Q&A: Were all Dakota Indians in favor of the War?

Since the beginning of the treaty system, the Dakota Indians had become separated into two noticeable factions; farmer and traditional.  The farmer Indians began acculturating the ways of the white settlers in manner of dress, speech, religion, and agriculture.  This was due largely to the influence of missionaries and the financial incentives provided by the government.  Traditional Indians rejected white ways and sought to maintain a lifestyle based on the ways of their ancestors.  This included hunting, being nomadic, practicing traditional spirituality, and maintaining a traditional style of dress and speech.

Farmer Indians at the Upper Agency

This division between farmer and traditional became apparent during the U.S. – Dakota War as a majority of traditional Indians favored the war and took part in the attacks, while the majority of farmer Indians opposed the war and sought to protect the whites.  This factionalism greatly hindered the Dakota war effort as those Dakota executing the war often found themselves at odds with those Dakota opposing it.  On one occasion, the traditional Indians marched into the camp of the farmer Indians and demanded that they join the war effort.  When the farmer Indians refused, this resulted in a heated debate that nearly broke into violence.  In an attempt to end the conflict and release the captives, Paul Mazekutemani pleaded with the traditional Indians saying, “No one who fights with the white people ever becomes rich or remains two days in one place, but is always fleeing and starving.”

Hoohamaza, Traditional Indian
Hoohamaza, Traditional Indian

The traditional Dakota refused to give up the war effort and this factionalism may have prevented greater success in battle as more and more Dakota switched from one side to the other.  Those, such as Paul Mazekutemani, who were opposed to war, played a valuable role in assisting many to flee while protecting those who were taken captive.  Unfortunately, at the end of the war, those who opposed the war shared the same or similar fate with those who had taken part.

Read the Narrative of Paul Mazekutemani – page 82-90

See this blog post on YouTube


“Different Lifeways Collide,” The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, http://www.usdakotawar.org/history/newcomers-us-government-and-military/factionalism.