My name is Taoyateduta (His Scarlet Nation) but the whites call me Little Crow. I was born around the year 1812 near the present day city of St. Paul. I am the third hereditary chief of my band of Mdewakanton Dakota who lived at the village of Kaposia. My grandfather signed the Treaty in 1805 with Lt. Zebulon Pike and he also participated in the War of 1812 as an ally of the British. I succeeded my father as chief and spokesman for my people in 1846.
I grew up in a village called Kaposia on the east bank of the Mississippi River. It was a beautiful and bustling place that sat just below the bluffs in the great Mississppi valley. Kaposia was a meeting place for many Dakota and Ojibwe Indians who were traveling along the river. It was also a place of trade and commerce. At most times the village had more than three hundred lodges and there was always something happening.
As a young man I left Kaposia to live at Lac qui Parle, a large lake far to the south and west. But, upon the death of my father, I returned to take my place as chief. During my time at Lac qui Parle, I met the missionary Thomas Williamson. He was a good man who sought to help the Dakota people. I invited him to move to my village at Kaposia and he accepted. Although he represented a strange and new cultural influence, I could see that the world was changing and that my nation must learn to work with the white newcomers.
In 1851, the United States government said that they wanted to buy our land. They said it was good for us and that they would provide us with many goods and services. I was reluctant to agree to this treaty. This is mostly because the treaty my nation signed in 1837 had not been fulfilled by the white government. But the white men made many promises and my people had few options other than war. So, though it made me sad to do so, I signed the treaty in 1851 that gave away my homeland.
In the years to follow, my people were not treated well. The money promised to us was often taken by the traders before we ever had a chance to even see it. The white men continued to encroach on our land and they made us give up our traditional ways of life. As a result, I traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with the Great Father, the man you call president (James Buchanan), to plead for his help and to ask him to live up to his promises. I told the Great Father about all the wrongs my people endured. But nothing changed. Instead, the white man continued to take more and more from my people.
Although I resisted change, I knew it was best for the survival of my nation to begin adopting some of the ways of the whites. And so I built myself a wood-frame home and I began to dress in the manner of the whites. But by 1862 my people became desperate. They were starving and without hope. One night, after committing a terrible crime, my young warriors came to me and urged me to lead them in war against the whites. I said no. I told them that they were fools. But my men were persistent. And though I knew the result would be tragic, I agreed to lead my people in war and to fight for the survival of my nation.
We lost the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862. Many of my people were captured, punished, and killed, while many others, like myself, fled west. After the war, the white government decided to exile my nation, the Dakota people, from beyond its homeland forever. This broke my heart.
I sought allies in order to continue my fight, but could find none. I returned to Minnesota in 1863. I was seen by a farmer who shot and killed me. He received a $500 bounty for my body and the people of Minnesota rejoiced and dragged my body through the streets. It was a sad end, but my legacy of pride and hope for the Dakota nation and people lives on.