“No more Dakotas by and by; Indians all white men. No more buffaloes by and by; all cows, all oxen.” – Little Crow
On August 17, 1862, a Dakota hunting party killed several settlers near Acton, Minnesota. Upon returning to the agency and telling their fellow braves what they had done, many of the young Dakota warriors decided it was time to go to war. Goaded by desperation, they went to Little Crow’s home and demanded that he put on the “war paint” and lead them against the white men. Little Crow rebuked the young men who had committed the murders and refused to lead them in battle. But the young braves persisted. Below is an account of what followed as described by the poet Hanford Lennox Gordon.
“Taoyateduta is a coward!”
Instantly Little Crow sprang from his teepee, snatched the eagle-feathers from the head of his insulter and flung them on the ground. Then, stretching himself to his full height, his eyes flashing fire, and in a voice tremulous with rage, he exclaimed:
“Taoyateduta is not a coward, and his is not a fool! When did he run away from his enemies? When did he leave his braves behind him on the war-path and turn back to his tepees? When he ran away from your enemies, he walked behind on your trail with his face to the Ojibways and covered your backs as a she-bear covers her cubs! Is Taoyateduta without scalps? Look at his war-feathers! Behold the scalp-locks of your enemies hanging there on his lodge-poles! Do they call him a coward? Taoyateduta is not a coward, and he is not a fool. Braves, you are like little children; you know not what you are doing.”
“You are full of white man’s devil-water. You are like dogs in the Hot Moon when they run mad and snap at their own shadows. We are only little herds of buffaloes left scattered; the great herds that once covered the prairies are no more. See! – the white men are like the locusts when they fly so thick that the whole sky is a snow storm. You may kill one-two-ten; yes, as many as the leaves in the forest yonder, and their brothers will not miss them. Kill one-two-ten, and ten times ten will come to kill you. Count your fingers all day long and white men with guns in their hands will come faster than you can count.”
“Yes; they fight among themselves away off. Do you hear the thunder of their big guns? No; it would take you two moons to run down to where they are fighting, and all the way your path would be among the white soldiers as thick as tamaracks in the swamps of the Ojibways. Yes; they fight among themselves, but if you strike at them they will all turn on you and devour you and your women and little children just as the locusts in their time fall on the trees and devour all the leaves in one day. You are fools. You cannot see the face of your chief; your eyes are full of smoke. You cannot hear his voice; your ears are full of roaring waters. Braves, you are little children; you are fools. You will die like the rabbits when the hungry wolves hunt them in the Hard Moon. Taoyateduta is not a coward. He will die with you.”
Read the account by Hanford Lennox Gordon – page 342-344
Hanford Lennox Gordon, The Feast of the Virgins and Other Poems, (Chicago: Laird & Lee, 1891).