Fate of Dakota after War of 1862 researched

NEW ULM – A Martin Luther College Professor Emeritus and author discussed the forced relocation of the Dakota and other tribes after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and compared how the U.S. and Canadian governments dealt with them Thursday night at the New Ulm Public Library.

“This is a very special topic with very little written about what happened to Indians after the war,” said Dr. John Isch of New Ulm. “Some of the best knowledge comes from Native American ‘Grandma’ stories, a couple anthropologists who studied the subject and recorded their findings at the University of South Dakota, and a priest who wrote about it.”

In an effort to find answers himself, Isch went to Iowa, the Dakotas and southern Canada where he examined historical sites and interviewed Indians.

Ideas on where to send the Dakota after the War of 1862 included Devils Lake, N.D., as suggested by Gen. Sibley; Fort Jefferson, Fla. (near Key West), and Isle Royal, off Minnesota’s north shore of Lake Superior, Isch said.

“In the first year after the war, 257 Dakota held in a Mankato stockade plus 20 caretakers including missionaries and priests, worshipped with them and helped them write letters to family members,” Isch said.

He said another 1,800 Dakota held at Fort Snelling – 40 men and 1,660 women and children including 200 of mixed blood – suffered greatly from measles, pneumonia and other epidemics that took the lives of 200 people. Most of the dead were buried in St. Cornelia Episcopal Church cemetery on the Lower Sioux Reservation near Morton.

Isch said 130 whites, including 57 children and 23 war widows, some from New Ulm and Milford, died from various illnesses shortly after the war.

“Terrible things happened in the war to people on both sides, including many children that suffered,” Isch said. “A small number of Native Americans settled in the Twin Cities, some of them living long lives. Episcopalian Bishop Henry Whipple protected 65 Dakota in Faribault.”

Several hundred Dakota rode boats from St. Paul to Davenport, Iowa, where they lived in an Army training post, eating meat and shelled corn. In 1866, they were pardoned by the U.S. government and rode boats again to the Crow Creek Reservation, near Chamberlain, S.D., Isch said.

He visited an Indian boarding school for abandoned children in Chamberlain that appeared to be teaching Native American culture and history to needy youth.

“There are many stories of Indians losing their culture and being treated badly in many other ways but I wouldn’t say all boarding schools are bad,” Isch said.

According to Isch, the Canadian government was sympathetic to displaced Indians and offered them places to live, but feared the wrath of the U.S. government. The Canadian government did not stop covert U.S. government agents from drugging and kidnapping two prominent Indians, Medicine Bottle and Shakopee, and taking them to Fort Snelling where they were hanged. Their bodies were later dug up in the night and shipped to the East Coast for medical research, according to a St. Paul newspaper story.

Isch said the Knights of the Black Forest was a secret society that began in Mankato in 1862 and continued until 1865. The organization’s mission was to drive all Indians out of Minnesota with bloodhounds. He said the blood hounds were never used in Brown County after it was discovered the dogs were not useful in finding dislocated Indians.

Isch said small numbers of more traditional Dakota who never surrendered to the U.S. government, settled on smaller reservations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where there were no settlers driving them off their land.

“There is less Indian bitterness toward the U.S. government in Canada,” Isch said. “Perhaps partly because the Canadian government doesn’t interfere with their lives as much as the U.S. government does here.”

Isch said the U.S. government granted Indians U.S. citizenship in 1924, but by then, most of them didn’t want it, preferring to be part of their own nation. He said there are 771 recognized Indian tribes in the U.S.

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