Dakota and Red River

Dakota in the Red River Settlement

by White Spotted Horse on May 16, 2019

  • 1661– The Dakota People meet with Radisson and Groseillier and requested an alliance to protect them from the attacks of the Christinos or Christinaux later shortened to Cri or Cree (Woodland Cree supported by the French). They call themselves Ininew, meaning “persons.” These Cree are trading from the Hudson Bay to Sault Ste. Marie. The Dakota People who previously occupied eastern Saskatchewan, eastern Manitoba and western Ontario are now divided into three groups.  The Siouan speaking Dakota Santee being farmers occupied semi-permanent villages along the Mississippi.  Between the Mississippi and lower Missouri River were the Dakota Nakota (Yanktonai) also Siouan speaking semi-mobile but mainly hunting big game.  Farthest west along the Missouri River lived the Dakota Lakota (Teton) who were wholly mobile and followed the bison (buffalo).  They were all untied in an informal coalition called the Dakota or “just allies.” The Assiniboine and “Stone Indians” speak the same dialect of the Yanktonia, however, separated themselves from the Dakota and formed an alliance with the Cree. The Assiniboine or “Stone Indians” originated from the Sioux or Nadoussis (“The Vipers” as was called by the Ojibway), probably south of St. Peter’s River in Minnesota. With the arrival of Europeans, their economy became one of manufacturing pounded meat and grease to feed the fur industry. This they bartered for liquor, tobacco, powder, balls, knives, awls, brass rings, brassware, blue beads, etc. They relied essentially on dogs for transportation of freight, and kept their horses entirely for hunting buffalo using the pound system.
  • 1690 ­- West of Red River on the White Horse Plains a very swift horse is shunned by all peoples.  Legend says that it was exchanged for the daughter of an Assiniboine by one of two suitors (Dakota and a Cree from WaskwiSipihk?) of different bands.  The rejected Dakota suitor attacks the wedding feast; the bride sped away on the white horse with her Cree husband on another slower horse.  It is said she had to restrain her horse to the slower speed of her husband and both newlyweds died in a hail of arrows.  The horse escaped, but forever afterwards, all natives believed the girl’s soul had entered the horse and they therefore shunned it and left it alone to roam the land. The region from this day on is called White Horse Plains.
  • 1729 – The Lake of the Woods Cree carried gifts to the Ojibwa of La Pointe to affect a peace treaty and request an alliance against the Dakota who are also in this area.
  • 1734 – Although Treaty-making was a well-known custom among the First Nations, the first Treaty in the area with Europeans was signed between the French and the Dakota — a Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Trade between France (La Vérendry) and the Dakota Nation at Northwest Angle in what is now the Treaty Nº3 area. The Treaty was approved by the King of France.
  • 1860: The Ojibway had always participated in making Treaties with other First Nations. One such Treaty was completed at Fort Garry on March 1, 1860, known as “The Peace of Fort Garry” between the Ojibway, Ininiw (Cree) and Dakotas, to end all hostilities with each other. The Dakota Sioux, three Chiefs and eighty braves left the Dakotas and met the Saulteaux and entered into a Peace Treaty at Upper Fort Garry with the Saginosh (English) Governor McTavish, James McKay, William Hallett, Rowand and others. They had representatives from the Ojibway, Ininiw (Cree), Yankton (Sioux) and Sistous. The last time they were in Red River was in 1845 when one of their members is shot dead. The Dakota began moving onto their old traditional territory of present day Southern Manitoba/Saskatchewan. Although the Dakota people were not a part of the numbered treaties they are recognized as occupying their own lands within Manitoba/Saskatchewan and have secured alliances and arrangements with the Crown and the First Nations.
  • 1862: Many of the Dakota who fled to the North West Territories from the Americans remained to settle in lands at Oak River, Oak Lake and Bird Trail Creek in present day Manitoba. Others settled at White Cap, Wahpoten and Standing Buffalo in Saskatchewan.
  • On May 29, 1863:  Little Crow, Shakopee and Medicine Bottle took their bands into Canada.  They arrived at Upper Fort Garry and stayed three days. They expressed a desire to remain on friendly terms with the Canadians. They stated their people had suffered much for years. Good faith had not been kept with their people by the Americans. They had been defrauded of their lands and the advantage is being taken of the rash behaviour of their young braves to gain pretence for extermination of their people. He had been unfairly induced to give up American prisoners in his possession under pretext of affecting an exchange, whereas his friends in the hands of the enemy had been hanged. He asked Governor Dallas to talk to General Sibley to come to terms but if refused they had no alternative to fight a righteous self-defense. Little Crow’s request for food is immediately accommodated. His request for ammunition sufficient to hunt is denied. All Canadian property including buildings and steamboat in Dakota Sioux Country is respected and unmolested. Little Crow said the Dakota with full intention of his people did not want to injure any one from Canada in his person or his property and this will continue into the future. During the peace mission the Dakota ran foot races with the Saulteaux to reaffirm the Peace Treaty with them.
  • That summer 2,000 Lakota fled into Canada from the United States, and most of these settled near Portage la Prairie, while others located near the Hudson’s Bay Post of Fort Ellice, while others made permanent camps just north of the international border near Turtle Mountain. A considerable band of Sissetons moved westward towards Wood Mountain.

1876: Always conscious of events south of the border, the Mounted Police faced a daunting challenge in 1876-77, when in November, exhausted 5,000 Lakota crossed the international border from the United States seeking the protection of “British” law as existing allies, making camp in the Wood Mountain area in what is now southern Saskatchewan. They were soon followed by Sitting Bull, who had led the battle to the death of General George Custer and the men of the 7th Infantry, U.S. Army, in July 1876 at Little Bighorn, Montana. Inspector James Morrow Walsh of the North-West Mounted Police, one of the first NWMP officers to meet with Sitting Bull and other Lakota was very respectful of First Nations leaders. Riding with half a dozen men into the camp, met with Sitting Bull and assured him of protection from pursuit by the U.S. Army if the Lakota obeyed the laws of Canada and did not conduct raids across the border. Inspector Walsh was also conscious of the fact that the Lakota greatly outnumbered the NWMP. With carefully chosen words and a firm hand, Walsh emphasized that they could stay as long as the law was respected. Sitting Bull agreed to these terms, denouncing the Americans and claiming to be a “British Indian.” And it was. The Mounted Police were impressed at how law-abiding the Lakota were, even when forced to starvation and surviving by snaring mice and gophers. No aid is offered not even basic food, clothing and shelter. Sitting Bull wanted to remain in peace in what he called his Grandmothers land. At first, the Canadian government accepted the Lakota as political refugees, but greatly feared that their presence in Canada would be a haven for other disaffected Indigenous groups in the U.S. west. John A. MacDonald developed a policy to starve the Lakota out of Canada and the government informed Sitting Bull that he would never be recognized as a British Indian or granted a reservation in Canada and warning him that the buffalo would disappear within a few years. The latter prediction came true all too quickly. In 1879 American traders and hunters set fires along the border to keep the buffalo south, and the end of the hunt on the Canadian prairies was in sight. That summer the lack of buffalo and the refusal of the Canadian government to give the Lakota either a reservation or food led many to go back to the United States which they promised of a pardon, just treatment and provisions for any returning Lakota. The majority including Sitting Bull would return to the United States in 1881 but some would remain and settle at Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan.