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Sioux Outbreak 1862

Cheryl Twamley

The picture was clear, the grass was green, the fort wasstrong, and there were white men standing straight and proud. But one thingwas wrong, the Indians somehow didn't fit into this certain rosy picture.

Here was a band of people who were different from the whites.There was a different look in their eyes. A look that meant something thatmany were unable to explain. What about these red skinned people with thestraight black hair. Why were they so thin and hallow-looking these days?When not over 10-15 years before they were so swift and free. They usedto hunt the game and ride the fastest horses, and chant beautiful songsabout the animals and nature. Why did these brothers of love have such asick hating look about them?

These Sioux of 1862 were a new breed of Indian. What wascausing this new breed; it surely couldn't be from the effect of the greatprotectors the white man. Why the whites were here to help them find a newand better way of life. they weren't here to take away the Indians land.They were here to help. Yes - - here to take away the pride, and help destroya nation of proud, free people. To set up laws, government, a new cultureand civilization. A price that was paid for in blood.

What about the people who fought for this land and howdid the white man get the Indians to throw away their lances? In the RedRiver Valley area there was a fort that was put up with the hard struggleof Major E.A.C. Hatch. It was put up on the outskirts of Pembina, NorthDakota. The whites found protection around Fort Pembina, with this peacemore and more whites moved into the area. As they moved in they took overmore Indian land. It was said by many to have been bought for 30 cents anacre. But seldom did the Indians receive this money. The Sioux nation aroundMinnesota and North Dakota began starving and game was growing scarce. Butstill more white men were moving in. As days went on, the men and the boysable enough to fight began leaving their homes and families to help freethe Negro slaves.

While the bloody Civil War was raging on making the peopleback home very weak, the Sioux found their chance to make their move. Nowwas the time to drive the whites from their hunting grounds. The Sioux,under the Chiefs Little Six, Medicine Bottle and Little Leaf began sweepingdown on the settler's homes and cattle; killing and scalping everyone andthing in sight. Major Hatch, his officers: Captain A.T. Chamblin, GeorgeC. Whitcomb, Abel Grovenor, and Hugh S. Donaldson decided to take theirmen and have a full scale war against the Sioux nation.

They began their march from St. Paul, Minnesota on October5, 1863. On the 15, they had made it to Saulk Center, after a few days delayin St. Cloud. It would be a few more days before they reached the battle.In the meantime, their supplies were running very low, and the expectedsupplies were lost somewhere. The weather was below zero degrees and theanimals were tired and starved. There were many men and animals dying. MajorHatch had not forgotten what he had set out to do though all their hardshipof starving tired men and animals. Even the freezing weather didn't makea mark in his brain. He was here to get all the Sioux who were in on themassacre and have them punished. Also to set such a scare in all the Indiansaround so they would never go on the war path again. He was here to protectthe land they had bought from the Sioux. It didn't matter if they had wantedto sell or not for they had signed the treaties that were always writtenin the white man's language. And always after the Indian Chiefs had signedthese treaties they acted different, and smelled of a strange whiskey.

In December, Major Hatch sent out about 20 of his men togo after a band of Indians who were camped around "St. Joe" (Walhalla,North Dakota). They attacked at night and killed almost all the Indians.This set a scare in the Sioux tribe and they asked for a council. Over 400Indians were taken prisoners, but the chiefs Little Six and Medicine Bottleheld back. Little Leaf and his family held out in Manitoba, but died ofstarvation or disease within the next year.

Medicine Bottle and Little Six were caught a few days later,when they were drunk from some bad whiskey that Major Hatch gave to somesquaws to bribe them with. They were both tried and hanged.

This war, even if it did take many lives, was for a purpose.A lot came out of it. The people realized the faults in the government andtried to straighten them out. It helped the country to start a new economicboom. The farm products were in great demand because of what was destroyedin the fighting, and new jobs were started.

Some realized the importance of the battle, some now love,some still hate, but what ever you feel, everyone to his own way.

One old chief in later years spoke of the battle.

"A beautiful bird of color came and sang beside the village; a voice said, 'Do not listen to him, do not look at his colors. He went away but came again with finer colors and sweeter songs, till at last we listened to him and he led us away to die. The bird was the Big Knives; his songs were the fair words and lying promises; his colors were the paints and beads that he gave us for our country. When we listen to the Big Knives, that day we go to our graves."(1)

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(1) Ederer, Bernard Francis. BIRCH COULIE, Exposition/NewYork. 1954

(1) Ederer, Bernard Francis. BIRCH COULIE, Exposition/NewYork. 1954