota gave up their rights to the lands lying east of the Red River, Lake Traverse, the Big Sioux River, and the area south of the boundary line of 1825. The treaty meant the abandonment of hereditary lands, a bowing to white power, reservations along the Minnesota River, temporary gifts, a trust fund, and cash payments, which in large part were diverted to satisfy debts to the traders. The Dakota people moved on to a strip of land ten miles wide along either side of the Minnesota River from Lake Traverse to the Yellow Medicine River. Some worked to become farmers while others hunted, but ten years later it appeared that many of the Dakota peoples might starve.

Dakota members of a treaty negotiation group, (1858).
Minneapolis Collection, BR0583

Episcopal Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple understood the consequences of the American treaty system. He realized the significant role the Indian agents played, the need for reform of the treaty system, the need for law and order and control of the liquor situation, and the significance of a relationship under which the Indians would be fairly treated. Whipple denounced the administration of Indian affairs and stated that the guilt lies at the "Nation's door." According to analysis by the historian William Watts Folwell, the American Indian policy was "calculated to invite outbreaks of passion and revenge."

In 1862, the United States government was focusing its attention on the Civil War and neglected to pay the Dakota in a timely fashion. The Dakota people were plagued by hunger; they were disgusted with the unfulfilled promises from the government, and they were dissatisfied with reservation life. This condition drove many back to their old lands which now were being farmed or logged. The stage was set for conflict between the two very different cultures. A sudden, violent attack on settlers in the southeastern part of the state took place on August 17, 1862 which set in motion a violent killing spree by the Dakota, the military, and the settlers. The conflict lasted until September 26th. Governor Henry Sibley was in charge of the military. The area around Fort Ripley in southwestern Minnesota had the most conflict between the Dakota, the military and the new settlers. By September 26th, the Dakota realized they had not gained control over the military. The deaths of about 500 whites and the destruction of property evoked cries for their removal. Over three hundred captured warriors were initially held either at Mankato (those who had been condemned) or Fort Snelling. President Lincoln pardoned all but those who had been condemned to death for the killing of settlers. Thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged. The others held in captivity finally received their sentence, in 1863. Those sentenced were moved out of the state of Minnesota, mostly to the Missouri Valley (not far from Fort Randall). Those who had been convicted (but not hung) were sent to Davenport, Iowa. The remaining Dakota were exiled to a reservation at Crow Creek (in the area that is now South Dakota). In 1866, the Dakota at Crow Creek were moved to the Santee Reservation in northeastern Nebraska. The Ho-Chunk remaining in Minnesota in 1862, by then residing primarily in the region around Mankato, were also forced by the United States government to move west as a result of the war, even though they had not participated in the fighting.

A group of 100-150 tepees inside a wooden wall, possibly at Fort Snelling following the war of 1862. Furs are visible around the bases of some of the nearer tepees.
Minneapolis Collection, BR0351

In the 1870s only a few Dakota remained in Minnesota. Those living closest to Minneapolis lived at Oak Grove in Bloomington at the residence of Gideon Pond or at a remnant of a Dakota scout camp in Shakopee. A few also lived in Bloomington and in Mendota. In 1884, a Dakota named Good Thunder purchased land near the site of one of the skirmishes of the 1862 conflict. Later others joined him. With the help of government appropriations, the colony eventually became the Lower Sioux Community under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. In 1886, government appropriations helped to buy land at Prior Lake. Migration and land purchases continued in the state with people settling in growing communities as well as in the metropolitan areas. By 1899, seventy Dakota people were living in Hennepin County. In 1910 this number dropped to 27. By 1930, the census noted 199. In 1970, a total of 6,722 Dakota people lived in Hennepin County. In the 1990 census, the Native American population in Minneapolis was 12,144.

(Map: Native Land Cessions in Minnesota, 1837-1889

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