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ACCOUNT OF SOME OF THE OLD GRIEVANCES OF
INTERVIEW BETWEEN RED IRON, CHIEF OF THE SISSETON SIOUX,
AND GOVERNOR RAMSEY, IN DECEMBER, 1852.
Claims had been set up by the Indian traders for $400,000 of the money promised to the Sioux by the treaties of 1851 and 1852. The Indians declared that they did not owe so much. Governor Ramsey endeavored to compel Red Iron to sign a receipt for it; he refused. He said his tribe had never had the goods. He asked the governor to appoint arbitrators-two white men and one Indian; it was refused. He then said that he would accept three white men as arbitrators, if they were honest men: this was refused.
An eye-witness has sketched the appearance of the chief on that occasion, and the interview between him and the governor : The council was crowded with Indians and white men when Red Iron was brought in, guarded by soldiers. He was about forty years old, tall and athletic; about six feet high in his moccasins, with a large, well-developed head, aquiline nose,
thin compressed lips, and physiognomy beaming with intelligence and resolution. He was clad in the half-military, half-Indian costume of the Dakota chiefs. He was seated in the council-room without greeting or salutation from any one.
In a few minutes the governor, turning to the chief in the midst of a breathless silence, by the aid of an interpreter, opened the council.
Governor Ramsey asked : “What excuse have you for not coming to the council when I sent for
you The chief rose to his feet with native grace and dignity, his blanket falling from his shoulders, and purposely dropping the pipe of peace, he stood erect before the governor with his arms folded, and right hand pressed on the sheath of his scalpingknife; with firm voice he replied :
“I started to come, but your braves drove me back.”
Gov. “ What excuse have you for not coming the second time I sent for
? Red Iron. “ No other excuse than I have given you." Gov. “ At the treaty I thought you a good man, but since you
have acted badly, and I am disposed to break you. I do break
Red Iron. “You break me! My people made me a chief. My people love me. I will still be their chief. I have done nothing wrong.”
Gov. “Why did you get your braves together and march around here for the purpose of intimidating other chiefs, and prevent their coming to the council ?”
Red Iron. “I did not get my braves together, they got together themselves to prevent boys going to council to be made chiefs, to sign papers, and to prevent single chiefs going to council at night, to be bribed to sign papers for money we have never got. We have heard how the Medewakantons were served at Mendota; that by secret councils you got their names on paper, and took away their money. We don't want to be served so.
My braves wanted to come to council in the daytime, when the sun shines, and we want no councils in the dark. We want all our people to go to council together, so that we can all know what is done."
Gov. • Why did you attempt to come to council with your braves, when I had forbidden your braves coming to council ?”
Red Iron. “ You invited the chiefs only, and would not let the braves come too. This is not the way we have been treated before; this is not according to our customs, for among Dakotas chiefs and braves go to council together. When you first sent for us, there were two or three chiefs here, and we wanted to wait till the rest would come, that we might all be in council together and know what was done, and so that we might all understand the papers, and know what we were signing. When we signed the treaty the traders threw a blanket over our faces and darkened our eyes, and made us sign papers which we did not understand, and which were not explained or read to us. We want our Great Father at Washington to know what has been done."
Gov. “ Your Great Father has sent me to represent him, and what I say is what he says. He wants you to pay your old debts, in accordance with the paper you signed when the treaty was made, and to leave that money in my hands to pay these debts. If you
refuse to do that I will take the money back.' Red Iron. “You can take the money back. We sold our land to you, and you promised to pay us. If you don't give us the money I will be glad, and all our people will be glad, for we will have our land back if you don't give us the money. That paper
We are poor;
was not interpreted or explained to us. We are told it gives about 300 boxes ($300,000) of our money to some of the traders. We don't think we owe them so much. We want to pay all our debts. We want our Great Father to send three good men here to tell us how much we do owe, and whatever they say we will pay; and that 's what all these braves say. Our chiefs and all our people say this." All the Indians present responded, “ Ho! ho!”
Gov. " That can't be done. You owe more than your money will pay, and I am ready now to pay your annuity, and no more; and when you are ready to receive it, the agent will pay you."
Red Iron.“ We will receive our annuity, but we will sign no papers for anything else. The snow is on the ground, and we have been waiting a long time to get our money. you have plenty. Your fires are warm. Your tepees keep out the cold. We have nothing to eat. We have been waiting a long time for our moneys. Our hunting-season is past. A great many of our people are sick, for being hungry. We may die because you won't pay us. We may die, but if we do we will leave our bones on the ground, that our Great Father may see where his Dakota children died. We are very poor. We have sold our hunting-grounds and the graves of our fathers. We have sold our own graves. We have no place to bury our dead, and you will not pay us the money
for our lands." The council was broken up, and Red Iron was sent to the guardhouse, where he was kept till next day. Between thirty and forty of the braves of Red Iron's band were present during this arrangement before the governor. When he was led away, they departed in sullen silence, headed by Lean Bear, to a spot a quarter of a mile from the council-house, where they uttered a succession of yells—the gathering signal of the Dakotas. Ere the echoes died away, Indians were hurrying from their tepees toward them, prepared for battle. They proceeded to the eminence near the camp, where mouldered the bones of many warriors. It was the memorable battle-ground, where their ancestors had fought, in a conflict like Waterloo, the warlike Sacs and Foxes, thereby preserving their lands and nationality. Upon this field stood two hundred resolute warriors ready to do battle for their hereditary chief. Lean Bear, the principal brave of Red Iron's band, was a large, resolute man, about thirty-five years of age, and had great influence in his nation.
Here, on their old battle-ground, Lean Bear recounted the brave deeds of Red Iron, the long list of wrongs inflicted on the
Indians by the white men, and proposed to the braves that they should make a general attack on the whites. By the influence of some of the half-breeds, and of white men who were known to be friendly to them, Lean Bear was induced to abandon his scheme; and finally, the tribe, being starving, consented to give up their lands and accept the sum of money offered to them.
“ Over $55,000 of this treaty money, paid for debts of the Indians, went to one Hugh Tyler, a stranger in the country,
for getting the treaties through the Senate, and for necessary disbursements in securing the assent of the chiefs.'"
Five years later another trader, under the pretence that he was going to get back for them some of this stolen treaty money, obtained their signature to vouchers, by means of which he cheated" them out of $12,000 more. At this same time he obtained a payment of $4,500 for goods he said they had stolen from him. Another man was allowed a claim of $5,000 for horses he said they had stolen from him.
" In 1858 the chiefs were taken to Washington, and agreed to the treaties for the cession of all their reservation north of the Minnesota River, under which, as ratified by the Senate, they were to have $166,000; but of this amount they never received one penny till four years afterward, when $15,000 in goods were sent to the Lower Sioux, and these were deducted out of what was due them under former treaties.”—History of the Sioux War, by ISAAC V. D. HEARD.
This paragraph gives the causes of the fearful Minnesota massacre, in which eight hundred people lost their lives.
The treaty expressly provided that no claims against the Indians should be paid unless approved by the Indians in open council. No such council was held. A secret council was held with a few chiefs, but the body of the Indians were ignorant of it. There was a clause in this treaty that the Secretary of the Interior might use any funds of the Indians for such purposes of civilization as his judgment should dictate. Under this clause the avails of over six hundred thousand acres of land were taken for claims against the Indians. Of the vast amount due to the Lower Sioux, only a little over $800 was left to their credit in Washington at the time of the outbreak. Moreover, a portion of their annual annuity was also taken for claims.
REMOVAL OF THE SIOUX AND WINNEBAGOES FROM MINNESOTA
“ The guard that accompanied these Indians consisted of four commissioned officers, one hundred and thirty-five soldiers, and one laundress; in all, one hundred and forty persons. The number of Santee Sioux transported was thirteen hundred and eighteen. For the transportation and subsistence of these Indians and the guard there was paid the sum of $36,322.10.
“ The number of Winnebagoes transported was nineteen hun. dred and forty-five; for their transportation and subsistence there was paid the farther sum of $56,042.60—making the whole amount paid the contractors $92,364.70.
“ The Sioux were transported from Fort Snelling to Hannibal, Missouri, on two steamboats. One of the boats stopped there, and the Indians on it crossed over to St. Joseph, on the Missouri River, by rail. The other boat continued to the junction of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and thence up the latter to St. Joseph; and here the Indians that crossed over by rail were put upon the boat, and from thence to Crow Creek all of them were on one boat.
They were very much crowded from St. Joseph to Crow Creek. Sixteen died on the way, being without attention or medical supplies. All the Indians were excluded from the cabin of the boat, and confined to the lower and upper decks. It was in May, and to go among them on the lower deck was suffocating. They were fed on hard bread and mess pork, much of it not boked, there being no opportunity to cook it only at night when the boat laid up. They had no sugar, coffee, or vegetables. Confinement on the boat in such a mass, and want of proper food, created much sickness, such as diarrhea and fevers. For weeks after they arrived at Crow Creek the Indians died at the rate of from three to four per day. In a few weeks one hundred and fifty had died, mainly on account of the treatment they had received after leaving Fort Snelling.”—MANEYPENNY, Our Indian Wards,
FOOD OF THE INDIANS AT CROW CREEK, DAKOTA, IN THE WINTER
During the summer the Indians were fed on flour and pork; they got no beef till fall. They suffered for want of fresh beef as well as for medical supplies. In the fall their ration began to fail; and the issue was gradually reduced; and the Indians complained