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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 24, 2004 - Issue 105


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Speck of War with Sioux


Letter to the Editor
Galena Gazette and Advertiser, Galena, Illinois
From A. Bronson, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin Territory
(September 6, 1838)

credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

Mr. Editor -- I expected, ere this, to have seen in your paper an account of an occurrence which threatened the peace of our frontier a few weeks since; but not seeing it, I venture to give you a brief statement of the affair.

In April last, Hole-in-the-Day, a celebrated war-chief of the Chippewas, who lives about 200 miles above St. Peters, on the Mississippi, made a descent upon the Sioux on the St. Peters River near Lac La Parole, or the Lake-that-Speaks. He had with him but four men and two boys; and one a son of his only seven years old. They resorted to the true mode of savage warfare, to stratagem, pretending to be friendly, and were taken into a Sioux lodge, consisting of nineteen persons, with a given signal, they arose and killed seventeen, including three men, the rest women and children, and they took one women prisoner and one young man making his escape. Hole-in-the-Day's son killed a boy his own age. And I saw him in July with his feather in his hair as a mark of achievement.

This outrage, as might be expected, enraged the Sioux, who determined to kill Hole-in-the-Day the first time he came to St. Peters, that post being within the limits of the Sioux country, and being usually visited by this chief every summer. Of this Mr. Vineyard, the agent, and myself, informed him early in July. Mr. Vineyard obtained the prisoner and returned her to her friends. But notwithstanding this information this daring chief with but one man and his squaw to attend him, appeared at the fort on August 4th. The next day two Sioux prepared to kill him. But mistaking a Chippewa half-breed for him shot the half-breed and wounded another. This was done before the door of the Chippewa Interpreter, where the chief lodged, and in the presence of several officers of the garrison, and several white men standing around the deceased at the time.

The moment White Fisher, the chief's attendant heard the guns he suspected the cause, and rushed out of the door he saw the two men who had fired running, and a third over his fallen brother in the act of scalping him. At this he leveled his gun and shot away the Sioux's shoulder, and lower jaw, leaving a jugular vein bare. On this the Sioux dropped his knife, and ran three miles before he fell. The next day he died. There were now one Sioux dead, one Chippewa dead and one Chippewa wounded. The dead Chippewa or half-breed, was a peaceable man, had never been in a war party, and it is said that he was able to read and write with ease.

This affair violated the neutrality of the military reserve. Major Plimpton, the commandant, demanded the Sioux who did it, and put them in the guardhouse to punish them. He had not determined how or in what manner. But eleven years before the occurrence of the kind took place, when Col. Snelling was giving up the murderers to Chippewas who shot them and threw them into the river; and the Sioux expected that the same fated awaited their men now. But the idea of having their own men shot, and that too on what they considered their own ground, for killing their enemies, while taken into the fort for protection, fed and honored as a brave man, so exasperated them, that they determined, if their brethren were killed, to make war on the whites.

Several Sioux were soon on the march for the scene of the action. Council followed council at the fort, the fate of the men being yet undecided, while plans of operations were being digested in the Indian villages. They had but little ammunition, and less provisions; but they intended to kill the cattle of the whites to eat, and husband their other means to the best advantage. They intended, also to kill all the white and Chippewa half-breeds outside the fort. This they expected would draw soldiers from the garrison in small bodies, which they intended to cut off, till they had weakened the garrison so that they could carry it by storm, when they would have enough to eat and fight with for a long time, and the fort was to be razed to its foundation, and no other permitted to be built but at the point of a bayonet.

They were aware that the pay on their late treaty was pending, and that they should lose the whole of it; but they intended, in that event, to keep their country, if in their power. They thought likely however, that they should be finally overpowered by the United States, but they intended to sell their lives as dear as possible, and yield up their independence only with their lives, saying "it would be good to die after having killed their enemies." All this transpired between Monday morning, when the Sioux were imprisoned, and Wednesday afternoon, when they were released.

Major Plimpton, I believe, was not aware at the time, of the extent to which the Sioux were intending to carry things. But seeing the chiefs and headmen, who were in council, very much expected to be offered to give up the prisoners, upon condition that they would punish them in their own way, and that they would hereafter respect the neutrality of the Reserve, and the lives and property of it's citizens. To this they agreed. The prisoners were then taken up, whipped, their blankets torn up, and turned out in disgrace. But their chief begged for them, and the agent gave them each and old blanket to wear off, and all settled down in quietness, so soon as the turbulent passions of the Indians became calm.

During the excitement, councils were held to determine whether the missionaries should be killed with the other whites. It was not for us to know how these matters were managed, but enough transpired to show that we were in danger, and very menacing appearances showed the party who were for destroying us, was quite strong. But the sequel proved that our friends were the most numerous and that preparations were made "at least at the Methodist mission at Little Crow's village, fifteen miles below St. Peters." I have not heard from other missions at other villages "to send us away in safety. On the last night before the release of the prisoners, the Indians at our village obtained whiskey, and had a real drunken row; and men in this situation being prepared for devilish deeds of the worst kind, great danger was apprehended, until the chief, Big Thunder, put his son into the house to sleep with the mission family, and placed six stout men, who were sober and friendly, to guard them" with strict orders kill any and every man who attempted to injure them.

I believe the excitement has entirely subsided, and I have no apprehensions that the Sioux will be troublesome to the whites at present. In conversation with Big Thunder, the head chief, on the subject, I told him that is case they made war on the whites, a very large army of white would be set on them, and that the Sac and Fox on the south, the Missouri Indians on the west, and the Assinaboins on the northwest and the Chippewas on the north and east, would immediately be supplied with arms, ammunition and provisions, all being their ancient and deadly enemies, who would gladly embrace the opportunity of exterminating them. This seemed to produce its desired effect, and I heard it spoken of several times among them with considerable concern.

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