-----History Of The Dakota People
In The Mille Lacs Area
-----------------------------By Thomas Dahlheimer
The Sioux, or Dakota, consist of seven tribes in three major divisions: Wahpekute, Mdewakanton,
Wahpeton, Sisseton (who together form the Santee or Eastern division, sometimes referred to
as the Dakota), the Yankton and Yanktonai (who form the Middle
division, sometimes referred to as the Nakota), and the Teton (who form the Western
division, sometimes referred to as the Lakota).
"In 1656, the Dakotas were living near
Mille Lacs in five villages numbering about 5,000 people.
It is possible that the Tetons and Yanktons had at this point already began migrating west,
although Hennepin found them above the Falls of St. Anthony on the Mississippi River in 1680.
In 1701, they were at Lake Traverse. The Yankon and Yantonai left Mille Lacs at about
this time." (ref.) http://www.fsst.org/PDFs/History_FlandreauSanteeSioux.pdf
Wakan Mde (Mille Lacs Lake)
"From what was written on this subject by Hennepin, La Hontan, Le Sueur, and Charlevoix, and from
the maps published under the superintendence of these authors, it is sufficiently clear that in
the latter part of the 17th century the principal residence of the Isanyati Sioux [Mdewakanton,
Wahpeton, Wahpekute, and Sisseton] was about the headwaters of Rum river, whence they extended
their hunts to St Croix and Mississippi rivers, and down the latter nearly or quite as far as
the mouth of the Wisconsin. " (Minn. Hist. Soc. Coll, I, 295, 1872.)
reference.. Note: The headwaters of the "Rum River" are located at Mille Lacs
"Father Louis Hennepin visited the Sioux at Mille Lacs Lake in 1680 and reported that it was the
sacred lake of these Indians and the focal point of the whole nation, from which the tribes and
bands spread out over a wide area. (Wilford 1944:329)."
"The Mille Lacs area is rich in Native American history, from ancient tribes
from the Old Copper
Tradition dating back over 4,000 years, to the early Dakota people, a band called the
Mdewakanton 'the people who live by the water of the Great Spirit.'"
"Hundreds of years before Europeans settled in the region, the Dakota people established permanent
villages along the shores of Ogechie Lake, and the Rum River. These people came to be known as
the Mdewakanton, which translated means 'Water of the Great Spirit.'"
On a Mille Lacs Kathio State Park interpretive sign, Leonard E. Wabasha is
quoted as saying:
"My people are the Mdewakanton Oyate. Mdewakanton means the People of Spirit
Lake. Today that
lake is known as Mille Lacs. This landscape is sacred to the Mdewakanton Oyate
Otokaheys Woyakapi (creation story) says we were created here. It is especially
me to come here and walk these trails, because about 1718 the first Chief
Wapahasa was born
here, at the headwaters of the Spirit River. I am the eighth in this line of
When addressing the subject of Lakota/Dakota creation stories one of the most active
anthropologists working with the Lakota today, wrote: "The Mdewakanton are considered in the oral tradition, one of the most ancient
the Sioux Nation or Ocetisakowin 'Seven Council Fires'. The sacred lake
(Mille Lacs) figures
prominently in Lakota/Dakota creation stories. The lake is considered
sacred because the
Dakota people emerged from it as human beings into this world."
The following interpretation of the name Mdewakanton, an
incorporates the Dakota's creation story associated with Mde Wakan (Mille Lacs Lake), is
displayed on the
Prairie Island Mdewakanton Dakota Community website. "The Mdewakanton, 'those who were born of the waters,'..."
In an Isanti County News
article about a 2008 Wakan Wakpa (Rum River) Canoe Expedition
that provided a group of inner-city Dakota boys from Minneapolis and St. Paul an
opportunity to paddle the natural artery of their ancestors LeMoine LaPointe, director
of the Healthy Nations Program at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, is quoted:
(1.) "Their 165-mile paddle from Mille Lacs Lake to Minneapolis commemorated many important
aspects of Dakota history and culture..." (2.)"The Rum, known for centuries as Wakan Wakpa
(Holy River), is an important spiritual and cultural artery to the Dakota who, until 1745,
lived at Mille Lacs (Mde Wakan) and considered it the center of their world." Dakota
creation stories include considering the place of their origin as "the center of the
world". Another article about this topic is located at:
Reclaiming the Wakpa Wakan .
I believe that many of the Dakota will soon be returning to their sacred traditional/ancestral homeland, or sacred lake
Mde Wakan (Mille Lacs Lake), and that it will once again become "the focal point of the whole nation".
According to one Dakota creation story, a creation story that "figures prominently in Lakota/Dakota creation stories", the sacred
lake Mde Wakan (Mille Lacs Lake) is where the Dakota emerged as human beings into this world. The sacred lake is one
of the Dakota's Garden of Eden sites. And evidence indicates that it is their primary Garden of Eden site, and that it is
the Garden of Eden from which they were forced out, and to which they will return. It
is where one of their creation stories says their nation was born. And it is where their primary genesis site is
located. And it is where their genocide first began.
History of the Dakota's expulsion from their sacred Wakan/"Mille Lacs" Lake
According to a United Nations' World Conference Against Racism document: "In the fifteenth
century, two Papal Bulls set the stage for European domination of the New World and Africa.
Romanus Pontifex, issued by Pope Nicholas V to King Alfonso V of Portugal in 1452, declared
war against all non-Christians throughout the world, and specifically sanctioned and promoted
the conquest, colonization, and exploitation of non-Christian nations and their territories."
In Pope Alexander VI's papal bull of 1493 (Inter Caetera), he stated his desire that the
"discovered" people be "subjugated and brought to the faith itself." By this means,
said the pope, the "Christian Empire" would be propagated. These Papal Bulls, or
"doctrines of discovery", sanctioned Christian nations to claim "unoccupied lands",
or lands belonging to "heathens" or "pagans".
"DuLuth traveled as far as the Dakota headquarters encampment, on the southwest
shores of Lake Mille Lacs, and on July 2, 1679, claimed the area as a possession for King
It was the mission of the white European colonists to first claim the
"discovered" native people's homelands and then later displace/force them from their homelands and then ultimately take
possession of their homelands. And they often used westward moving, displaced Eastern tribes to
force the long established tribes to their west from their homelands.
The French invasion of the East coast caused the French/Iroquois war...which,
in turn, caused a
band of Ojibwe in the area to flee their homeland on the East coast. They
traveled west to escape
the White civilization. They went west on the Saint Lawrence River, then
across the great lakes to
the southern tip of Lake Superior where they settled and then made frequent
peaceful journeys to
the Dakota's Wakan/Mille Lacs Lake homeland villages.
At the time, intertribal marriages occasionally occurred. The French then instigated fights
between this band of Ojibwe (now known as the Mille Lacs
Band of Ojibwe) and the Mille Lacs Lake Dakota. The
final Mille Lacs Lake area Ojibwe/Dakota "fight" occurred around 1750. The Ojibwe used French guns
and gun powder to
force the Dakota from their Mille Lacs Lake homeland.
The Ojibwe then, temporarily, took possession
of the Dakota's stolen Mille Lacs Lake homeland. Later, many
white "settlers"/invaders entered into the area and took possession of the
Dakota's stolen Mille Lacs Lake homeland. The area's
Ojibwe were then given some of the white people's Mille Lacs Lake area stolen Dakota
land to live on and have some "treaty" rights to. The white people forced the
area's Ojibwe (red pagans) to live in a subjugated state of existence.
In a Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe book about the Band's heritage, titled: Against the Tide of American
History: The Story of the Mille Lacs Anishinabe, there are the words: "As is true of all the
Anishinabe or Chippewa who live in Minnesota, the history of the Mille Lacs people reaches back
into ancient times and other settings in the eastern part of the United States where their ancestors
lived before they came into the forest and lake country of eastern and northern Minnesota."
The Ojibway, who lived in what is now Anoka County, had come to Minnesota with the French
fur traders. The Ojibway and Dakota lived peacefully for a short time, often trading and
occasionally intermarrying. White settlement of the east, however, eventually pushed the
Ojibway onto Dakota lands. And the French traders apparently instigated feuds between the
two tribes to establish the Ojibway as their allies.
"Early White/Indian intervention
played an important role in the settlement of the area by white men. The French, instigated fights
between the Ojibwe and Dakota so as to ally themselves with the Ojibwe."
reference ~ Minnesota state DNR website
"As Europeans settled the East coast, they displaced eastern tribes who then migrated to get
away from the White civilization, and they, in their turn, displaced weaker local tribes
they encountered, and pushed many of those tribes farther from their homelands, as they
took over their homelands."
Westward moving Europeans would give the displaced eastern tribes who had migrated west
to get away from the White civilization guns and gun powder and they would then
fights between the newly arrived tribes and the long established tribes in
order to force
the long established tribes from their homelands; and in doing so, extinguish the
long established tribes' ancestral ties that they have with the land, their ancestors
and the spirit world. Evidence of this practice has shown itself time and time again
throughout the Americas.
Around 1750, a displaced East coast band of Ojibwe were pushed into the Dakota's homeland and they then
used French guns and gun powder to push/force the Dakota from their Wakan/Mille Lacs Lake
The French instigated intertribal warfare/fights between a displaced East coast band of Ojibwe and the Mille Lacs
Lake Dakota; and this warfare was fomented by the white European colonists' exploitation of these Native's
weakness to abuse alcohol. The European colonists also used the Dakota's weakness to abuse alcohol to
lure many of them from their Mille Lacs Lake homeland to distant trading posts. This was the
strategy the European colonists used to greatly diminish the number of Dakota in their Mille Lacs
homeland, which encouraged and made it possible for a, French weapons armed, alcohol manipulated/exploited
band of Ojibwe to violently force them from their Mille Lacs homeland.
According to Edward Neill "the Dakotas began to be led away from the rice grounds of the Mille Lacs region" by the French trading posts built by Nicholas Perrot and Le Seur
(Neill 1852; cited in Warren 1984:157).
"Fur traders did act as wilderness explorers but many aspects of their business were anything but
heroic. It is vital to balance the picture of the fur trader as an explorer and pioneer with the
less flattering portrait of the fur trader as a pusher of dangerous and addictive substances, a
fomenter of intertribal and intratribal conflict,..."
"Pressures from fur and whiskey traders goes much further in explaining the Indian wars than
any lack of "civilized" values. Who needed civilizing were the entrepreneurs who used such
poisons to make the Indian dependent. While in one sense, we have become inured to the idea
of alcohol being a symptom of American Indian despair, it is important to understand how
this substance entered their society. Today, there are all sorts of investigative journalists
reporting on how the contras introduced crack cocaine into the United States in order to
fund the war in Nicaragua. An investigation of the introduction of whiskey into the northwestern
Plains states would also be a good idea. Just as British capitalism used rum, sugar
and slaves to drive its commercial expansion into the Caribbeans and American south, so did the
fur trading companies use a combination of whiskey, furs and alcohol-addicted Indian hunters to
increase their wealth."
"To put it more bluntly, the British and American fur traders lured the Indians into the cash
trade by offering them whiskey, the one thing that was not available on the open range. They used
whiskey in the same way that the British used opium in China. It was a way of breaking down the
doors of a local economy that had little use for the lure of imported goods.
"The trading posts also introduced many types of alcohol (especially brandy and rum) for trade.
European traders flocked to the continent and made huge profits off the exchange.
"One of the Dakota antagonists was the Ojibwa. These conflicts became exacerbated with the
arrival of the White cultural, especially with the trading posts selling guns and whiskey, voyageurs and trappers selling guns to the Ojibwa,
and possible government activity, which encouraged the arming of the Ojibwa."
"In 1683 Nicholas Perrot established a post at the mouth of the Wisconsin. In 1689 he
established Fort Perrot near the lower end of Lake Pepin, on the Minnesota side, the
first post within the Sioux territory, and took formal possession of their country for
France. The Jesuit Father Joseph Marest, officially designated "Missionary to the
Nadouesioux", was one of the witnesses at the ceremony and was again with the tribe
some twelve years later. Another post was built by Pierre LeSueur, near the present
Red Wing about 1693."
"Wars with the Chippewas (Ojibwe) and the Crees contributed to the dispersion of the eastern Sioux -
collectively called the Santee (Dakota) - from their homes around Mille Lacs, the
Chippewas being armed by French Traders."
French Traders were transporting rum from the trading posts on the Mississippi
to the Dakota's villages on the headwaters of the Wakan/"Rum" River. They were
supplying them with enough alcohol to cause a lot of the Dakota people to become alcoholic
drunkards. This was a method that the European colonists used to separate the
their traditional religion and spirituality. A religion and spirituality that was
intimately connected with their sacred relationship with their land and, consequently,
to their attachment to it. This made it easier to lure a lot of the Dakota people to
leave their sacred homeland villages located on the headwaters of the Wakan/"Rum" River
and go to distant trading posts where they could get a steady supply of rum and whisky to satisfy their
alcoholic addition cravings.
After using dangerous and addictive substances (rum and whiskey) to lure a lot
of the Dakota people from their Mille Lacs
Lake homeland villages and entire Wakan/"Rum" River Watershed homeland...the
consequence of French fur trading Europeans instigating fights between the newly arrived band of
Ojibwe and the Dakota and also pushing dangerous and addictive substances on them
eventually caused the historic 1750 "fight". A "fight" wherein French fur traders'
guns and gun powder bombs were used to violently force the remaining Dakota from their
Mille Lacs Lake homeland villages. And after being forces from their villages
they moved away from their entire Wakan/"Rum" River Watershed homeland. And did so,
to avoid further fights with a, French weapons armed, band of Ojibwe. A band that was
diluted and prone to violently attack its supposed enemies because the white man had spread
the decease of alcoholism amongst its people.
First, the European French explores came and claimed the Dakota's sacred homeland for France.
Then alcoholic beverage supplying trading posts were established to take advantage of the
Dakota's weakness to abuse alcohol. And by taking advantage of this addition weakness of theirs
they were successful at tricking/luring a lot of Dakota from their Mille Lacs
Lake homeland villages and entire Wakan/"Rum" River Watershed homeland.
After white colonists tricked and used a band of newly arrived Ojibwe to violently force the
remaining Dakota from their Mille Lacs Lake homeland villages and entire Wakan/"Rum"
River Watershed homeland, the white U.S.A. government built a fort
near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers (Fort Snelling) to protect
a planned for massive migration of white "setters"/invaders into the area.
The U.S.A government knew that the new "settlers" would invade and occupy the
Wakan/"Rum" River Watershed homeland and convince/coerce the band of Ojibwe that
white colonists tricked and used to force the Dakota from their sacred homeland would
be much easier to subjugate, or convince that they did not own any land in the area,
than it would have been to convince/coerce the Dakota to believe that they did not own any
land in the area.
reference ~ 18th paragraph This is a good example of the strategy that the white invaders used to
steal Native lands, reduce their numbers so that they would be easier to
exploit, and destroy their traditional religion, language and culture.
According to European international colonial law, or the "doctrine of discovery",
a doctrine based on two 15th century Papal bulls that denied indigenous people's
their fundamental human rights, the European colonists' land "purchasing"/stealing
transaction was not finalized until the Natives living in an area were
(according to the Pope) "subjugated", or coerced to believe that they (red pagans)
did not own the land that they were living on and that only white European Christian
nations could (and did) own land...and later, by extension, the "doctrine of discovery"
was modified and incorporated into U.S.A. law (Johnson vs McIntosh, 1823). This law
states that only the newly established white Christian (U.S.A.) nation
owned land within the former native/aboriginal America.
The band of Ojibwe who were tricked and used to force the Dakota from their Mille Lacs Lake homeland villages and entire Wakan/"Rum" River
Watershed homeland were later given a small section of U.S.A. Mille Lacs
Lake area land to live on, and they were also given hunting, fishing and gathering "treaty" rights
within the area. They were give special "treaty" rights to U.S.A. stolen Dakota land for helping the white people
force the Dakota from their Mille Lacs Lake homeland villages
and entire Wakan/"Rum" River
The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe oral tradition tells that, by the end of the 1750 Kathio battle,
their ancestors had violently forced the Dakota from their Mille Lacs area homeland by using the
white colonists guns and gun powder to do so; and that that is how they took possession of the
Mille Lacs area land that they now live on. However, it is no longer their land, it is U.S.A. land
that they now live on.
The following statement can be found in a Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe book about their heritage:
"The Dakota, according to Warren, occupied the lake (Mille Lacs Lake) at two large villages,
one being located at Cormorant Point (Nay-Ah-Shing Point) and the other at the outlet of
the lake. A few miles below this last village, they (the Dakota) possessed another
considerable village on a smaller lake, connected with Mille Lacs by a portion of the
Rum River which runs though it. These villages consisted mostly of earthen wigwams...'.
At Nay-ah-shing the Chippewa attacked and destroyed the Dakota village. A few survivors
escaped to the next village at the outlet of the Rum River. At this village, the Chippewa
warriors threw bags of gunpowder into the smoke holes of the earth lodges. They exploded
killing those inside. The few who escaped from this village moved to the last village on
the smaller lake. Here the Chippewa also drove them out. The last of the Spirit Lake
Dakota escaped south down the Rum River in their canoes." "After 1750, the Mille Lacs
region became a permanent homeland for many Chippewa families."
On a Minnesota Historical Society plaque located near the mouth of the river that is currently
named "Rum River" there are the words:
"About 1750 the Chippewa moving westward from lake Superior captured the village, and by this
decisive battle drove the Sioux permanently into southern Minnesota."
The following two quotes present the Lower Sioux Mdewakanton perspective on why their ancestors
left their sacred homeland on the headwaters of the Wakan/"Rum" River around 1750. (1.) "Long
ago, the Mdewakanton Dakota lived around Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota. Around 1750,
our ancestors were displaced by another nation, the Anishinnabe, and they relocated throughout
the southern portion of the state." (2.) "This was not the last time the Mdewakantons would be
forced into a new home. Treaties in 1851 and 1858 resulted in nearly 7,000 Dakota people being
moved onto a narrow reservation along the Minnesota River."
The S.D. Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe states on a website about their history that" The
"Santee Sioux bands" had begun a stage of transition into a new culture with their expulsion
from their traditional homeland around Mille Lacs.
On Nebraska's Santee Tribe website where is an article with the heading SANTEE SIOUX AGENCY 1918.
In the article, this former Minnesota Dakota (Santee) band states that: "The Santee's defeat by
the Chippewas at the Battle of Kathio in the late 1700s forced them to move to the southern
half of the state which would bring them into close contact and eventually conflict with the
white settlers. From that point on, survival for the Santee Tribe would become a daily struggle."
reference The "daily struggle" eventually caused
the historic 1862 Dakota conflict.
"More challenging to the defense of Minnesota was the Dakota War of 1862. Grieved by the loss of
their lands, dissatisfied with reservation life, and ultimately brought to a condition of near
starvation, the Dakota appealed to US Indian agencies without success. The murder of five whites
by four young Dakota Indians ignited a bloody uprising in which more than 300 whites and an
unknown number of Indians were killed. In the aftermath, 38 Dakota captives were hanged for
"voluntary participation in murders and massacres," and the Dakota remaining in Minnesota
were removed to reservations in Nebraska. (Some later returned to Minnesota.) Meanwhile,
the Ojibwa were relegated to reservations on remnants of their former lands."
What happened to the Dakota in 1862 and afterward was a grievous crime against humanity. If it had occurred in this present
day and age the United Nations and the international community would condemn it and declare it to be ethnocide and genocide.
A United Nations world court indictment would be issued and the perpetrators of this ethnocide and genocide would be rounded up,
tried, convicted and punished for crimes against humanity.
A former Minnesota Governor, Alexander Ramsey, made a genocidal declaration on Sept. 9, 1862. He declared that "the Sioux
Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the state."
Because of Governor Ramsey's declaration, hangings occurred, concentration camps and forced imprisonments took place, forced
gender segregation occurred, invasions into Dakota Territory to hunt down and terrorize those trying to flee occurred, bounties
on Dakota scalps were officially sanctioned, Dakota scalps were taken and sold -- all these atrocities are examples of how
Ramsey's genocide and ethnic cleansing agenda was successfully implemented. The Dakota have never recovered from these
atrocities committed against them.
Not only did the Dakota suffer the consequences of genocidal policies, many other indigenous peoples throughout our nation
also suffered from (first) European and then (later) American genocidal crimes. This is a painful legacy that Minnesotans
and other Americans will have to eventually address. To ease a people's conscience and provide reparative justice to those
so radically abused, recognition of genocide will demand restoring the indigenous people's human rights to them. Including,
granting them, both, absolute root ownership of much of their traditional/ancestral homeland and full sovereignty rights on
their newly regained land.
The Dakota had been living in their sacred Wakan/"Rum" River Watershed homeland for
many centuries. But then, in the late 1700, French colonists, after using the disease of alcohol
addition to lure a lot of the Dakota people from their homeland, tricked and used a alcohol
manipulated/exploited band of Ojibwe to violently force (with the help of the colonists' gun powder
and guns) the remaining Dakota to move from, not only their Mille Lacs area
homeland villages located at the headwaters of their sacred Wakan/"Rum" River, but
also from their entire Wakan/"Rum" River Watershed homeland, to the southern half of
the state which would bring them into close contact and eventually conflict with the white
From that point on, survival for the Dakota would become a daily struggle. Around one hundred
years after their expulsion from their sacred Wakan/"Rum" River Watershed homeland, the historic
1862 Dakota conflict occurred. A conflict that ended with most of the Dakota being exiled from
Minnesota into neighboring states. When all of the white mans' injustices committed against
the Dakota are added up, it is quite clear that, according to the United Nations definition of
genocide, a Minnesota genocide was committed against the Dakota people.