Following the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862, there was a strong fervor among Minnesota citizens to exile all Indians. As newspaper editor Jane Swisshelm wrote, “They should be got rid of in the cheapest and quickest manner.” Many citizens organized their own efforts to promote removal of the Dakota. One such organization was called the Knights of the Forest. This group had the sole mission “to use every exertion and influence . . . to cause the removal of all tribes of Indians from the State of Minnesota.” With the financial support of the state, some citizens even began to seek out and kill any Indian they found living off of the reservation.
Those Dakota convicted of crimes during the war were sent to a Mankato prison where they endured barely livable conditions. With the expectation that more of those convicted would be sent to hang, the prisoners were denied proper provisions and forced to wear garments that were “covered with vermin, very rotten, tattered and filthy.” Conditions at Fort Snelling were no better. The 1,600 Dakota confined at Fort Snelling were susceptible to outbreaks of mumps, measles, or pneumonia. Over the winter, between 102 and 300 died in confinement at the fort.
By March, 1863, the Senate passed “An Act for the Removal of the Sissetons, Wahpeton, Mdewakanton, and Wahpekute Bands of Sioux or Dakota Indians, and for the Disposition of their Lands in Minnesota and Dakota.” As a result of this act, the Dakota Indians had forever lost the place they call home. The prisoners in Mankato were sent to Camp McClellan near Davenport, Iowa, while the remaining Dakota were sent to a reservation known as Crow Creek, in central South Dakota.
Colin Mustful, Unwarranted Expulsion: The Removal of the Winnebago Indians, (Colin Mustful, 2014).