Memorable words from the Dakotas

Peruse and Reflect on the Memories and Musings of our long past Native brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers.

native american wisdom

If I had known that I would be sent to the penitentiary I would not have surrendered, but when I had been there three years, and they were about to turn me out, I told them they might keep me another year if they wished, and I meant what I said. I did not like the way I had been treated. I surrendered in good faith, and if I had killed or wounded a man it had been in a fair open fight.
….Wambdi Tanka (Big Eagle)

Brothers, we know that the whites are like a great cloud that rises in the east, and will cover the whole country. Brothers you see that the sweat runs from my face, for I am troubled.
….Wicasta Duzahan (Swift Man)

We thought the fort was the door to the valley as far as to St. Paul, and that if we got through the door nothing could stop us this side of the Mississippi.
….Wambdi Tanka (Big Eagle)

The white settlers came in and showered down their houses all over our country. We did not really know whether this country any longer belonged to us or not….This is what we are waiting to know, whether our Father means to take our land for nothing, or whether he means to pay us the money he promised us in the treaties. He said, “You have no game here, our people are hemming you in; you can have no schools nor farming while you live scattered. You owe debts, you need annuities; will you go, my Red Children, if we give you so much?” We thought that was very kind, and we said yes. Now what have we? We have neither our lands, where our fathers’ bones are bleaching, nor have we anything. What shall we do?
….Taoyateduta (Little Crow)

There is one thing more which our Great Father can do. He can gather us all together on the prairie and surround us with soldiers and shoot us down.
….Chief Wabasha

Take the money back! If you don’t give us the money, I will be glad, for we will have our land back. The snow is on the ground, and we have waited a long time for our money. We are poor and have nothing to eat; you have plenty. Your fires are warm, your teepees keep out the cold. We have sold our hunting grounds and the graves of our fathers. We have no place to bury our dead, and yet you will not pay us our money for our lands.
….Mazasha (Red Iron)

You promised us that we should have this same land forever; and yet, you now want to take half of it away…. It appears you are getting papers all around me, so that after a while, we will have nothing left. I am going to see that paper which you have the agent, and if I find anything good in it, I will come and see you again; and when I do, you will hear me talk like a man, and not like a child.
….Taoyateduta (Little Crow)

The whites were always trying to make the Indians give up their life and live like white men….If the Indians had tried to make the whites live like them, the whites would have resisted, and it was the same way with many Dakota.
….Wambdi Tanka (Big Eagle)

After a while two traders called the Indians to a council. Good Star Woman’s father did not go and when the men came back he said, “What did they want to tell you?” They replied, “The trader said he wanted everybody who owed him anything to sign a paper and then he would collect the money from the Government. He didn’t show us any papers, he just wanted us to sign. He said the Government would allow each Indian twenty dollars a year, and what he owed the trader would be taken out of that. Then we won’t have to go hunting any more.”
….Wicankpi Waste Win (Good Star Woman)

We have waited a long time. The money is ours, but we cannot get it. We have no food, but here are these stores, 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.
Taiyateduta is not a coward! And he is not a fool! Braves, you are like children; you know not what you are doing. You are like dogs in the Hot Moon when they run mad and snap at their own shadows. We are only little herds of buffaloes left scattered; the great herds that once covered the prairies are no more. See! The white men are like the locusts when they fly so thick that the whole sky is a snowstorm. Count your fingers all day long and white men with guns in their hands will come faster than you can count. Yes, they fight among themselves, away off…but if you strike at them they will all turn on you and devour you and your women and little children just as the locusts in their time fall on the trees and devour all the leaves in one day. You are fools. You cannot see the face of your chief; your eyes are full of smoke. You cannot hear his voice; your ears are full of rearing waters. Braves, you are little children – you are fools. You will die like the rabbits when the hungry wolves hunt them in the Hard Moon. Taoyateduta is not a coward….He will die with you.
….Taoyateduta (Little Crow)

I went to save the lives of two particular friends, if I could. I think others went for the same reason, for nearly every Indian had a friend that he did not want killed; of course he did not care about the others’ friends.
….Wambdi Tanka (Big Eagle)

I am half white man and half Indian, but I never learned to speak English and I was raised among the Indians as one of them. So when the outbreak came I went with my people against the whites. I was nineteen years old and anxious to distinguish myself in the war.
….George Quinn

We had an easy time of it. We could crawl through the grass and into the coulee and get water when we wanted it, and after a few hours our women crossed the river and came up near the bluff and cooked for us, and we could go back and eat and then return to the fight.
….Wambdi Tanka (Big Eagle)

You have brought me into great danger without my knowing of it beforehand. By killing the whites it is just as if you had waited for me in ambush and shot me down. You lower Indians feel very bad because we have all got into trouble; but I feel worse, because I know that neither I nor my people have killed any of the whites, and yet we have to suffer for the guilty.
….Tatanka Najin (Standing Buffalo)

Wabasha, you have deceived me. You told me that if we followed the advice of General Sibley, and gave ourselves up to the whites, all would be well – no innocent man would be injured. And yet today I am set apart for execution and must die in a few days. My wife is your daughter, my children are your grandchildren. I leave them all in your care and under your protection. My wife and children are dear to me. Let them not grieve for me. Let them remember that the brave should be prepared to meet death; and I will do so as becomes a Dakota. Your son-in-law,
….Hda-inyanka (Rattling Runner)

What it was like at Crow Creek. The Indians were almost naked. They wound burlap around their legs to keep warm. Many of the women had to wear burlap gotten from soldiers, and no one had any sleeves on their garments.
….Wicankpi Waste Win (Good Star Woman)

I was to receive a great quantity of money every year; the money left the hands of my great father, but in passing from hand to hand, each one taking his part, nothing reached my hand more than a dollar. I was to receive a great quantity of goods in blankets. My great father did send me all these, but on the road each one took his morsel and I often got but a small piece of cotton. All this made my heart sad.
….Tatanka Najin (Standing Buffalo)

I could not find my husband. When I saw him again, he told me he had escorted two white women to a ravine and told them to follow it, traveling by night to New Ulm. One of them offered him her wedding ring. He answered, “No, no! I don’t want your ring. Just look at my face and if anything happens, remember it.”
….Mahpiyatowin (Blue Sky Woman)

White folks do not eat animals that die themselves; but the animals that died here were piled up and were fed out to us. They built a box and put the beef in it and steamed it and made soup. They put salt and pepper in it, and that is the reason these hills about here are filled with children’s graves…it seemed as though they wanted to kill us.
….Wasu Oicimaniya (Traveling Hail)

We were so crowded and confined that an epidemic broke out among us and children were dying day and night, among them Two Stars’ oldest child, a little girl. The news then came of the hanging at Mankato. Amid all this sickness and these great trials, it seemed doubtful at night whether a person would be alive in the morning.
….Gabriel Renville

It seemed a long time after sunrise when four wagons with soldiers started out from the camp. We learned afterwards they were going without orders to dig potatoes. They came on over the prairie, right where part of our line was. They came so close that our men had to rise up and fire. This brought on the fight.
….Wambdi Tanka (Big Eagle)

The “farmers” were favored by the government in every way. They had houses built for them, some of them even had brick houses, and they were not allowed to suffer. The other Indians did not like this. They called them “cut-hairs”, because they had given up the Indian fashion of wearing the hair, and “Dutchmen”, because so many of the settlers were Germans.
….Wambdi Tanka (Big Eagle)

I made a speech in council and told the people that I thought it was proper that they should obtain their whole annuities and refuse to pay the traders, and that I did not want the half-breeds to be admitted to our councils; they had always been the tools of the traders, and aided them to deceive the Indians.
….Chief Wabasha native politics, satire, and news.