Are we doing the right thing?

Mr. Little Crow talks about his ancestor, Thaóyate Dúta, and the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

Audio Chapters

DL: Did you ever hear of the 1862 – Of course you did, but I’m going to ask the question. – Did you ever hear of the 1862 US Dakota War during your growing up years?
ML: I learned through reading and hearing and talking to my grandparents that there is the Great Dakota Conflict of 1862. Probably my great great great grandfather was involved in that Little Crow Uprising. That’s where I’m descendant of those…
DL: So you’re a direct descendant of Chief Little Crow.
ML: Right, that’s right.
DL: Therefore I would guess you heard quite a few stories while you were growing up.
ML: Oh yes. DL: What did they tell you about that time?
ML: All the hardships that they put up with. The US Government promised them rations and all that and they didn’t live up to their promises. That’s what sort of caused that conflict because my great grandfather was living in a house and wearing white man’s clothes and all that and then things didn’t go right so he went back to his own Dakota ways. That’s how he was involved in the Dakota war.
DL: What stories did you hear about your grandfather? What kind of man was he?
ML: Well first of all, he was a real woman’s man. He had, I believe, seven wives. There was a family of seven girls and he was involved with every one of them, living with them. Of course definitely he was a warrior and he was a nice looking man. I guess everybody looked up to him, all the women.
DL: OK. Natural born leader? ML: Yeah. DL: I believe he was considered very intelligent as well.
ML: Yes, I would say that too from what I was taught about and read about and…
DL: Didn’t he have the confidence of the people?
ML: Meaning what? Like I…
DL: Meaning they would follow him.
ML; Yeah, some do and some don’t-like there is some people there that don’t want to follow his life style and they want to live in a civilized way but you know like there’s always two sides to all conflicts. The do’s and the don’ts, he was one of the ones involved with the do’s.
DL: Right. He, from what I’ve read, when they met to talk about what to do next he, from what I understand, said that he wasn’t really confident they could win but he would lead them anyway because he was not a coward. Does that sound accurate? ML: Yeah well you know- he knows that there’s a bunch of settlers, white people, coming to the states and all that area there. Eventually he knows it’s going to happen to what it is today. But yet he still stood up against that for a while till he got killed.

DL: Could the outcome have been any different? Meaning was there any way that if perhaps more Dakota had joined him or if… I guess I’m trying to speculate here about the outcome of that war, a different sort of outcome for the Dakota people. If he had not gone to war, what would that have meant? But they did go to war and what did that mean?

ML: Well he did go to war and eventually of course we lost. So that’s when the migration started – the Dakota people coming north to Canada to live out here. But beforehand we’ve always been in this country anyway. But this is north of which is now the US – Canadian border. At one time back in them days there was no border. We hunted all over the place, you know, north of the present day border. So we’ve been back and forth. We use the words back and forth just on account of that line that’s there. One time it was just back and forth but from north to south. That’s all it is from what I gather.

DL: Could you tell me please, a couple of things you would like remembered about Chief Little Crow?

ML: Well from what I’ve heard he’s a very understanding man and he’s got his own ways and he also is a very good horseman. That’s why even myself today I’m still a horseman. My grandfather was. He had a bunch of horses. He showed me how to work with horses, handle horses, break horses, and train horses. I never forgot that. Today I still carry that on of what I was taught of how to work with animals, train animals and use them for transportation and all that. Without horses, I’ve said this before to other meetings and stuff like that, without horses we wouldn’t be here today because they were our transportation when we migrated into present day Canada. I’ve always been taught to respect and honor horses.

DL: If your great great great grandfather could walk into the room today, what would you ask him?

ML: First of all I’ll ask him am I doing the things that you expect us present day Dakotas are doing. Are we doing the right thing? Like this interview here. OK, we’re talking about him. Is it right that we talk about you? That’s the first thing that I’ll ask him. But for my teaching and learning that you offered me tobacco here and our belief is that when you are offered tobacco and talk about the past, you can name and use their names and you wouldn’t offend them in any way or offend yourself. With the presenting of tobacco to use for that. That’s why I can talk freely of him with this pouch of cigarettes or tobacco sitting here. Without it, it’s not right to talk about our ancestors.

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. Are we doing the right thing? September 23, 2017.

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