Q&A: Were all Dakota people in favor of the U.S. – Dakota War?

Q&A: Were all Dakota people in favor of the U.S. – Dakota War?

Since the beginning of the treaty system, the Dakota people had become separated into two noticeable factions; farmer and traditional.  The farmer Dakota 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 Dakkota 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, MNHS Collections

This division between farmer and traditional became apparent during the U.S. – Dakota War as a majority of traditional Dakota favored the war and took part in the attacks, while the majority of farmer Dakota 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 Dakota marched into the camp of the farmer Dakota and demanded that they join the war effort.  When the farmer Dakota 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 Dakota 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 Dakota, Illustration by Frank Blackwell Mayer, From the Collections of the Newberry Library

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 Mazakutemani, 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 Mazakutemani – 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.

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