Stephen Return Riggs – Missionary for the Dakota

Stephen Return Riggs was a lifelong missionary who sought to educate and Christianize the Dakota Indians of Minnesota.  Born in Ohio, Stephen Riggs arrived at Fort Snelling in 1837.  Shortly thereafter, he and his wife, Mary, moved to Lac qui Parle where they worked to translate the bible into the Dakota language.  In addition, Reverend Riggs wrote the first English-Dakota dictionary and Dakota Grammar book.  In 1851, Reverend Riggs was the interpreter for the signing of the Treaty of the Traverse des Sioux.  In 1854, he founded the Hazelwood Mission and Republic, located near the Yellow Medicine or Upper Agency, which acted as an educational and agricultural center for the Christian Dakota.  During the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862, Reverend Riggs worked as the Chaplain for Colonel Sibley’s forces.

Stephen Riggs and his wife Mary dedicated their lives to what they believed to be the betterment of the Dakota people.  He is the father of Alfred Riggs, the main character in my novel, Thy Eternal Summer.  He also wrote the book, Mary and I:  Forty Years with the Sioux, a resource I relied on heavily for the writing of Thy Eternal Summer.  

Article source:  “Reverend Stephen and Mary Riggs”  http://www.usdakotawar.org/history/reverend-stephen-and-mary-riggs; “Dakota Missions on the Minnesota Frontier”  http://bloomingtonmn.gov/main_top/2_facilities/rec_facility/pond/signs/missions/missions.htm#hazel