“Makte sni , makte sni, damakota do, damakota do.”

Mr. LaBatte talks about his family's experience before, during, and after the U.S.-Dakota War.

Audio Chapters

DL: What did you learn about Dakota history while you were growing up?

WL: I learned oral history from my dad. Stories that his mom had told him about life then, about how there were Indian villages all the way up the Minnesota River Valley. That was before the war. She was four years old and was brought into Camp Release in that summer/fall of 1862. Her and her mother and brothers took a walk to Lower Sioux. That’s where the trials were held. Coincidentally her future husband’s cabin [log house store] was used as François LaBatte… If you know history you know that François LaBatte, the trials were held at his store. I’ll tell you a story about that later. She told him about the horrors of that walk. It’s pretty well told about some of the horrors. One of them was walking through this town and they threw hot water on them in December. She remembers that.

DL: Was this your great-grandmother?

WL: No, my grandma. My grandma was four years old in 1862. My dad was born in 1900.

DL: Your dad was born in 1900?

WL: 1900 yes.

DL: Your grandma was a young girl…

WL: A little girl, very little.

DL: Which town did they go through?

WL: I don’t dare say because I might get it wrong and historians will say, “Well if that’s wrong, then the story is untrue.”

DL: But the water is true.

WL: Yes, but I understand there’s a controversy on some of those things where some historians are trying to prove that that didn’t happen in New Ulm and happened somewhere else. So Indian people look at it this way: what’s important is that the event happened. Whether it happened in this town or that town is immaterial to Indian people. What is important is that it happened. I guess from a Wasichu standpoint they would want to know that it was not “my” town. It was that other town. [Laughter] So there are two conflicting viewpoints and whether they’ll ever come to an understanding…

WL: Now I meant to tell you another story that my dad told me. His maternal Grandma was a Mdewakanton that lived at Lower Sioux. She was married to François. Some oral history Dad tells us that… See this François, he sounds like he’s just a Frenchman right? He’s not because I’ve done my history on him. His dad was Michel and Michel married an Indian woman. According to the written record at the time, he married a full blooded Sioux. They were married at Prairie Du Chien. So out of that came François. So François was half French and half Dakota. Today when you look at it [a picture of him] you would say he’s a Frenchman. Well Dakota too. So when that war started at Lower Sioux, he said he stood out in front of his store and said, “Makte sni , makte sni, damakota do, damakota do.” – It’s translated as, “Don’t kill me, don’t kill me I’m Dakota, I’m a Dakota.” They shot him, killed him. That’s the story that we know about him.

My dad wanted to find out where he was buried. This was some years ago. He said at Lower Sioux, they told him where he was buried. He was kind of buried behind the store there on the cliff bank but dad said he walked back there and couldn’t find what he thought would be a depression in the ground. Philander Prescott, if I remember right, was a trader there. He was killed, too. They took his body back to the Pioneer Cemetery on Lake Street and Cedar. So I did some other research trying to find out… Well when Sibley came, was it Sibley? They came through there, they dealt with the dead people. I thought maybe there might be an account of what happened to François but I could never find anything about it. Her name was Mary LaBatte. That was François’s wife. She probably dealt with it – buried him. She was a Mdewakanton from Wapasha’s Band. Someplace I think is said that she was a daughter of Wapasha. So I don’t know if that is true, that’s just what I’ve read. Sometimes like you say somebody can write something down and it might not be true and you think it’s true. I don’t know if it’s true or not.

She died at Lower Sioux in 1909. I’m trying to think of her Indian name but I can’t think of it right off hand.

DL: The Dakota knew that he was half Dakota, they had to know that.

WL: Yes.

DL: But they shot him anyway. Have you thought about that? Why they would have done that?

WL: From my viewpoint sometimes emotions don’t make sense. Sometimes insanity, it doesn’t make sense. If you’re enraged, if you’ve been oppressed, and somebody may be innocent but a symbol of the oppressor you probably could take out the symbol rather than the real. I don’t try to understand it. I don’t try to explain it. I’m a Dakota. I don’t blame. You know that don’t go anywhere. That only makes you…

WL: I did my family history in the 70’s or 80’s. But when you do that family history, you do a lot of other reading and a lot of other Dakota history stuff. When I was reading I used to get really angry. Oh man, especially when you read the treaties and what we were… I mean it was bad enough that we lost a lot of land but there were some things in that treaty that we were supposed to get that we never got. It would make you angry because you’d look at it and say, this is what they said we were supposed to get and this is what we got. We got nothing. It really made you angry. It made you angry about all the other things that happened. You’d read the accounts of what happened on that walk, THAT WALK. It would make you angry because you knew that your grandma was on that walk. I remember one night I went to bed and I had a dream. My grandma came into that dream and she scolded me. She said, “That was my pain, not yours.” And I put that away, I put that anger away. I think that was very healing for me because I can recognize what happened but I don’t have to be a victim of it. We have a lot of victims and sometimes that’s a choice [they make].

DL: Do you recall any other stories from your dad about that period or maybe even before the period during and or after? About the scattering of the Dakota, was your family scattered?

WL: Well, here’s what happened to my mother’s family. I’ll tell you that story first. My mother’s grandma, her Indian name was Ta Sina Suspe Becawin but in everyday life they just called her Suspe. Ta Sina Tusweca means Her Blanket, Ta Sina means Her Blanket – her robe, her blanket. Tusweca means dragonfly woman. So I don’t know, her dragonfly blanket or something I don’t know. I can translate literally word for word but it doesn’t make too much sense so I don’t know. She was nine or twelve years old. She was just a young girl. They were Mdewakanton. They lived at Lower Sioux. They went to Pipestone and they dug pipestone and they were on their way back. They had their wagon loaded with stone and they were coming back. They must have been on the coutou because they could see over east and they could see just smoke, smoke, smoke coming. They didn’t know what that was so they continued on and they encountered some Dakotas on horseback. They were fleeing and they said, “Don’t go back there, there’s a war started over there.” So they buried their pipestone in the ground and then they took off north. My grandpa wrote these stories down so I shall shorten it. They eventually made it to Canada. On the way of course, they were being chased. They made it to Canada. She went up there. She met a man up there. His name is Sihowicasta which is Prairie Chicken Man. Somehow he gets killed. He goes off hunting and he never comes home. She is a young woman then. I don’t know what happened to her family. Maybe her family died up there. Anyway she’s a young woman now and she gets lonely for Minnesota. I’m thinking this is about 1890 or something. So she comes back to the United States and she marries. His English name is Joseph Amos. His Indian name is Hototona. It means Animal Makes a Noise. That’s where my grandma comes from. They lived in Sisseton. Well it’s a long story. They lived in South Dakota but eventually Hototona gets Consumption.

DL: Tuberculosis.

WL: He gets TB and he wants to die in Minnesota so they move back to Minnesota and they eventually live in this little area over here called Heku that means Below the Hill. That was a little Indian Village. There’s Heku and then of course there’s Kahmi. That’s another area around here that Indians lived in. But they lived in Heku. He died in 1896. By then my grandma is married and they live in Sisseton. They live in the Big Coulee area. She died when my mom was only… My mom says she doesn’t remember her because she was one or two years old when she died. Then Grandpa, they’re still living in Sisseton and his in-laws are living here. Well then he decides after his wife died that he’s going to… he moves back to Granite. So that’s where my mom was raised, she was raised here. She went to Pipestone.

DL: Camp Release?

WL: I’ve been there yes, because there’s that connection to my grandma. You know, my grandma was… Supposedly the government called those Indians in. To me it was a ruse to get them to come in. Then they experienced that walk and the internment camp. It seems like, “Come on in. Come on in and you’ll be safe. You’ll be safe under us.” Okay, that happened to my dad’s family. They came in. My mother’s family, they fled and escaped.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Walter LaBatte Interviewer Deborah Locke made in Granite Falls, Upper Sioux Community, MN | Thursday, April 28, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. “Makte sni , makte sni, damakota do, damakota do.” November 24, 2017. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/1077

Viewpoints: All viewpoints expressed on this website are those of the contributors, and are not representative of the Minnesota Historical Society.