Q&A: Did the settlers and the Dakota people get along?

In the years leading up to the U.S. – Dakota War, the settlers and the Dakota got along peacefully with one another.  In dozens of settlers’ recollections, few recalled any fear of the native peoples.  Settler Jannette DeCamp describes her relationship with the Dakota:

Jannette DeCamp and infant son Benjamin, MNHS Collections

“For more than a year we had lived among them on terms of friendly intimacy, if I may so describe it.  They were daily visitors at our home – not always welcome ones, it is true.  They came with their bead work, game, fish or anything which they happened to have, to trade for pork, sugar, flour or anything which they needed most, and always expected to receive in return more than twice the value of any article brought.  It was not a pleasant life among them, but we tried to make the best of it while we were there.  The Indians, with few exceptions, were kind and peaceable, and after a few months I grew so accustomed to their presence that no thought of fear ever entered my mind.”

When war did break out, it came as an unbelievable surprise to many living on or near the agency.  Never had such a thing occurred. Those who witnessed the Dakota war party did not consider it cause for alarm because they believed the Dakota were out looking for Ojibwe.  Some settlers even ignored warnings of violence because they considered it so impossible.  In one such case, Samuel Brown and his sister Ellen were traveling to the Upper Agency when the farmer Dakota Little Dog warned them that “the lower bands had broken out and killed everybody at the agency.”  But Samuel Brown “paid no attention to the warning and drove on.”

Read the recollections of settlers – page 30, 52, 100, 103, 131

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Source:

Gary Clayton Anderson and Allan R. Woolworth, eds., Through Dakota Eyes:  Narrative Accounts of the Minnesota Indian War of 1862, (St. Paul:  Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1988)

Jannette E. DeCamp Sweet, “Mrs. J.E. DeCamp Sweet’s Narrative of her Captivity in the Sioux Outbreak of 1862,” Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society, Vol. 6, (St. Paul:  The Pioneer Press Company, 1894), 354-380.

Mary Lethert Wingerd, North Country:  The Making of Minnesota, (Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press, 2010).