A Welcome Tragedy Factors that Led to the U.S.Dakota Conflict of 1862 By Colin Mustful
Contents Abstract On December 26, 1862, the United States Government hanged thirty-eight Dakota Indians in Mankato, Minnesota, for their participation in what is known as the U.S. – Dakota Conflict of 1862. This remains the largest mass execution in U.S. history. But the hangings and the depredations that preceded them were not the result of an isolated incident or event. The Conflict did not occur by chance. Rather, it was the foreseeable result of years of misconduct, fraud, and exploitation. Recommendations were made and warnings were given, but nothing was done. The Indians System fostered neglect, nourished corruption, and welcomed tragedy. Essay – 3 Appendix – 42 George E.H. Day to Abraham Lincoln, January 1, 1862 – 42 Thomas J. Williamson and Stephen R. Riggs to Congress, January 2, 1862 – 44 Trader’s Paper, July 1851 – 48 Henry B. Whipple to Abraham Lincoln, March 6, 1862 – 49 New Ulm Residents to Alexander Ramsey, August 14, 1862 – 53 George A.S. Crooker to Abraham Lincoln, October 7, 1862 – 54 Bibliography – 64
On January 1, 1862, Special Agent George E.H. Day wrote a letter to President Abraham Lincoln warning the President of an impending Indian outbreak. Day declared that the Indians had “been defrauded of more than one hundred thousand dollars” and called the entire Indian System “defective.” He persisted by warning the President that if such wrongs are continued, “the just vengeance of heaven . . . [will] be poured out and visited upon this nation for its abuses and cruelty to the Indian.” Eight months later Agent Day’s warning was realized.1 On August 18, 1862, war broke out between the Mdewakanton Dakota Indians and the people of Southwestern Minnesota in what is now known as the U.S. – Dakota Conflict of 1862. The hostile Dakota, led by Chief Little Crow, captured and killed hundreds of settlers and mixed bloods but they were unable to obtain key victories at Fort Ridgely and New Ulm. Minnesota forged 1
George E.H. Day to Abraham Lincoln, 1 January 1862, Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress.
a volunteer militia led by Colonel Henry Hastings Sibley which forced the Dakota into retreat, along with their over two-hundred fifty captives. The conflict ended with a decisive victory by Minnesota forces at Wood Lake on September 23, 1862. Shortly thereafter the captives were released and the Dakota were taken prisoner. Eventually, on December 26, 1862, thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged in Mankato, Minnesota, for their participation in the Conflict. This remains the largest mass execution in United States history. As a final result, in the spring of 1863, all Dakota, Winnebago, and Ho-Chunk Indians were expelled from beyond the borders of the state of Minnesota forever.2 At the time of the Outbreak the Indian situation in Minnesota was far from the minds of Union officials. The United States was engrossed in the Civil War and few 2
â€œOn May 4 and 5, 1863, more than 1,300 Sioux Indiansâ€? were transferred from beyond the boundaries of Minnesota to Crow Creek, South Dakota. On February 21, 1863, Congress enacted a statute for the peaceful exodus of the Winnebago Indians from the state of Minnesota. Edmund Danziger, Jr., The Crow Creek Experiment: An Aftermath of the Sioux War of 1862, North Dakota History, 105-123; Ibid., 116.
resources could be dedicated to the frontier. On August 26, 1862, Governor Ramsey wrote to President Lincoln to request an extension on the draft in Minnesota because of the terrible situation in Minnesota.3 Lincoln’s reply was curt and he said only, “Attend to the Indians. If the draft cannot proceed, of course it will not proceed. Necessity knows no law. The government cannot extend the time.”4 The U.S. Government simply could not attend to the situation in Minnesota no matter how dire. So, on August 10, 1861, when George E.H. Day was appointed as a Special Agent it was a mere afterthought. Day was given a one hundred day contract and assigned specifically to
In this telegram Ramsey wrote, “The Indian outbreak has come upon us suddenly half the population of the state are fugitives - It is absolutely impossible that we should proceed - - The Sec’y of War denies our request. I appeal to you and ask for an immediate answer - - No one not here can conceive the panic in the state.” Alexander Ramsey to Abraham Lincoln, 26 August 1862, Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress. 4
“Abraham Lincoln and Minnesota,” The Lincoln Institute Presents: Abraham Lincoln’s Classroom, Accessed August 26, 2012, http://www.abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/Library/newsletter.asp?ID =50&CRLI=130
investigate the charges against a carpenter named Mr. Morrison who had allegedly cut timber belonging to the Rabbit Lake band of Indians.5 It was a simple assignment. Day arrived in St. Anthony, Minnesota, on August 30, 1861, and was quite eager to undertake his duties.6 It took just four days before Day uncovered his first crime of fraud. In a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, William P. Dole, Day revealed that a physician assigned to Leech Lake and paid a handsome salary of $4,000 never once went on to the reservation. Day further noted that in the previous year one hundred of the Pillager and Winnebogosh Indians at Leech Lake had died of illness.7
In a letter to Day, Commissioner of Indian Affairs William P. Dole clarifies Dayâ€™s assignment. William P. Dole to George E.H. Day, 22 November 1861, Special Files of the Office of Indian Affairs, 18071904, M574, Roll 59, Special File 201, National Archives, 0652-0653. 6
George E.H. Day to William P. Dole, 30 August 1861, Special Files of the Office of Indian Affairs, 1807-1904, M574, Roll 59, Special File 201, National Archives, 0614. 7
George E.H. Day to William P. Dole, 3 September 1861, Special Files of the Office of Indian Affairs, 1807-1904, M574, Roll 59, Special File 201, National Archives, 0619.
Day continued with his investigation and practically overlooked the Morrison lumber case in favor of the much more grievous and large scale charges he found. After just over a month in Minnesota, Day wrote to Dole that he had discovered what he called “voluminous and outrageous frauds upon the Indians.” In the same letter Day addressed the Morrison case and stated that Mr. Morrison obtained his lumber contracts through bribery. However, Day was much more concerned with the Indian System which he called “foolish” and asked Commissioner Dole to instate immediate changes. Day concluded his report by adding that the Indians had been “more voluminously scoundreled than any set of men [ever] before.”8 Just three days later, still troubled by his heinous discoveries, Day again addressed Dole stating he had proof of “villainous rascality’s” and “abominable outrages.” He also warned
George E.H. Day to William P. Dole, 1 October 1861, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880, M234, Roll 599, National Archives, 0099-0102.
that if a new system was not inaugurated then his determination to correct abuses and frequent frauds would not succeed. Ultimately, Day was correct.9 It was not until November 22, that Commissioner Dole acknowledged receipt of Day’s correspondence and offered a response. This came a month after Day pleaded for a reply.10 In his response, Dole admonished Day for going beyond his authority by investigating matters other than the Morrison lumber case. Dole adamantly rejected the notion that other frauds existed and called them “imaginary.” Dole chastised Day several times and reiterated that Day was only to examine the Morrison timber case. Dole concluded his response by reminding
George E.H. Day to William P. Dole, 4 October 1861, Special Files of the Office of Indian Affairs, 1807-1904, M574, Roll 59, Special File 201, National Archives, 0624-0626. 10
In his letter of October 1, Day pleaded, “Will you please acknowledge the receipt of my letters.” Day to Dole, 1 October 1861.
Day that his contract expired in November and that he would be given no extension.11 Day, however, was unshaken. Rather than give in to Dole’s admonishment, Day responded with more vigor and passion than before. He continued to uncover charges of fraud and corruption in addition to completing a thorough investigation of Mr. Morrison. In a letter written December 21, 1861, Day defended himself by pointing out to Dole that “every man” was glad to see Day appointed to investigate Indian affairs and that they said it was “high time it were done.” Day continued by belittling the system and making further accusations of fraud. He then demonstrated his staunch resolution in a manner that
The letter from Dole is difficult to transcribe, but the content and tone are quite clear. Regarding Day’s investigation Dole stated, “Why you should be seeking often other frauds, imaginary, to the neglect of this one, known to exist, I cannot imagine!” William P. Dole to George E.H. Day, 22 November 1861, Special Files of the Office of Indian Affairs, 1807-1904, M574, Roll 59, Special File 201, National Archives, 0652-0653.
seemed directed toward Dole by daring his violators to meet him “face to face.”12 But, Day could see that despite his efforts he would be given no support from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. That is why, on January 1, 1862, he went directly to the President. Day demonstrated his conviction by stating in his letter to President Lincoln, “If I were not poor and had not a family to support I would go to Washington at my own cost out of love of country and the poor Indian.” Though Day could not afford it himself, he requested $135 at the Government’s expense to travel to Washington. Day claimed that he could save them “nearly as many thousands.” Day’s request, however, was not met and his letter received no response.13
Day said that he would make Dole glad he had appointed him, “if you do not forsake me, but if you do be sure to hear me first. I dare my [violators] to meet me fact to face.” George E.H. Day to William P. Dole, 21 December 1861, Special Files of the Office of Indian Affairs, 1807-1904, M574, Roll 59, Special File 201, National Archives, 0655-0661. 13
Day to Lincoln, 1 January 1862, Lincoln Papers.
George Day was not the first man to warn about the possible consequences of the treatment of Indians in Minnesota. These warnings began well before 1862. One of the earliest and most ardent diatribes concerning the Minnesota Indian situation was delivered to Congress in 1850 by the well-known Indian trader Henry Sibley. Sibley criticized the system of making unfair and “scrupulously unfulfilled” treaties. Sibley warned Congress of a possible “bloody and remorseless Indian war” and said that Congress must approach the Indians “with terms of conciliation and of real friendship.”14 Sibley made this
On August 2, 1862, Sibley made the following speech before Congress: “If the act of making a treaty is not to be looked upon as a mere mockery or a farce, every stipulation and every pledge made . . . should be scrupulously fulfilled . . . On the contrary, . . . the commissioners, by making promises they know will never be performed, plume themselves upon having made a favorable treaty, leaving the poor victims to find out in due time that they have been betrayed and deceived . . . I will venture the assertion that not one in ten of the treaties made will be found to have been carried out in good faith . . . If anything is to be done, it must be done now . . . Your pioneers are encircling the last home of the red man as with a wall of fire. Their encroachments are perceptible in the restlessness . . . of the powerful bands who inhabit your remote western plains. You must approach these with terms of conciliation and of real friendship or you must very soon suffer the consequences of a bloody and
argument despite the fact that he was one of the greatest benefactors of Indian treaties. The greatest indication that a possible conflict might arise is demonstrated through the Annual Reports of the Indian Agents in Minnesota. At the time, the Indian System was a hierarchical bureaucracy that existed within the Department of the Interior, although it had originally been a part of the Department of War. The structure was headed by the Secretary of the Interior, followed by thirteen regional Superintendencies, each with a Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Within each Superintendency were any number of Agencies each with their own Agent as well subAgents in charge of education, farming, medicine, and so forth. Each Agent was required to produce an annual report with a detailed review of his particular agency or assignment. Within these reports exists a near endless remorseless Indian war . . . What is to become of [them] . . . when the buffalo and other game on which they now depend for subsistence are exhausted? Think you they will lie down and die without a struggle?â€? Rhoda Gilman, Henry Hastings Sibley: Divided Heart, (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2004), 119.
volume and variety of warnings and recommendations laid out by the Indian Agents of Minnesota. They included accusations similar to those made by George E.H. Day. One Agent, who wrote in 1856, was deeply chagrined at the government’s treatment of the Indian and used the term “we” to blame for the continuance of Indian warfare.15 Another Agent, who wrote in 1858, strongly recommended that a greater level of protection is necessary among the settlements and warned that if nothing is done depredations on an “extended scale would be the result.”16
Agent of the Sioux Agency, R.G. Murphy, stated, “I shudder when I think of the serious responsibility thus brought on the government of my country, and reflect that we are probably to blame for the continuance of that warfare, with all its barbarities, for which we have but lately been taking measures to make victims of a large number of the Indians.” United States, Office of Indian Affairs, Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1856, “Northern Superintendency,” 54, http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/History.AnnRep56. 16
Agent of the Sioux Agency, Joseph Brown, stated, “Other means are now necessary to protect our settlements on the frontier; otherwise, the next spring their inroads will be extended and their depredations increased. Unless those Indians are checked at an early day, depredations on the lives and property of our frontier settlers on an extended scale will be the result.” United States, Office of Indian Affairs, Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the
Aside from accusations of blame, there existed any number of problems mentioned by the Agents. What is important to note, is that few recommendations were ever considered and even less problems were ever solved. Year after year the same concerns were brought up, but nothing was ever done. The most common and frequent issue was the use of liquor among the Tribes. Not a single report, or quite nearly, passed without at least a mention to the use of alcohol. The concern of the Agents was not whether or not the Indians drank, but how the Indians so easily obtained alcohol. This problem was most often attributed to insufficient provisions to cause its prevention. The issue was widespread and the solution evasive. As one Agent reported, “these acts are so well known it is useless for me to enlarge upon them.”17
year 1858, “Northern Superintendency,” 54, http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/History.AnnRep58.
Another major area of complaint among the Agents was the system of trading. Little was done to monitor or regulate trade with the Indians. This allowed white traders to meticulously take advantage of the Indians. The problem was so rampant that, just as the use of alcohol, it was the subject of nearly every Agent’s report. One Agent called trade the “principal evil in this system,” while another charged that the Indian trade was a “monopoly for which no equivalent is paid to the Government or the Indians.”18 Continual calls for change were made
United States, Office of Indian Affairs, Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1857, “Northern Superintendency,” 53-54, http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/History.AnnRep57. 18
The former statement was made by none other than Alexander Ramsey, who, at the time, was Superintendent of the Minnesota Superintendency. He stated, “But the principal evil in this system of treaties lies in the power which is given to a circle of trading interests to obstruct, if not entirely defeat, the policy of government. Indians are to a great extent under the immediate influence of their traders; and the council given by these is generally supposed to be dictated somewhat by a view to private advantage. The government should deal liberally and kindly with her Indian wards; but she should not place herself in a position where her purposes are liable to be thwarted by the selfishness and avarice of traders, and the caprice and ignorance of savages.” United States, Office of Indian Affairs, Annual
regarding the system of trade. This included several, if not many, recommendations for how it ought to be done.19 The Agents seemed determined that the system of trading be altered. Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1852, “Minnesota Superintendency,” 46. http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/History.AnnRep52; United States, Annual Report, for the year 1857, 57. 19
In 1853, J.E. Fletcher, Agent to the Winnebago, spelled out his proposed changes to the trading system: “The proposed alterations in, or rather additions to, the present regulations concerning trade, are as follows: 1st. The trader should not only be inhibited, as at present, from bringing into the country goods unsuitable for the Indian trade, but should be required to keep at all times on hand such articles as the department may direct. 2d. No trader should be allowed to credit an Indian except on the written order of the agent, which order should be drawn for specific articles, which articles the Indian could then procure of any licensed trader he chose to patronize; said order having been charged to the Indian by the agent, to be paid and cancelled at the next payment of annuity. The trader should be required to report quarterly to the agent the amount of his sales and credits, and an inventory of goods on hand. This would keep the department at all times informed of the condition of the Indian trade, prevent the accumulation of debts, and tend to prevent the Indians from going out of their own country and hanging about the establishments of border traders, to the annoyance of the citizens; for these unlicensed traders would not, under the operation of this regulation, venture to credit them. Extortion in the price of goods, and the giving of bribes to Indians under any circumstances, should be sufficient cause for the revocations of a trader’s license. The power to revoke licenses should be vested in the Indian agents, subject, of course, to the approval of the department.” United States, Office of Indian Affairs, Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1853, 71, http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/History.AnnRep53.
Another glaring issue involved the system of annuities. Problems surrounding annuities included late payment, method of payment, lack of payment, and even the location of payment. As per treaty stipulations, annuity payments were supposed to be handed out in July, but most were not made until later. In 1857, for instance, annuity payments were not made to the Dakota until September 21.20 Furthermore, payments were often insufficient to meet treaty stipulations. The most obvious neglect was the money stipulated toward education. As on Agent pointed out in 1856, not only had the funds from the 1851 treaty not been received, but the funds of the 1837 treaty were still in arrears. This accumulated to $60,000 not paid to the Lower Dakota.21 Another Agent declared, “I regret exceedingly
This was due largely to the Spirit Lake Massacre in which approximately forty whites were killed and four taken captive by Inkpaduta’s band of Wahpetuke Sioux. The U.S. Government used this occasion to create an ultimatum that the Upper and Lower Sioux would not receive their annuities until they had found and captured Inkpaduta’s band. United States, Annual Report, for the year 1857, 112.
that the department has not thought proper to expend for the Indians all of the money provided by the treaty.”22 One issue often overlooked was the call for soldiers at the Yellow Medicine Agency. Yellow Medicine, or the Upper Agency, was located approximately thirty-five miles upriver from the Lower Agency. The closest fort was Fort Ridgely which was located thirteen miles southeast of the Lower Agency. In the years leading up to 1862 there were constant calls by the Agents to establish a military presence at Yellow Medicine. Though the settlements required protection, surprisingly, it was also argued that troops were necessary to protect the farmer Indians from the blanket or
These allegations were made by Superintendent of Farming for the Sioux, Philander Prescott. Agent Prescott stated, “Under the treaty of 1851, one of the most prominent stipulations was, that schools were to be established, for which $6,000 annually was appropriated. Up to this moment we are without schools.” Agent Prescott also included an extensive table in his report detailing which monies had been paid and which had not. Agent Prescott was terminated shortly after his report was made as noted in the Annual Report of 1857. United Sates, Annual Report, for the year 1856, 56-57. 22
traditional Indians.23 As more and more Dakota adopted an agricultural life there was growing hostility between the separate bands of Indians. It was clear to the Agents that for the sake of the settlers and the Indians a military presence be established at Yellow Medicine. In 1860, an army captain was invited to the Upper and Lower agencies to examine the workings of civilization policy on the reservations. In his Annual Report in 1860, Agent Joseph Brown strongly noted that the captain, Captain Gibson, determined that troops were necessary at Yellow Medicine. Brown decided it was prudent to include Captain Gibson’s narrative in his Report. Captain Gibson concluded that Fort Ridgely was not properly located, but should instead be
Reporting in 1860, Superintendent of Indian Affairs of the Northern Superintendency, W.J. Cullen argued, “The struggle which last year commenced between the improvement Indians and those who refused to relinquish their tribal customs and habits has been so severe, resulting in bloodshed and persecution by the uncivilized towards the improvement Indians, that it was deemed advisable to station a company of United States troops at Yellow Medicine for the protection of the latter.” United States, Office of Indian Affairs, Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1860, 45, http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/History.AnnRep60.
located at the Upper Agency. Agent Brown supported Captain Gibson’s conclusion and noted that “troops would be as effective at Fort Snelling as at Fort Ridgely.”24 If a military presence was not established the Agents argued that all of the work done in civilizing the Indians would be lost and all of the money spent would be for naught.25 The warnings were not limited to official reports. As the tragedy of 1862 approached the advisements became more direct and explicit. On January 2, 1862, just one day
This is due to the fact that Fort Ridgely was established at the time of the treaty in 1851. In just nine years leading up to this report in 1860, the character of the reservations had changed immensely. Settlers continued to pour in and both surround and infiltrate the reservations. By 1860, the location of Fort Ridgely had already become antiquated and impractical. United States, Annual Report, for the year 1860, 58. 25
In 1861 Sioux Agent Thomas Galbraith argued relentlessly in favor of establishing troops at Yellow Medicine. In his annual report he stated, “Sufficient force must be used to protect the farmer Indians from the hostile inroads of the still wild or blanket Indians . . . the necessity of sufficient available force to protect the farmers is too apparent for further comment . . . I will simply say that there is no available force now for this purpose, and that if such a force is not provided the work of civilization must be greatly retarded if not abandoned.” United States, Office of Indian Affairs, Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, for the year 1861, 89, http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/History.AnnRep61.
after George Day’s warning to President Lincoln, missionaries Thomas S. Williamson and Stephen R. Riggs wrote a letter to Congress outlining all of the necessary changes in legislation regarding Indian policy in Minnesota. Williamson and Riggs were long time missionaries among the Dakota and knew the community exceedingly well.26 In their letter, the authors noted that their address of two years prior had been delivered without response.27 They continued by warning Congress of the dire need for legislation “specifically,” as they stated, “in order to guard as far as possible against a collision with the Indians on our frontiers.”28 Then, on March 6, Bishop
Dr. Thomas Williamson is known as the “Father of the Dakota Mission” and he founded the mission at Lac qui Parle in 1835. Dr. Stephen Riggs began his work among the Sioux in 1837 and founded the mission at Hazelwood. He is also the author of A Grammar and Dictionary of the Dakota Language. 27
I have been unable to locate this letter.
Thomas S. Williamson and Stephen R. Riggs to Congress, 2 January 1862, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 18241880, St. Peters Agency, 1862-1865, M234, Roll 764, National Archives.
Henry Whipple wrote a lengthy address to President Lincoln in which he outlined the neglect and wrong done to the Indians in Minnesota. Whipple blamed the Indian’s “sad condition” on the dishonesty of Agents and the system of treaties. He claimed that “neglect and want” are fast dooming the Indians to death. Lastly, he outlined several suggestions for how the situation ought to be improved.29 Finally, days before the Outbreak, an irrefutable warning was written by the residents of New Ulm and sent to Governor Alexander Ramsey. The petition was made on August 14, 1862. In the petition the residents advised the Governor that because the annuity payment had not yet been made, the Indians “threaten to overwhelm these frontier settlements with Indian warfare.” They went so far as to refer to their situation as one of “eminent danger” and warned of a massacre by the Indians. Within nine days of
Henry Benjamin Whipple, Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate, (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1902), 510-514.
this petition, New Ulm had been besieged twice and two of the signatories of the petition were killed.30 Not only had the petition of August 14 warned of and Indian outbreak, but it also brought up the issues of corruption within the Indian System in Minnesota. The residents of New Ulm, like George Day, recognized the fraud and corruption that was rampant and that something needed to be done. The petition noted that annuity monies had been “corruptly misapplied” and a request for a thorough investigation was made.31 Years earlier, in 1853, an investigation was made of Alexander Ramsey in which a witness alleged that Ramsey had mishandled $450,000 of Indian money. But the result of that investigation was a unanimous decision by the Senate that “Governor Ramsey’s conduct was not only free from blame, but highly 30
150th Anniversary of the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862: A Commemoration, “The August 14th 1862 Petition,” Introduction by Curtis Dahlin, http://browncountydakotawarcommemoration.com/uploads/Februar y_2011_Article.pdf. 31
General George Crooker, who
participated in the Conflict, also recognized corruption among Ramsey and other officials. In a letter written October 7, 1862, Crooker accused Governor Ramsey of having bribed men to keep quiet during the earlier investigation of 1853. In the same letter Crooker declared confidently that the cause of the Outbreak, â€œwas the thievish and dishonest conduct of Government agents, officers, and traders.33 Crooker pointed out that Agents often retire rich even though an Agent never makes more than $1500 a year.34 This reflected the sentiments of George Day, who, upon writing to Commissioner Dole in December of 1861, asserted that poor and destitute men
David A. Nichols, Lincoln and the Indians: Civil War Policy and Politics, (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1978), 66; Isaac V.D. Heard, History of the Sioux War and Massacres of 1862 and 1863, (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1864), 41. 33
George A.S. Crooker to Abraham Lincoln, 7 October 1862, Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress. 34
that come from nothing can make twice as much money as the salary of the President.35 Bishop Henry B. Whipple was another man that recognized corruption and was adamant about the neglect and wrong doing that led to the Conflict of 1862. In 1860, Whipple wrote to President Buchannan and warned him that â€œa nation which sowed robbery would reap a harvest of blood.â€?36 Then, in February of 1861, Whipple wrote a firm letter to the Secretary of the Interior in which he defended the character of the Indians. He went on with a long, inexorable plea for good, honest men to be appointed as agents and called the entire history of the Indians one of neglect, wrong, and robbery.37 A year later, Bishop Whipple implored President Lincoln with a letter on March 6, 1862. In this letter Whipple called for radical reform and 35
Day to Dole, 21 December 1861.
Nichols, Lincoln and the Indians, 132.
Henry B. Whipple to the Honorable Secretary of the Indians, 23 February 1861, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880, M234, Roll 599, National Archives, 0192.
referred to the current system as a “nursery of fraud.”38 Whipple also attacked the treaty system stating that if men knew the secret history of each treaty “it would fill them with astonishment.”39 Whipple took reform one step further and visited Washington several times. In the fall of 1862 Whipple spoke candidly with President Lincoln and gave him a full account of the 1862 Conflict. In this meeting Whipple could see that the President was “deeply moved.” However, Lincoln’s response was trivial and obscure. Lincoln said that “it needs more than one honest man to watch one Indian Agent.” On behalf of Whipple’s efforts, before their meeting concluded that day, Lincoln declared, “If we get through this war, and I live, this Indian System shall be reformed!”40
Henry Benjamin Whipple, “What Shall we do with the Indians” in Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate, (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1902), 516. 39
According to Whipple, this was Lincoln’s response: “Bishop, a man thought that monkeys could pick cotton better than
The Indian System that Lincoln pledged to reform had its framework in the making of treaties. The treaties were used as a tool of the government to obtain Indian lands while supposedly avoiding conflict. As Congress saw it, the type of men who wanted the land would take it, regardless of the Indians. The roots of the treaty system in Minnesota date back to 1805 when Lieutenant Zebulon Pike bought the land that would become Fort Snelling. This was the first treaty between the U.S. Government and the Dakota of Minnesota. The next was the Treaty of St. Peters in 1837 in which the Dakota relinquished their lands east of the Mississippi River. This was followed by the Treaty of the Traverse des Sioux in 1851 in which the Dakota relinquished much of their land west of the Mississippi River. As a part of this treaty the Indians agreed to relocate on a reservation stretching ten miles on negroes could because they were quicker and their fingers smaller. He turned a lot of them into his cotton field, but he found that it took two overseers to watch one monkey. It needs more than one honest man to watch one Indian Agent.â€? Whipple, Lights and Shadows, 136-137.
either side of the Minnesota River and extending from approximately New Ulm in the south and Big Stone in the north. Seven years later the Dakota signed away their lands north of the Minnesota in a treaty in 1858. Treaty making was an essential part of the Indian System and it played a huge role in the corruption that led to the U.S. – Dakota Conflict.
Regardless of intent, the
treaties worked as a money machine used by opportunists to build a fortune. As historian and a participant in the Conflict, Isaac V.D. Heard put it, the treaties are “born in fraud” and their stipulations for the future “are curtailed by iniquity.”41 This came at the expense of the Indians. The opportunists who created the iniquity of the treaty system included claimants, contractors, and traders. Claimants filed claims with the government alleging Indian destruction of property or other losses.42 Their claims were
Heard, History of the Sioux War, 33.
Nichols, Lincoln and the Indians, 11.
often exaggerated and there was no way for the Indian to make counter claims. The money paid to claimants was taken out of annuity monies and passed from the government straight into the hands of the claimant. One example was clearly shown in 1851 when Henry Sibley succeeded in claiming $145,000 as money due him for overpayments to the Dakota for furs!43 Contractors were a necessary part of the treaty process. They were required to help with removal, to establish new reservations, to supply food, to supply transportation, and for other various purposes. But contracts were often made at extremely high prices or the contracts were made but not fulfilled. Upon taking office in April 1861, Commission of Indian Affairs William P. Dole expressed to President Lincoln that he had to â€œrepudiateâ€? several contracts made by his predecessor
which were made at “fraudulently high prices and without the concurrence of the Secretary of the Interior.”44 Traders were perhaps the most obvious and contemptuous exploiters of the treaty system. It was estimated by the Secretary of the Interior that traders enjoyed a profit margin of three or four hundred percent.45 One Agent called the trading system “defective” because it did not prevent the Indians from contracting “ruinous debt” and that traders are able to establish influence over the Indians and the Government.46 The infamous Trader’s Paper, which was surreptitiously added to the 1851 treaty, is a glaring example of the trader’s avarice. The Trader’s
This is proof that at the highest level there was contract fraud. As Dole reported it, “This office having so far as we have the power repudiated contracts made by my predecessor only a few days before his going out of office for the building of several hundred houses and other buildings etc. which contracts were let as I believe at fraudulently high prices and without the concurrence of the Sec. of the Interior.” William P. Dole to Abraham Lincoln, 1 April 1861, Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress. 45
Nichols, Lincoln and the Indians, 14.
United States, Annual Report, for the year 1853, 71.
found a loophole in the treaty that allowed them to claim $210,000 of subsistence money from the Indians.47 The Chiefs were asked to sign the Trader’s Paper immediately after they signed the treaty, but they were not explained what it said or what it represented.48 In the treaty of 1858 there was a stipulation that no debts should be paid unless they were approved in public council of the Indians. As Bishop Whipple indicated, “no council of the kind was ever held.”49 And yet, of the $96,000 awarded the Dakota, nearly all of it was absorbed by claims, leaving a scant
In the Treaty of the Traverse des Sioux it was written that $275,000 was stipulated “to the Chiefs of said bands, to enable them to comply with their present just engagements.” Originally the claims equaled $431,735.78 for seventy-five beneficiaries, but that total had to be reduced to fit the treaty stipulations. William Watts Folwell, History of Minnesota, Vol. 1, (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1956), 282-283; Gilman, Henry Hastings Sibley, 126. 48
When Sioux Agent Nathaniel McLean requested that the “trader’s paper” be read and explained his request was refused because “it would make a disturbance” and the Indians understood it anyway. Folwell, History of Minnesota, 283. 49
Whipple also found distress in the fact that there was a clause authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to use any of their money as he deemed most to the advantage of the Indians. Whipple, Lights and Shadows, 137-138.
$880.58.50 Many white men even came to depend on the treaty system. In 1850, for instance, Henry Sibley’s Sioux Outfit was $400,000 in debt. In October of 1850, Joseph Sire wrote to Sibley that “our whole dependence is now a treaty.”51 Ultimately the treaties left the Indians starving while it lined the pockets of shrewd and rapacious men. It also worked to bolster many political careers. There were efforts made for reform. The attempts of reformists were put forth with the greatest possible aspiration. At times it seemed they might effect change. After Lincoln heard about the Indian problems from Whipple he said, “I felt it down to my boots,” and he pledged reform.52 Then, rather than wait for the end of the Civil War as Lincoln had initially asserted, on December 1, 1862, Lincoln asked Congress to remodel the Indian
Nichols, Lincoln and the Indians, 76.
Gilman, Henry Hastings Sibley, 120.
Whipple, Lights and Shadows, 137.
System.53 Again, in his 1863 annual address, Lincoln asked Congress to reform the System as he proclaimed the “urgent need for immediate legislative action.”54 That same year George Day demonstrated his continued dedication toward reform when he wrote another letter to the President, this time with an accusation rather than a warning. Day declared that he had “abundant evidence that there would not have been any war nor massacre in Minnesota if the Indians had not been wronged or robbed of hundreds of thousands of dollars and defrauded in every way.”55
Nichols, Lincoln and the Indians, 144.
George Crooker made a similar accusation just following the termination of the Conflict. He stated to Secretary of State, William H. Seward, “[I] would do my best endeavors to lay bare the conduct of a set of villains whose work has not only cost a large sum of money but has deluged our western frontier in blood.” George A.S. Crooker to William H. Seward, 8 October 1862, Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress; George E.H. Day to Abraham Lincoln, 24 April 1863, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880, “Northern Superintendency,” M234, Roll 599, National Archives, 0553.
Despite these calls, pleas, and accusations, many in Congress rejected reform. This included Minnesota Congressmen Henry M. Rice, Morton S. Wilkinson, and Cyrus Aldrich. After Whipple continued to plead for reform Wilkinson gave him the excuse that there was no time to do it and that nothing would be done in haste.56 Rice seemed to entertain the idea of reform but said there was nothing he could do. Rice summarized the situation in Congress when he said, “the do nothing policy is here complete.”57 By 1864, Lincoln no longer asked for reform. Early that year Congress killed a bill for “the benefit and better management of the Indians.” Commissioner Dole, who initially supported reform, gave in and called the current system of concentrating and confining Indians a “fixed policy” of the Government.58
It is also interesting to note the disposition of Governor Ramsey toward the Indian situation in Minnesota. To begin, he did nothing to stop the departure of Lieutenant Sheehan from Fort Ridgely on August 16, 1862, despite the warning he just received from the residents of New Ulm.59 Then, upon reporting the Conflict to President Lincoln on August 26, Ramsey had the audacity to claim that the war “came upon us suddenly.”60 Finally, on November 28, when Ramsey reported to Lincoln regarding the execution of over three hundred 59
On June 14, 1862, Agent Clark W. Thompson requested a detachment of 150 men to be sent to Yellow Medicine to “preserve order.” No troops were sent and another request was made on July 27, which was made directly to Lt. Sheehan at Fort Ripley. Lt. Sheehan reported to Yellow Medicine with a detachment of about fifty men. These men were quite necessary on August 4, when Indians at the Upper Agency broke into the storehouse. What is curious is that despite the obvious need for their presence as presented by circumstances and the petition of August 14, 1862, Lt. Sheehan and his men left to return to Fort Ripley on August 16. Two days later they were forced to return. They made it just in time to prevent the defeat of Fort Ridgely. Minnesota Board of Commissioners, Eds., Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, 1861-1865: Official Reports and Correspondences, Vol. 2, (St. Paul: The Pioneer Press Company, 1893), 163-164. 60
Alexander Ramsey to Abraham Lincoln, 26 August 1862, Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress.
Dakota Indians, Ramsey stated, “If you prefer it, turn them over to me and I will order their execution.”61 It is clear that the reformers could not count on the support of the Governor of Minnesota. Ultimately reform was defeated because the people in Minnesota were more interested in removal than reform and the men in Congress were more interested in power, wealth, and social mobility provided by the System. Nothing could be changed as long as the profiteers were in power. As George Crooker stated, “The cohesive power of public plunder cements rogues together stronger than any party or any other ties.”62 It is apparent that in the years leading up to 1862 the Dakota of Minnesota were defrauded. Savvy men took advantage of an expanding frontier to build their fortunes and substantiate their political careers. This left the Dakota 61
Alexander Ramsey to Abraham Lincoln, 28 November 1862, Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress. 62
Crooker to Seward, 8 October 1862.
exploited, poor, sick, and starving. But the situation did not go unnoticed. Many recommendations were made. First the recommendations came from the Agents who asked for new systems of education, trade, land distribution, criminal punishment, and so on. They asked for annuities to be paid sooner. They asked that treaty stipulations be met. They asked for soldiers to protect the frontier. And they warned that if changes were not made all would be for naught.63 Then there were men like George Day, Henry Whipple, and George Crooker who revealed corruption and fought for reform. These men pleaded with the highest officials in the land for change to occur. Bishop Whipple wrote a letter to Commissioner Dole in January 1863, in which he pleaded that Dole was the only man who could give justice to the Indians and who could save whites from the horrors of
In 1856 Agent Murphy wrote rather matter-of-factly, â€œCertainly it (civilization) will never occur from any act of the United States government unless a different system is pursued. United States, Annual Report, for the year 1856, 55.
another Indian Massacre.64 Crooker in a strictly straightforward manner said, “Do away as fast as possible with the entire train of Indian Superintendents, Indian Agents, and Indian Traders and all Government Officials.65 There exists a practically interminable line of letters, pleas, and recommendations for change and reform. Yet nothing was done. Nothing was changed. The Dakota were banished from the state, imprisoned, hanged, and exiled and left starving and sick. Meanwhile, Minnesotans were awarded $1.5 million compensation for damages from the war. As historian David Nichols stated, “Indian money continued to flow to Minnesota.66 On August 4, 1862, hungry Dakota Indians at the Upper Agency broke into a storehouse and carried off more
Henry B. Whipple to William P. Dole, 22 January 1863, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880, “Northern Superintendency,” M234, Roll 599, National Archives, 0812. 65
Crooker to Lincoln, 7 October 1862.
Nichols, Lincoln and the Indians, 115-116.
than one hundred bags of flour.67 The army was brought in and violence nearly erupted. Luckily, Chief Little Crow of the Mdewakanton’s quickly rode to the Upper Agency and mediated the situation. The following day, while in council between the Indians and the whites Little Crow warned that “When men are hungry they help themselves.”68 Little Crow was right. At its most fundamental level poverty and starvation led to the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862. But the reasons for these circumstances are far more complex. There is no one person to blame such trader Andrew Myrick who made the infamous statement, “As far as I am concerned, if they are hungry let them eat grass.”69 There is no one incident that caused the Outbreak, not even the stolen eggs and the killings that followed in Acton. The factors that led to the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862 and its results clearly lie within the Indian System itself. The 67
Gary Clayton Anderson, Little Crow: Spokesman for the Sioux, (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1986), 123. 68 Ibid., 127. 69
Indian System was one of removal, concentration, and assimilation. It was met with resistance from the Indians and it was exploited by profiteers, businessmen, and politicians. It was a political system rooted in bureaucracy and made up of the President, his appointees, and Congress. It was then followed up with claimants, traders, and contractors who sought to tap federal monies. Few men had the interest of the Indian or even the government in mind. Those who did were powerless to change it and often faced reprisal if they tried.70 The System was too big and its components too powerful. It was, as historian David Nichols called it, a System of “institutionalized
Those who spoke out against the System were often chastised or accused of the same corruption they sought to reveal. George Day, for instance, was accused by Clark Thompson of corruption in April of 1862. In a similar case, William H. Rector, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Oregon, made a long list of corrupt practices committed by local Agents. Shortly thereafter many had called for Rector to be terminated. When President Lincoln refused to fire Rector, Lincoln was warned by Secretary of the Interior, John P. Usher, that he would “regret” his action and that he faced “a day of reckoning.” Nichols, Lincoln and the Indians, 74-75, 19-20.
corruption.â€?71 Rhetoric seemed to be the only tool the reformers had against an immovable bureaucracy. 72 The American Indian never had a chance. The Indian System took everything from them. Not only did the System take their land and their resources, but it stripped them of their culture and denied them of their history. In 1862, the Dakota Indians of Southwestern Minnesota did what they believed they had to do to survive.
Appendix 1. George E.H. Day to Abraham Lincoln, Wednesday, January 01, 1862 (Report on Indian Affairs in Minnesota) St. Anthony Minn. Jan 1, 1862 Mr. President In August last I was appointed Special Commissioner by Mr. Dole Comm. Ind. Affairs with the approbation of Hon. Mr. Smith Sec. Interior at the request of Hon. J.R. Doolittle Chairman of the Senate Com. Ind. Affairs and Hon. C. Aldrich Chairman of House Com. Same subject for 100 days only. I visited the Chippewas of the Miss. first - then of Lake Superior - - held 3 councils with them - - then I visited the Winnebagoes and then the Sioux or Dacotas held 3 more councils travelling all by land (nearly) about 1800 miles in my own wagon driving my mules, often sleeping in the woods and generally without any companions - - distance between stopping places from 20 to 60 miles frequently. Everywhere I have been treated by the present officers of Gov. with courtesy and have reciprocated all civilities and enclose herewith a copy of a letter of the Hon. Mr. Galbraith Sioux Agt., for consideration. I have discovered numerous violations of law and many frauds committed by past Agents and a superintendent. I think I can establish frauds to the amount from 20 to 100 thousand dollars and satisfy any reasonable intelligent man that the Indians whom I have visited in this state and Wisconsin have been defrauded of more than 100 thousand dollars in or during the four years past. The Superintendent Major Cullen, alone, has saved, as all his friends say more than 100 thousand in four years out of a 42
salary of 2 thousand a year and all the Agents whose salaries are 15 hundred a year have become rich. The Indians are decreasing in numbers and yet their payments never increase but year after year have also decreased to each person and in the aggregate. The whole system is defective and must be revised or, your red children, as they call themselves, will continue to be wronged and outraged and the just vengeance of heaven continue to be poured out and visited upon this nation for its abuses and cruelty to the Indian. I most sincerely desire to aid Mr. Dole and Hon. Mr. Smith in revising and perfecting the trade and intercourse laws and regulations with the cooperation such honest men as Judge Doolittle and others who desire that the placing of the Government in the hands of an honest man shall result in honest and free and humane dealings and transactions with the poor defrauded and degraded Indians of our frontiers. Here are a few of the words of the head Chief of Lake Superior Chippeways spoken at my Council Oct. 22, 1861, last, â€œWe send him our Great Father - - our profound respects - - We hope his heart is like the Great Spirit all benevolence and that he will listen to our requests.â€? At all my councils the Chiefs desire me to make many requests of their Great Father and tell him of many wrongs they had suffered from the Gov. Agents and especially Traders the greatest Curse of the Indians and the Curse of the nation for they boast that they can control Congress and have done it. Our Senator Rice is an old trader with two living Indian wives and he has had, during the past administration, with which he was omnipotent, three old Indian Traders appointed Agents. I never scarcely heard of an honest Indian trader - and then it is understood he is very liberally supported every way by the Traders the whole pack of traders and ex Agents and Superintendents are making war upon me because I have been looking up their frauds and rascalities 43
and because they can neither frighten nor buy me - - each of those means having been ineffectually tried. I was at two of your receptions last summer desired to see you alone but knowing how overwhelmed with cares you was, never called. If I were not poor and had not a family to support I would go to Washington at my own cost out of love of country and the poor Indian. I have written to the Secretary of the Interior and Commr. Dole and do not wish this refereed to them - - but desire to be requested to go at Gov. expense $135, would pay all I think as above stated I could save nearly as many thousands. A suggestion to Mr. Dole or any course you choose would accomplish it. The Indian Traders and Agents nearly if not quite control our delegation in Congress except Mr. Windom whom I consider an honest man neither to be briber nor frightened - sound as a rock I feel to trust a man who fears God I have the honor to be your obt. Servant. Geo. E.H. Day Special Commr.
2. Thomas J. Williamson and Stephen R. Riggs to Congress, January 02, 1862. Pajutazee, January 2, 1862 To the Senators and House of Representatives of American Congress Assembled. Something over two years ago we addressed you as the necessity of further legislation for the Indians. Though what we asked for was not accomplished we feel encouraged to address you again upon this same 44
subject hoping we may be more successful. [Now] when our nation is engaged in a terrible struggle to put down a most wicked rebellion we cannot hope for all [ . . . ] legislation that is desirable in reference to the Indians. But the war in which we are engaged makes it more necessary that once legislation [ . . . ] be had [ . . . ] in order to guard as far as possible against a collision with the Indians on our frontiers. We will mention some of the evils for which we hope you may by law provide a remedy before the close of the present session, and thus do much not only ameliorate the conditions of the aborigines of our country; but at the same time add much to the security and comfort of citizens of the United States among and near them. The only law for the protection of the property of Indians [ . . . ] of whites living among them, with which we are acquainted, was passed about the year 1824 and 1835. We have not now access to the law. Its general provisions are just, but as understood by Indian Agents and other Officers of government, defective. It provides for remunerating citizens of the United States for injuries suffered from Indians and vice versa: but not expressly for remunerating Indians for injuries suffered from each other; and makes no proper provisions for adjudicating each claim. The practice has been to present each claim to the agent, who if this claim is against Indians, mentions the matter to them, and if they tell him to pay it out of their money annuity very well. If not, as is mostly the case the claim is sent to Washington, and seldom hear from again unless an attorney is employed to prosecute it. Consequently the poor men whose cow or ox has been killed or horse stolen, generally loses it while wicked men with large and unjust claims employ attorneys who get them paid at Washington. When the Hon. Henry H. Sibley was delegate in congress he got a bill passed forbidding any officer of Government from holding back any annuity due Indians under any pretext whatever. This has never been of 45
any advantage to Indians while it has prevented their agents from settling just claims. It ought to be appealed and it should be made the duty of all Indian Agents to adjudicate all claims against the Indians of their several agencies whatever such claims be made by whites or Indians and to render just satisfaction to the injured [ . . . ] so far as he can do so from the annuities of the Indians and it would be well if he was required to prosecute whites who have stolen or destroyed the property of Indians. Of late years a few individuals of the annuity Sioux have become very much addicted to stealing horses. Several have been stolen from whites and many from Indians in this neighborhood and so many from the settlers [ . . . ] the Big Sioux that they have threatened to shoot any Sioux from this region seen in their neighborhood, and the past summer did shoot and kill a grandson of the principal chief of the Sissetons while attempting to steal a horse. Such things endanger the peace of the frontiers. They may be prevented by requiring payment to be made for horses stolen from the band to which the thief belongs, that is the one in which he was last enrolled before the theft was committed though it would be well also to imprison the thief when he can be taken. By absenting themselves from the pay table and changing from one band to another, horse thieves have hitherto escaped punishment. On page 103 of the report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for 1860 it is asserted on the authority of some United States Judge that there is no law for the punishment of persons for cutting timber from Indian reservations. Some law of this kind is very necessary for the welfare of the Dacotas. In the agreement made with them at Washington in 1858 it is promised that land shall be assigned in severalty to those who will improve and cultivate it and the late agent had some lots surveyed and assigned but as the amount [ . . . ] or word land on the reservation is very small probably less than five acres to each family, without some law to protect the 46
timber which is being rapidly destroyed all [ . . . ] in severalty can do but little good. The civilizing prices must soon be arrested for want of wood and another country assigned these Indians. Some regulations in regard to herding cattle are necessary for the advancement of this people in agriculture as timber for fencing is already very scarce. And becoming more so every year. As the present agent (Mr. Galbraith) appears to be an honest, judicious man it might be well to empower him to promulgate and enforce such regulations for the protection of its timber fields and cattle of these Indians as their present circumstances require. The undersigned understand that the Secretary of the Interior proposes that the Governor [ . . . ] furnish the Indians with the goods usually supplied by the Indian traders on its [ . . . ] that its Indians are greatly [ . . . ] by they traders. We think the Secretary has been misinformed and would view the adoption of his proposition as a great calamity. The best remedy for cheating in trade is competition. We have never had any correction with Indian traders and would not be inclined to favor them at the expense of the Indians; and we do not suppose the Indians would be in the least benefited by the changes, but think that the country will prove true. We know that the Indians express more dissatisfaction with the goods furnished by the Government Officers than with those furnished by the traders monopolies are not less hateful to Indians than other people. Even if the Government should furnish them with the same quality of goods at a less price, it would be bad policy, at this time to displease them by interfering with the traders. The worst cheating the traders have practiced upon the Indians has been done by complicity with the Officers of the Government who have aided the traders in getting pay for goods that many of the Indians say they had already paid for. We have reference
to the money which the traders have received for debts due them at each treaty. Thomas J. Williamson Stephen R. Riggs Thomas J. Williamson and Stephen R. Riggs to Congress, 02 January 1862, Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880. “Northern Superintendency, 1861-1867.” Record Group 75, M 234, Roll 599. National Archives.
3. Trader’s Paper – July 23, 1851 “We, the undersigned, chiefs, soldiers, and braves . . . having this day concluded a treaty . . . and being desirous to pay to our traders and half-breeds the sum of money which we acknowledge to be justly due to them, do hereby obligate and bind ourselves, as the authorized representatives of the aforesaid bands, to pay to the individuals hereafter designated the sum of money set opposite to their respective names . . . and as it is specified that said sum shall be paid in such manner as requested by the chiefs in open council thereafter, we do hereby in open council request and desire that the said sums below specified shall be paid to the persons designated . . . and for this payment . . . we hereby solemnly pledge ourselves and the faith of our nation.” Folwell, William Watts. A History of Minnesota. Vol. 1. St. Paul: The Minnesota Historical Society, 1956.
4. Bishop Henry B. Whipple to Abraham Lincoln, March 06, 1862. March 6, 1862 To the President of the United States. The sad condition of the Indians of this State, who are my heathen wards, compels me to address you on their behalf. I ask only justice for a wronged and neglected race. I write the more cheerfully because I believe that the intentions of the Government have always been kind; but they have been thwarted by dishonest servants, illconceived plans, and defective instructions. Before their treaty with the United States, the Indians of Minnesota were as favorably situated as an uncivilized race could well be. Their lakes, forests, and prairies furnished abundant game, and their hunts supplied them with valuable furs for the purchase of all articles of traffic. The great argument to secure the sale of their lands is the promise of their civilization. . . . The sale is made, and after the dishonesty which accompanies it there is usually enough money left, if honestly expended, to foster the Indians' desires for civilization. Remember, the parties to this contract are a great Christian Nation and a poor heathen people. From the day of the treaty a rapid deterioration takes place. The Indian has sold the hunting-grounds necessary for his comfort as a wild man; His tribal relations are weakened; his chief's power and influence circumscribed; and he will soon be left a helpless man without a government, a protector, or a friend, unless treaty is observed. The Indian agents who are placed in trust of the honor and faith of the Government are generally selected without any reference to their fitness for the place. The Congressional delegation desires to award John Doe for 49
party work, and John Doe desires the place because there is a tradition on the border that an Indian agent with fifteen hundred dollars a year can retire upon an ample fortune in four years. The Indian agent appoints his subordinates from the same motive, either to reward his friends' service, or to fulfill the bidding of his Congressional patron. They are often men without any fitness, sometimes a disgrace to a Christian nation; whiskey-sellers, bar-room loungers, debauchers, selected to guide a heathen people. Then follow all the evils of bad example, of inefficiency, and of dishonesty, ---- the school a sham, the supplies wasted, the improvement fund or curtailed by fraudulent contracts. The Indian, bewildered, conscious of wrong, but helpless, has no refuge but to sink into a depth of brutishness. There have been noble instances of men who have tried to do their duty; but they have generally been powerless for lack of hearty cooperation of others, or because no man could withstand the corruption which has pervaded every department of Indian affairs. The United States has virtually left the Indian without protection . . . I can count up more than a dozen murders which have taken place in the Chippewa County within two years . . . There is no law to protect the innocent or punish the guilty. The sale of whiskey, the open licentiousness, the neglect and want are fast dooming this people to death, and as sure as there is a God much of the guilt lies at the Nation's door. The first question is, can these red men become civilized? I say, unhesitatingly, yes. The Indian is almost the only heathen man on earth who is not an idolater. In his wild state he is braver, more honest, and virtuous than most heathen races. He has warm home affections and strong love of kindred and country. The Government of England has, among Indians speaking the same language with our own, some marked instances of their capability of 50
civilization. In Canada you will find there are hundreds of civilized and Christian Indians, while on this side of the line there is only degradation. The first thing needed is honesty. There has been a marked deterioration in Indian affairs since the office has become one of mere political favoritism. Instructions are not worth the price of the ink with which they are written if they are to be carried out by corrupt agents. Every employee ought to be a man of purity, temperance, industry, and unquestioned integrity. Those selected to teach in any department must be men of peculiar fitness, --patient, with quick perceptions, enlarged ideas, and men who love their work. They must be something better than so many drudges fed at the public crib. The second step is to frame instructions so that the Indian shall be the ward of the Government. They cannot live without law. We have broken up, in part, their tribal relations, and they must have something in their place. Whenever the Indian desires to abandon his wild life, the Government ought to aid him in building a house, in opening his farm, in providing utensils and implements of labor. His home should be conveyed to him by a patent, and be inalienable. It is a bitter cause of complaint that the Government has not fulfilled its pledges in this respect. It robs the Indian of manhood and leaves him subject to the tyranny of wild Indians, who destroy his crops, burn his fences, and appropriate the rewards of his labor. The schools should be ample to receive all children who desire to attend. As it is, with six thousand dollars appropriated for the Lower Sioux for some seven years past, I doubt whether there is a child at the lower agency who can read who has not been taught by our missionary. Our Mission School has fifty children, and the entire cost of the mission, with three faithful teachers, every dollar of which passes through my own hands, is less than seven hundred dollars a year. 51
In all future treaties it ought to be the object of the Government to pay the Indians in kind, supplying their wants at such times as they may require help. This valuable reform would only be a curse in the hands of a dishonest agent. If wisely and justly expended, the Indian would not be as he now is, ---often on the verge of starvation. . . . It may be beyond my province to offer these suggestions; I have made them because my heart aches for this poor wronged people. The heads of the Department are too busy to visit the Indian country, and even if they did it would be to find the house swept and garnished for an official visitor. It seems to me that the surest plan to remedy these wrongs and to prevent them for the future, would be to appoint a commission of some three persons to examine the whole subject and to report to the Department a plan which should remedy the evils which have so long been a reproach to our nation. If such were appointed, it ought to be composed of men of inflexible integrity, of large heart, of clear head, of strong will, who fear God and love man. I should like to see it composed of men so high in character that they are above the reach of the political demagogues. I have written to you freely with all the frankness with which a Christian bishop has the right to write to the Chief Ruler of a great Christian Nation. My design his not been to complain of individuals, nor to make accusations. Bad as I believe some of the appointments to be, they are the fault of a political system. When I came to Minnesota I was startled at the degradation at my door. I give these men missions; God has blessed me, and I would count every trial I have had as a way of roses if I could save this people. May God guide you and give you grace to order all things, so that the Government shall deal righteously with the Indian nations in its charge. 52
Your Servant for Christâ€™s sake, H.B. Whipple Bishop of Minnesota Whipple, Benjamin Henry. Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1902.
5. August 14th Petition, August 14, 1862. To his Excellency the Governor of the State of Minnesota. Your memorialists, residents of Brown County Minnesota and residents of the Western Frontier Settlements adjoining the Dacotah and Sioux Indian Territory, respectfully represent: The payment for the Dacotah and Sioux nation of Indians has this year been delayed up to this time. That said Indians considering said payment justly due to them and relying on the same for their subsistence, have become by such delay exceedingly exasperated, have committed several outrages and threaten to overwhelm these frontier settlements with Indian Warfare. That your memeorialists are in eminent danger to see their families massacred by said Indians, if the able bodied men of these settlements should be removed from here under the militia draft, before said Indians are appeased by receiving what is justly due them. That the rumor has spread here far and wide that the United Sates Government has paid the money in gold for said Indians long ago, but that said money has been corruptly misapplied in speculations on the discount between gold and paper currency and otherwise by the Hon. Clark Thompson, Superintendent of the Indian Affairs in the 53
State of Minnesota, and that this is the reason of the delay of the payment. Your memorialists therefore pray: 1. That the drafted militia from this part of the country may not be removed before the Indians have received their payment and are thereby appeased. 2. That if Clark Thompson should not have received the money for the Indians, some of your memorialsist may be authentically informed of that fact, so thereby the fair reputation of said Clark Thompson may be restored. 3. That if said money should have been paid by the Government, as the rumor goes, in that event a thorough investigation concerning the misapplication of the money may be instituted. Dated August 14th, A.D. 1862 (signed by 46 residents) Brown County Historical Society, The August 14th 1862 Petition: A Commemoration. â€œ150th Anniversary of the U.S. â€“ Dakota War of 1862. http://www.browncountydakotawarcommemoration .com/uploads/February_2011_Article.pdf.
6. George A.S. Crooker to Abraham Lincoln, Tuesday, October 07, 1862 (Sioux Uprising in Minnesota). Sir I have after much reflection concluded to put on paper and send you some facts and opinions of intelligent citizens of St. Paul in relation to the Indian outbreak in Minnesota. These opinions are expressed and held by multitudes of people here of all classes and conditions both politically and socially. And 54
1. What caused the outbreak and what number engaged in it. From all proofs yet offered there is no evidence whatever to induce the belief that the Secessionists of the South had anything to do with it. The possession of a few Sharps Rifles by the Indians has been referred to as evidence of it. But the Sioux Indians engaged in the murder and pillage never had more than ten such rifles and these it can be proved were bought in St. Paul. The outbreak of the Sioux was caused by the wretched condition of the tribes, some of them were almost at the point of starvation, the neglect of the Government agents to make the annuity payments at the proper time and the insulting taunts of the Agents to their cries for bread one of them told them “they must eat their own” – excrement (I soften the word) and also in a very great degree to the rapacious robberies of the Agents, Traders, and Government officials who always connive together to steal every dollar of their money that can be stolen. How else can it be true as is the adage here That “if an Agent can hold office through one yearly payment of annuities he can retire rich for life” when his salary is never more than $1500 a year and often less. A kind and considerate Agent who had the interests of his Government and the well being of the Indians at heart would have avoided and prevented the whole of the bloodshed that followed. The Indians were told by a set of demons in the shape of white men that now was their time to get their revenge for all the past because all of our fighting men were gone to the war at the south. These demons all live in Minnesota. 2. What has been and now is the number of Indians engaged in the war. 55
There never has been at any time 500 Indians in this war in arms against the whites and there is not a shadow of probability that Little Crow can muster over 250 warriors to day. They are great cowards and 450 well equipped soldiers with one six pounder would drive them out of the state if the upper chiefs of the same tribe would let them pass through their lands. But these upper chiefs not only refuse to join him but refuse to let him cross their territory to run away. 2000 Infantry and 500 Cavalry rightly officered, equipped and directed would exterminate the whole nest of these outlaws in thirty days. These 200 or 300 Indians from the grand army that Gen. Pope gravely demands 25,000 men and all the necessary munitions and paraphernalia and pomp of Eastern warfare to crush out. If Col. Sibley really desired to exterminate these lawless Indians he could with small addition of Cavalry to his present force do it in ten days and before Gen. Pope could send his orders to the troops to stay such ruthless haste. But Gen. Pope need not fear such a movement from Gallant Col. Sibley. He does not wish to shed the blood of his brethren. He knows and feels the truth of the old adage that â€œblood is thicker than water.â€? He knows and everybody else here knows that the blood of the Sioux flows in the veins of his children. He knows too (perhaps a stronger restraint than the last) that the dead Indian draws no money from the Government and his chance for plunder as well as that of his illustrious compeers would be proportionately lessened and destroyed. About one half of the leading politicians and nine tenths of the Traders Indian traders and very many of them have long enjoyed the luxury and had to support the expense of two. In such cases the progeny of the Indian wife remains in the tribe with his mother making occasional visits to the father
at St. Paul. How easy through these secure channels to “strike but conceal the hand.” 2. What should be done with the Indians if taken. The people of Minnesota demand indemnity (as far as can be) for the past and above all security for the future. Very many demand the total extermination of the Sioux Indians. Some the execution of the guilty and the banishment of the rest, a great distance beyond the Missouri. The first would be a harsh judgment to pronounce against those who faithfully withstood all the appeals of Little Crow when he came to them fresh from the slaughter of those whom they may well believe to be their common enemies. A more Christian and a wiser policy would counsel a judgment better “tempered with mercy.” I would visit Little Crow, and the leaders of his band with the most severe penalties of the law. They should hang, the only death that the Indian dreads. To the residue I should be more lenient. The people of Minnesota will never consent that the war (if indeed it is entitled to the name) shall be settled without the removal of all Sioux tribes far from the confines of the state. We all know that of all the Indian Tribes living upon the borders of civilization, the Sioux are the most utterly faithless and barbarian. The people of Minnesota will not therefore bear a longer residence of this tribe among them. If the Government does not remove them, her people will avenge themselves by cutting them off in detail. 3. How shall this be accomplished by Government and will it better or improve the condition of the Indian. I would hold one more treaty with the Sioux. Give them the choice of removing peaceably under the care of the nation to some distant spot to be selected by the Government or to be driven there by the Government at the 57
point of the bayonet. Refuse forever hereafter to make any annuity payments in money. Do away forever as fast as possible with the entire train of Indian Superintendents, Indian Agents, Indian Traders and all Government officials. And if any kind of an officer must be appointed to do or superintend any man or set of men who reside anywhere near or in the state or territory where the officer is to be located. Regard the recommendation more suspiciously if it is made by leading politicians, most certainly if the individual to be appointed is to have the disbursement of large sums of money. Because you may rest assured whenever such appointments are made there is somewhere (to use an old adage) â€œmilk to be found in that coconut.â€? I feel confident if all the Indian outbreaks upon this continent were carefully examined and honestly probed to the bottom, the whole cause and origin would be found in the thievish and dishonest conduct of Government Agents, Officers, Traders and the vile confederates that procured their appointment and share their plunder and then gloss over and hide their iniquity. Instead of annuity payments build them mills, aid them in erecting dwellings, furnish implements of husbandry, instruct them how to keep these in repair and how to till the soil. Make them know all this must cease in a few years and that they must not only learn how to work but to keep their mills and implements in repair as well build other mills and dwellings when those erected by the government go to decay. The whole system of annuity payments has never been beneficial but rather an unmitigated curse to the Indian. In more than half of the cases of the payment of annuities to even the most civilized Indians in the United States, in the State of New York the Agent finds the annuity has been sold either to some liquor dealer for whiskey or some merchant at a great sacrifice and the sum 58
paid to the Indians is small indeed notwithstanding all the prohibitory laws that Congress or State Legislatures can make. It is in general, only those who have forfeited all pretension to honor or honesty and whose order or word will not be taken by reason of their debased and vicious character and who cannot therefore sell their annuity in advance who receive their money from the Agent to rush to the grog shop and there, their money is gone before they come to be sober once more by their necessity. The whole system is full and teems with unmitigated mischief to both the Indians and the Government. Beside all this wherever there is a large body of Indians to be paid, and a large amount of money to be paid to them, there the sharks and vultures of the land will gather like eagles around a dead carcass, and will unite in strong cabal until they get the power of appointment of Agents in their hands, and then all goes on swimmingly until the nest of thieves are disturbed by some calling of their tool, the Agent, to account. If investigation is had some of the band by dint of their influence get appointed to make the examination and the rest swear the criminal through. If there is any important witness against him as was the case when His Excellency Gov. Ramseyâ€™s conduct in the disbursement of the money received from the Government by him under the Treaty with the Sioux Indians about 1852 was attempted to be investigated at Washington, that witness is bought off as it is here said was the case of Col. Robinson a witness and complainant against Ramsey. The friends as well as the enemies of Ramsey speak of this transaction every day with terms of little but admiration of the arch evil of the Governor in buying off a dangerous witness against him by paying $10,000 dollars to sign a very guarded letter apparently withdrawing his charges. It is well known that Robinson received the title to a splendid house and lot from the Governor at the time. Another witness a brother of President Millard Fillmore has boasted numberless times 59
that the Governor paid him $2,000 to keep out of the way of a Subpoena and yet the friends of the Governor say he still made $40,000 dollars by the transaction of Mr. Senator H.M. Rice put in his own pocket $50,000 for his share of the plunder in the same transaction. The Indian Superintendent, Indian Agents, Indian Traders and the whole band of vultures and thieves were suddenly thrown into paroxysms on learning that Gen. Pope really intended to make the war a war of extermination against the Sioux. Dead Indians draw no money. Indians removed beyond the Missouri will be too far away for the interest of these kind gentry that have so long had them in charge. Extermination to them brings on the collapse of the pocket. It is not thought of by any of them with approval. They are too good subjects to steal from and must neither be killed or sent away. If they are removed or exterminated the Superintendent and Agents will leave. The Traders are done up brown. The stream of gold will no more flow up the Minnesota Valley. “Othello’s occupation gone.” The magnificent plan and estimates of Gen. Pope for his Indian campaign also arrested their attention. Something must be done and quickly done to arrest the made scheme of extermination indulged and about to be attempted by Gen. Pope and to get into the hands of one of their own mess, the expenditure of the vast amount estimated by Gen. Pope for his Indian campaign. A congregation of the “forty thieves” of St. Paul must be had to arrest the madcap Gen. Pope in his extermination scheme and to clutch the golden fruits of this Godsend of an Indian raid brought about by some of themselves. There comes the union Republican Governor the Republican and Democratic Senators in Congress. There come too the Indian Superintendents and agents the old and the new. There come the long line of traders who have grown rich in their spoil of the Indian. They come of all political colors and stripes from the union Republicans 60
the union democrats down to and including Major Cullen and Col. Robinson the last fag ends of secession now left in Minnesota. They come to put their heads together to get Gen. Pope removed and an old trader, a chum of their own, appointed in his place. I said all had come, I mistake, the seat of one Agent is vacant. He lies in the grave, slain as they say by his own hand. But they lie and many of them know it. There is one vile wretch of a trader in that conclave whose hand sped the bullet by which poor Walker fell. But the conclave is there and they resolve to petition the government for the removal of Gen. Pope and ask appointment of the man of two wives one a Sioux Squaw, the bosom friend of the traitor Breckinridge Mr. Senator Henry M. Rice in his place to enable them to gripe the Godsend of gold that this Indian war well husbanded would bring them and save the valuable lives of their friends and relatives the Indians. It is true Sir that the vast arrangements of Gen. Pope to crush out less than 500 half naked and half starved Indians excites the risible faculties of every thinking man in Minnesota. The nation needs her gallant sons on nobler battle fields. Take not one sturdy soldier away from the field where his arm is needed to battle in favor of the blood baptized and glorious Union our fathers have left us. Here all our two thousand men are utterly useless. I am this moment informed that all the Sioux Indians have surrendered to Col. Sibley (except Little Crow and perhaps some 60 or 70 of his cut throat band who have escaped and gone to the far western wilds where Col. Sibley will not try to and Gen. Pope cannot get them). There would be no harm in sending Gen. Pope into private life. He is an institution too expensive for a republic and a little rustication might do him good. But Heaven defend us from such a Successor as Henry M. Rice. He would spend more money than Pope. With him at the head of the Indian 61
War, that war would never end, if he could help it. Not a tribe will be exterminated or removed. But the money would go into his own coffers and those of his confederates even if his soldiers starved on the prairies of the Minnesota. Oh no sir, anything but that. If there is to be any change and a change should be made to save money to the nation give us some respectable Colonel who can order the construction of a few forts and get his men into good quarters and provide for them. That will be all he will have to do. There will be no more fighting with the Indians. Not another shot fired. It was not Col. Sibleyâ€™s intention to take Indians so soon. If it had been he could have done it long ago and taken Little Crow and all his band He kindly removed his forces into the forest out of the way while Little Crow and his murderous band are permitted to escape to wild and distant lands never more to be seen or heard of the valley of the Minnesota. He too well knows the fate that awaits him and his band if they are again found in the land they have desolated ever to return. Be patient Sir it is high time that plain truth so seldom heard in presidential halls should reach the Executive ear. One more chapter in this catalogue of black iniquity and I shall close, never more to intrude upon a moment of your time however much I should rejoice in the opportunity of two hours of conversation with you on this subject in which time I could give you more information than I could write you in a week. But that cannot be. (Portion of the letter regarding the affairs with the Chippewa Indians here omitted.) I said some distance back that the Indian Traders and Indian Speculators had three great seasons of harvest. I named one of them, the best and richest for the great dealers the vultures upon the body politic. It was the treaty making season and then on looking back I left it abruptly 62
unfinished. The next best Godsend to the Traders is the annuity payment season when one half ordinarily is set apart for the vultures, traders, and Suborned Chiefs and the other moiety is paid to commonalty of the tribe. The last and least beneficial to the cormorants is an Indian war. In the last case the expended gold goes more into the pockets of the farmers mechanics soldiers an artisans leaving but little profit to the class so much spoken of in these pages. “Here perhaps” as Gen. Washington said in his farewell address “perhaps I ought to stop.” And here I will stop saying only that this is my first communication of any sort to a President of the United States and will probably be my last. I have written it in good faith religiously believing every statement in it to be substantially true. I believe there are some recommendations in it, not often addressed to the throne of power, that though new, will strike any thinking man with force. And now allow me to pray that God and his Angels will guide you and enable you to restore peace to our common country with honor, with an entire union of all the states reunited and cemented together stronger than ever, by the blood of her sons already, and yet to be shed, for its second baptismal. Yours Very Truly George A.S. Crooker St. Paul Oct. 7, 1862 George A.S. Crooker to Abraham Lincoln, 07 October 1862, Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress.
Bibliography Unpublished Papers Abraham Lincoln Papers. Library of Congress, Washington D.C. Unpublished Federal Documents, National Archives Records of the Office of Indian Affairs Letters Received by: Northern Superintendency Letters Received by: Minnesota Superintendency Special Files of: 1807-1904 Published Federal Documents United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs: Accompanying the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, for the year 1852. United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs: Accompanying the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, for the year 1853. United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs: Accompanying the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, for the year 1856. United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs: Accompanying the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, for the year 1857.
United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs: Accompanying the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, for the year 1858. United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs: Accompanying the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, for the year 1860. United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs: Accompanying the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, for the year 1861. Books Anderson, Gary Clayton. Little Crow: Spokesman for the Sioux. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1986. Folwell, William Watts. History of Minnesota. Vol. 1. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1956. Gilman, Rhoda. Henry Hastings Sibley: Divided Heart. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2004. Heard, Isaac V.D. History of the Sioux War and Massacres of 1862 and 1863. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1864. Minnesota Board of Commissioners on Publication of History of Minnesota in Civil and Indian Wars. Minnesota in the Civil and Indians Wars, 18611865. Vol. 1. St. Paul: Pioneer Press Company, 1893. 65
Nichols, David A. Lincoln and the Indians: Civil War Policy and Politics. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1978. Whipple, Henry Benjamin. Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1902. Journals Danzinger, Edmund Jr. “The Crow Creek Experiment: An Aftermath of the Sioux War of 1862.” North Dakota History, Vol. 37, No. 2 (Spring 1970): 104123. Online Materials “Abraham Lincoln and Minnesota.” The Lincoln Institute Presents: Abraham Lincoln’s Classroom. Accessed August 26, 2012. http://www.abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/Library/ newsletter.asp?ID=50&CRLI=130. “150th Anniversary of the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862: A Commemoration.” Introduction by Curtis Dahlin. Brown County Historical Society. Accessed August 16, 2012. http://browncountydakotawarcommemoration.com/ uploads/February_2011_Article.pdf.
Published on Jan 7, 2014
On December 26, 1862, the United States Government hanged thirty-eight Dakota Indians in Mankato, Minnesota, for their participation in what...