The Dakota War: Top 8 Facts

Imagine this… You own some magnificent land; let’s say, 100 acres. All wooded land with deer, turkeys, pheasant, a small lake with fish, etc… You have lived comfortably there for years and suddenly people begin moving in all around you.

Okay that’s cool, but…

They start trespassing on your property to hunt and you even catch them fishing. You tell them to stop and they laugh at you and the one leader (Monte Hall) say’s, “Let’s play ‘Let’s Make A Deal’”.

While pointing guns at you they tell you they want to give you payments every 3 months to buy 80 of the 100 acres… Yes, the lake and where all the deer and the antelope play. But seeing the situation and knowing you can eat and survive on the payments, you agree.


The payments are always late if they come at all. You feel hungry and you decide to go to the lake and fish and they try to say you are trespassing. Instead of talking, they shoot at you. You shoot back in fear and desperation.

It is war!

This is a made up account but the sad part is, this really happened on a much larger scale. The Dakota Indians just wanted to be able to feed their families and those people who invaded their lands would not pay or would pay late.

Today’s post is a black mark on American history. But it happened and we should not forget so it never happens again.

Here are 8 facts about the Dakota War.

#1: When

This war started and ended in 1862 while the United States Civil War was also happening.

#2: Who

This was fought between the Dakota Indians who are with the Sioux Indians. They came up against the United States Army as well as settlers.

#3: Why

I hit on the reason this happened in the leading paragraphs. Settlers were entering Dakota lands in Minnesota and it cut down on the furs and hunting for food. The Indians agreed to sell much of the land to the U.S. Government assuming payments would cover their food and supply needs.

But late payments and corruption found Dakota Indians at the edge of starvation. When they asked to get credit until payments arrived, some were told to eat grass and dung.

In efforts to eat, some Dakota Indians are caught stealing eggs from settlers and they promptly killed the settlers.

Going to their Chief, Little Crow, it is determined they must war against the whites because they were not paying on time and people were starving.

I am not saying that murdering people is an excuse in this case, but let me ask, “If your wife, children and other family members were starving and you felt robbed and cheated, what would you do?”

“We have waited a long time. The money is ours but we cannot get it. We have no food but here these stores are filled with food. We ask that you, the agent, make some arrangement so we can get food from the stores, or else we may take our own way to keep ourselves from starving. When men are hungry, they help themselves.”

Little Crow (Taoyateduta), Mdewakanton Dakota, to agent Thomas Galbraith in 1862

#4: They Did Share

Some of the Dakota Indians farmed and because the hunting was so scarce the years of 1861 and 1862, they shared their crops with other Dakota tribe members. But it just wasn’t enough and the traders would not extend credit because they were not sure if the Government would send the Indians their payments.

#5: No Indian Was Welcome In Minnesota After The War

The Dakota War lasted a short time but the after effects were devastating for nearly all Indians living in Minnesota. Even if they did not participate in the conflict, white settlers assumed all were killers. In 1863, a person could find signs that said this around Minnesota:

“The state reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory. The sum is more than all the dead bodies of all the Indians east of the Red River are worth.”
The Daily Republican, Winona, MN 1863

#6: Attack On New Ulm

The Dakota Indians knew they had to attack hard or face extermination. They knew that because of the fact that white settlers were killed over the theft of a few eggs, every white would be out to kill them all. So they went on the offensive.

That offensive was New Ulm, Minnesota and Indian agencies. Over 500 whites died and approximately 150 Dakota Indians.

#7: Army Leaders

A call for help was sent to Fort Snelling where Henry Sibley led State Military forces down to battle the Dakota. Soon after, Major General John Pope was given command of the Military Department of the Northwest.

Together, they rounded up many Dakota men, women and children as prisoners. But the majority of fighting Dakota escaped West into the Dakota’s or North into Canada.

#8: The Mass Hanging

The trials were full of no defense for Dakota men brought. They had no idea what was happening and they were guilty in the eyes of most when they entered the courtroom.

It is hard for me to type… I have tears… Because 2 wrongs never make a right…

On December 26th, 1862, 38 Dakota Indians were taken to a hanging party in Mankato, Minnesota. The ropes all dropped at the same time and the 38 bodies were all buried in a mass grave.

Final Thoughts

Is there any more facts?

Yes, but I am so heartbroken, I must end this post as I feel saddened. I hope and pray that mankind will always look upon this “black mark” and realize that we can and always should do better.

So do you have anything you would add to this?

You can leave all questions and comments below. Thank you.

Other posts you may enjoy:

  1. General John Pope: Top 10 Cool Facts
  2. Battle Of Wounded Knee: 9 Facts
  3. Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders: 25 Cool Facts
  4. 7th Cavalry Regiment: Top 12 Facts
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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