These people, those people, our relatives, were fighting for the same thing.

Mr. Taylor describes what he learned about the U.S.-Dakota War, his family's involvement, and shares his perspective.

Audio Chapters

DL: Tell me again when you first heard of the war of 1862. MT: I actually was a Park Ranger at the National Monument when I stumbled across a book in the Library. I was astounded, mainly I was hurt. I was deeply hurt because we weren’t taught this. They didn’t teach it in the public school. They don’t mention it in Minnesota and none of our family knew about it. But in the later years then I found out that’s the reason why we’re here in Flandreau because we were exiled from Minnesota. DL: Do you suppose your parents knew the story but just didn’t talk about it? MT: I think so. I think they knew, that’s why I was so mad at them, why I was so deeply hurt. I think that’s something we should have known. It would have helped us if we had known that when we were growing up in the city of Flandreau here. The other thing is all these years we’ve been persecuted in the city of Flandreau. I hate to say this but we were. Like I say, I always tell this story. There was maybe 20 native kids in the school that started out when we were young. First grade, second grade, by the time we got to school, only two of us graduated. They tried to keep us out of school. They didn’t want us educated. We couldn’t play in the school band because we stood out. Our color was all wrong. We couldn’t play in the school band; they didn’t like us in sports. To this day there’s a lot of prejudice about, like in 2010 Flandreau went to the championships and the news and media didn’t report it as a victory in their championship. DL: So what you’re saying is there’s still some pretty hard feelings here against Indians. MT: There still is, yes there is. I think a lot of it came from 1862. I still firmly believe that to this day.

DL: Please explain the connection between 1862 and why this group of Dakota came to this place. All the Dakota were expelled from Minnesota. So what happened with this group, how many and…? MT: Well I’m not sure but at the beginning of it, there were eleven families that left… Well they were interned at Fort Snelling and you know the story. From Fort Snelling they went to Davenport, Iowa and then my family, they went from Davenport, Iowa to St. Louis and from St. Louis, they shipped back up to Santee, Nebraska. They had heard about the land, the homesteads here, that they were going to give them land here. Now at the first, as far as I know… I saw a treaty in the National Park Service system over there that gave them land from Sioux Falls to Brookings, from Madison, Pipestone including the Pipestone quarries. Well this was all homestead land. Some of the people left Santee, Nebraska and journeyed up here. There was a trading post here too. They could obtain supplies here. That’s when some of our families took up homesteads near here or down by Egan, especially down by Egan. DL: Can you explain how it is that they were already Christian. Where did that occur? MT: Well there were a lot of as people liked to call them, black robes that were trying to Christianize and when they… Well actually somewhere near 1700 they moved from their traditional lands which was Michigan and northern Wisconsin which was the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota lands. Sometime around 1700 they moved to Minnesota because they were driven out of their country by the Ojibwa with guns. We’ve been to the Morton area. We still have relatives there. They call us Tanhonsi which means cousin. When we were younger and our dad was alive, he used to visit a gentleman named David Prescott. They were our relatives and we played basketball in their barn. They lived right near the Agency where the whole thing started. So it felt like home, it always has and my brother and I both said that. Whenever we’re in that area, we feel like we’re home. These people, those people, our relatives, were fighting for the same thing. They were fighting for their freedom, their lands, and their way of life.

DL: Have you ever been to Mankato and the execution site? MT: Yes I have. DL: What was your feeling when you were there? What emotion went through you? MT: I was really angry. I imagine everybody else was the same way because I fought for the United States government in Viet Nam and my brother would probably say the same thing. These people, those people, our relatives, were fighting for the same thing. They were fighting for their freedom, their lands, and their way of life. DL: Thirty-eight were condemned to die and 303 were found guilty but did you mention that some relatives of yours…? MT: Yes, John Taylor. His name was Oecitiduta. His name was John Taylor. He was number 132 to be hanged. He was pardoned by Abraham Lincoln. My grandfather Joseph was one of the… He was an Episcopal minister and somewhere in time he did mission work. He traveled from different reservations to different reservations much the same as the black robes or the priests did. They were trying to Christianize the native people. He wound up at Wounded Knee in 1890. He was one of four ministers in the church when they brought the survivors into the church. The last ceremony they had there they had a ceremony at Birch Cooley. Every four years they had a ceremony there. The last ceremony, my brother and I we were camped down toward the entrance of where you came into the powwow grounds down there below where the battle was fought on a hill. A lot of the native people fought from that Cooley that runs around there, Birch Cooley. Later that night we heard a lot noise and a lot of racket. It actually sounded like gun shots. I got up, my brother came out of his tent and I came out of mine. We could see blue lights flying out in the Cooley and around that hill and we could here gun shots and voices on top of the hill. So we actually thought we saw the spirits maybe of those people that fought there that time. That was our last time we had the ceremony there. Four years we had the ceremony there. DL: What did it look like? MT: It was awesome, there were blue lights flying around in the middle of the night. DL: Were you scared or was it just cool? MT: No, we’d seen things like that before so. [Laughter] We knew somebody was trying to show us something.

 
DL: What's your opinion of the war?
 
MT:My opinion of the war?  I think it was
necessary and it should have been fought to a conclusion, or better
conclusion.  Because of the treatment
they received by the broken treaties… 
We’ve always heard that story. 
You hear it now, you hear it all over. 
I think it should have been fought to a… 
I think they could have come out better if they had fought it to a
conclusion a better conclusion.
 
 
 
DL:Um hum. They were basically outnumbered.
 
 
 
MT:Yeah, they were… Well they were…  They
weren’t really outnumbered because every engagement they fought with the
soldiers, they won.  They won those
engagements.  If you look back in the
history of those fights, there was 900 soldiers killed and 700 settlers.  If they’d have continued with it, but they
couldn’t because they didn’t have supplies and the wherewithal to fight that
war because the Civil War was going on it was taking away their annuities,
their goods, their guns.
 
 
 
DL:Um hum.  Sibley asked for increased
military support from Lincoln and I think there were 1600 that marched straight
down the Minnesota River valley and they defended…  Let’s see there were attacks on Fort Ridgely
and on New Ulm.
 
 
 
MT:Right, New Ulm.
 
 
 
DL:And those weren’t successful, Fort Ridgely held, New Ulm held and then…
 
 
 
MT: Yeah,
those two did, yeah, but they still killed a lot of soldiers and civilians in
both those places.
 
 
 
DL:Now tell me a little bit about that. 
Have you done much reading on Little Crow?
 
 
 
MT:A little, I know a little bit about him.
 
 
 
DL:I know he asked that women and children be spared.
 
 
 
MT:Right.
 
 
 
DL:But obviously that didn’t happen.
 
 
 
MT:No it didn’t.
 
 
 
DL:So do you think that…  Do you have any
opinion on that?  Was that all right?
 
 
 
MT:A lot of that came from the fact that the Europeans that came treated our
people the same way.  That’s where it
came from.  The French brought in the
practice of scalping.  A lot of people
don’t know that.  The practice of
scalping and things…  Well the native
people saw it in a different manor, a different light, a different context
because of their religion.  They only
took the center, a little piece about that big of the scalp and that was the
center of your universe to them. 
Everybody has it, that little whirlwind in your hair.  That’s what they took.  They only took that.  Hollywood made it different because it looked
like they took the whole top of your head off. 
These things were done to the native people too.  Their women were violated, their animals
killed so that’s what they did.

 
DL:What’s the best way to commemorate those events?
 
 
 
MT:I think a lot of the things are what we are doing.  We’re bringing back the memories and trying
to educate everybody, not just…  There’s
a lot of ignorance in our own people, our own native people.  I’ve run across that a lot.
 
 
 
DL:Such as?  What are some falsehoods that
are out there?
 
 
 
MT:Well they think…  Like you have pipes on
display out there at the Historical Society. 
If they’ve been used in a ceremony, they shouldn’t be on display.  They should be put away in a bundle.
 
 
 
DL:They are not on display, I’m pretty sure.
 
 
 
MT:Yeah, right, yeah.  But if they haven’t
been used and a lot of people curing that time had no way to make money to
survive with, they sold their art which included the pipes.  Now some of these pipes haven’t been used so
it’s ok to display them and put them on {unintelligible}.  We believe that.  A lot of us believe that.  A lot of the pipe makers which I am one.
 
 
 
DL:OK, well thank you for that.
 
 
 
MT:Yeah, the biggest thing is ignorance.  I
got in trouble for calling a Medicine Man ignorant one time.  He was here at a meeting about the pipestone
issue.  I told him he was ignorant.  I got in a lot of trouble for that.  This one gentleman said, “You shouldn’t call
that old Medicine Man ignorant”.  I said,
“Well if you look at the definition of ignorance it’s lack of knowledge”.  We have it here amongst our own people as
well as European cultures.  They don’t
know the traditions.  We have a lot of
our younger generation which don’t know traditions.  They read in a book that we shouldn’t be
selling the pipes or anything but the natives have a large trading culture and
pipestone was part of that trading culture. 
You don’t see any Lakota’s on the lists of the people that quarry
pipestone.  They never came here and
quarried it.  They traded it for people
who had it.
 
 
 
DL:I see.
 
 
 
MT:So, it was the same way with horses, arrows, bows.  They probably had one person in a family that
makes good bows for things they needed, for buffalo robes or food or maybe they
couldn’t hunt.

 

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. These people, those people, our relatives, were fighting for the same thing. January 18, 2019. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/2206

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