Oceti Shakowin (Seven Fire Places) or Oyate Shakowin (Seven Nations)
(as descibed by Sleepy Eye I and Wanatan II to Joseph Nicollet, 1838)
Good Road Little Hawk
Iron Bird Tail
(Charges Corn At)
chart Nov. 24, 2006 for Canupawakpa Dakota.
Edited Feb. 17, 2007.
[unclear from Nicollet’s notes
whether he meant three
subdivisions of the Yankton,
or possibly as many as six.]
Other Siouan nations formed their
own multi-tribal councils such as the:
Omaha (Three Fires); Mandan &
Hidatsa (with Arikara forming the
Three Affiliated Tribes) and the great
confederation of the Crow.
At least one (and probably more)
multi-national councils were formed
with other First Nations for purposes
of diplomacy and trade. The Seven
Council Stones consisted of:
Mandan, Hidatsa, Cree, Ojibway,
Seven Council Fires, Chippewa and
Assiniboine and dealt with trade on
the so-called “Mandan Trail.”
The Assiniboine may have
belonged to the Seven
Council Fires at one time [pre-
1700 AD]. If so, they may have
collectively held one of the
Seven Council Fire seats
belonging to the Nakota, while
the Yankton and Yanktonais
together held the other.
Outline of Treaty and Constitutional encounters between Dakota representatives and those of France, British Empire, and Canada.
Note on Sources:
French period narrative taken primarily from Laviolette and corroborated by dates from LaVerendrye. Laviolette’s primary sources were Dakota oral history and the Jesuit Relations.
British Empire period narrative taken primarily from Robert Rogers & Jonathan Carver; and John Richardson, and by oral history interviews of present-day Dakota elders with the researcher.
Canadian period narrative taken from Alexander Morris, corrorobated by dates from Boundary Commission and Indian Affairs (National Archives of Canada) files, and by oral history interviews of present-day Dakota elders with the researcher.
[square brackets] indicates author’s interpretations and source notes.
1640 – French traders begin report contacts with “Nadouessi” to the west of the Great Lakes.
1642 – Jesuit Relations report on social economy of “Sioux.”
1640s-1650s – French become involved with Dakota-Ojibway conflict – or to put it another way – the Dakota become involved with French-English conflict.
1650 ca. – Battle of Kathio in which Ojibway armed with firearms and explosives drive Dakota from Kathio, a mound village in the Mille Lacs area.
1659 – Radisson and Groseillers visit a Huron refugee camp situated in a Dakota community. They subsequently travel with Dakota representatives to visit Lakota on the plains.
1660 – Sault Ste. Marie. Radisson describes participating in a pipe ceremony with Dakota.
1668 – Jesuit Relations report “no-man’s land” conditions SW of Lake Superior in areas between Dakota and Ojibway. Father Marquette requests permission from Dakota for safe passage through their lands.
1675 – LaSalle receives commission from French King to acquire possession of Mississippi valley.
1680 – LaSalle reaches fork of Illinois and Mississippi Rivers with 1000 pounds of trade goods to open negotiations.
Aug. 14, 1680 – LaSalle plants a French flag in a Dakota village after conducting the French ceremony of possession. [Note: the French protocol required the “voluntary” agreement of a people to be subjects of the King of France before it could legally take possession. In practice this was often coerced, but, the fact remains that the protocol required the adhesion to a treaty. Therefore, if the flag was planted, a plaque produced, and a dated report filed back to France (as was done) then it follows that by French law the court must have been satisfied that a “treaty” had been made with the attending Dakota. Source: Ceremonies of Possession.]
May 8, 1689 – Explicit land transfer treaty arrangements are recorded at Fort. St. Anthony by witness and French trader Pierre-Charles LeSueur.
1736 – LaVerendrye makes a political mis-step and becomes involved with Dakota-Ojibway conflict. His son participates in an Ojibway raid. The raiders are themselves tracked down and killed by a Dakota party near Sault Ste. Marie. LaVerendrye refuses Cree and Ojibway offers of revenge, and instead begins his journey to the “Mandans” in an effort to reopen the trade route which has been closed by war.
1736 – LaVerendrye reports that he visited the Mandans, but some historians believe he got no further than Turtle Mountain and Sourisford where he met with a Siouan people of some kind who lived in farming villages along the Souris River. [LaVerendrye also carries out the French ceremony of possession including flag and plaque, and therefore must have concluded a treaty with someone.]
1740 – Dakota chief and diplomat Wabasha sets out for Quebec to offer himself up in exchange for LaVerendrye’s son. He is persuaded this is a bad idea and turns back.
1743 – A larger Dakota diplomatic mission travels to Quebec and meets Count Frontenac, and to reopen trade.
1746 – A delegation of four Dakota chiefs visits Montreal on a trade mission.
1750s – The French are driven from Quebec by 1759, and the British-armed Ojibways have pushed the Dakota away from Lake Superior. Dakota-French contact is broken.
1763 – End of Seven Years of War between British Empire and France. Quebec and the “Old Northwest” between the Mississippi and Lake Superior, are nominally taken over by the British. France and Britain agree between them that the area south of the Hudson’s Bay watershed and west of the Mississippi will be “Louisiana” but under Spanish control. First Nations within these areas are not consulted.
1763 – Pontiac’s Revolt of French-allied Algonquin nations nearly destroys the British presence in interior North America. The British respond with a series of internal reforms in administration, and a new treaty protocol “The Royal Proclamation of 1763” which is intended to correct the problems which lead to the revolt. [The 1763 Proclamation treaty protocol will be unchallenged from 1763 to 1867 when it became temporarily set aside by the British North America Act and Acts of the Canadian Parliament. In 1982 in response to Dakota and other First Nations delegations, the British House of Lords restored the 1763 Proclamation before repatriating the Constitution to Canada. It is today embedded in the Canadian Constitution. The most important principal of the 1763 Royal Proclamation is that of informed and voluntary consent by the legitimate representatives of the original occupiers of a territory.]
Sir William Johnson is named as the first Superintendent of Indian Affairs, a branch of the Royal Army. Johnson has authority for native relations within all territories of British North America.
1768 – Major Robert Rogers, a British Ranger and military intelligence officer initiates a clandestine expedition into “Spanish” territory to establish trade and treaty relations with the Dakota nations. His officers are successful in making contact over the winter, and in bringing back a large number of Dakota representatives to a general council to be held at Michilimackinac in 1769 – the old headquarters of the French-Indian Trade.
Wabasha is one of the Dakota chiefs named as participating.
Political changes in Europe lead Britian to seek reconciliation with Spain. The expedition’s legitimacy is denied, and Rogers’ political enemy Sir William Johnson moves against him to discredit any native relations outside of the Indian Affiars Department. Johnson may have had some legitimate reasons, but the effect was to put the “Sioux Treaty” so painstakenly negotiated by Rogers and company into limbo.
[None of the text material of the “Sioux Treaty” of Robert Rogers survived. However, it is alluded to in British military correspondence; Jonathan Carver describes its main conditions including annotations to a map; and the map surveyed by Thomas Hutchins still exists. The map was surveyed before, and only Carver’s narrative links it to Roger’s “Sioux Treaty”.]
One feature of this treaty echoed the previous treaties with the French, that of creating a buffer zone between the Ojibway-Saulteaux and the Dakota. Because of Ojibway successes, the Dakota had to acknowledge that this buffer zone would be further west of where it was in French times. Carver states that this is “Township No. 2” as surveyed on the Hutchins map, and that “Township No. 1” to the northwest was still held by the Dakota, but that everything east and south of No. 2 was in other hands.
A second important detail, consistent with British treatment of United Empire Loyalists and Iroquois, was a promise of land within British North America to compensate for land lost during the American Revolution as a result of aiding the British. To compensate for ceded territory Dakota oral history, holds that they were promised “one hundred miles of land”. Carver states specifically that it was to compensate for Township No. 2, an area 80 miles by 120 miles. (Most of the townships were roughly 100 miles square.)
1776-1781 – American Revolution breaks out and the British Empire needs every ally it can find. Oral history and a few tantalizing references suggest that the “Scioux” were sometimes involved in supporting British against the Americans – under the umbrella of the unofficial “Sioux Treaty.” The Dakota oral history holds that the original price of “one hundred miles of land” as negotiated by Roberts, was to be the payment for aid in the American Revolution. Roberts is brought out of retirement by the British specifically to trade on his good name with frontiersmen and natives.
1791 – The British negotiate away the Ohio Valley to the Americans. Dakota communities within this area, still believing that they belong to the British-Sioux Treaty, are not informed. In practice American advance is slow, and “British Indians” such as Blackhawk are still able for a time to obtain British weapons in order to resist.
War of 1812-1814 – The British again need Native help to fight the Americans. British officers, only one generation after Rogers, reinvoke the old alliances. [The reappearance of the phrase “hundred miles of land” in the oral history, suggests that the Dakota simply regarded this as an extension of the original 1768 treaty with the British. The fact that the British were calling upon the Dakota for a third time would have been taken as evidence that the British regarded it as a legitimate treaty.]
1812 – British military documents [Richardson] record the issuing of British Army firearms to “Scioux”. Immediately following this, a combined party of British, colonials, Ojibway, Metis and Scioux retake Michilmackinac from the Americans.
1814 – Approximately 300 “Scioux” out of a total force of approximately 500 travel downriver to Prairie du Chien which they capture from the Americans. Metis from Manitoba are also involved in this battle.
1817 – In appreciation and recognition, Governor-General Haldemand issues 7-12 George III Indian Treaty Medals to Dakota chiefs at a ceremony somewhere in central Canada. [Laviolette’s list contains 12 individual names led by Wabasha, representing 7 Dakota nations.]
[The treaty medals, and the mutual military history of the last decade based on a previous understanding, lead the Dakota to believe that they have a treaty with the British. The Army gives them that impression, but, George III may not have had the support of Parliament and many such war-time treaties have gone unrecorded except by the treaty medals themselves.]
1817 – Lord Selkirk enters into a treaty with five chiefs, one of whom (Ouikidoat) may be Dakota or Assiniboine. [The treaty is written in Scottish legal terms and is a “quit-rent” agreement which in Scottish law means that the original ownership is not alienated, although the “rent” confers all of the rights which the original owner has “quit.” As English law came to supercede Scottish law in Scotland, it also trumped it in all former Scottish colonies. “Quit-rent” disappeared as a concept and was replaced by extinguishment. Subsequently the Selkirk Treaty is reinterpreted by Canada to confer ownership.]
1821 – The British cede more Dakota territory to the Americans, including the Hudson’s Bay watershed south of the 49th parallel
1820s-1840s – Due to conflict between pro-slave and anti-slave factions, the Americans are slow to expand into the Old Northwest and across the Mississippi into remaining Dakota territory. [Although the British have ceded this territory on paper, in fact it remains under Dakota control with occasional Ojibway inroads. The Dakota continue to believe they have a treaty with the British, and the continual presence of British traders and military aides gives credence. A painting by Alfred Jacob Miller in 1837 illustrates British captain James Drummond-Stewart hanging a treaty medal on a Dakota or Crow chief, well within territory claimed by the United States.]
The colonies of Upper and Lower Canada begin assuming their own responsibility for Indian Affairs within their borders.
1839 – The Dakota Kit Fox Society in the vicinity of Turtle Mountain and Devil’s Lake, uses French-born US geographer Joseph Nicollet as an intermediary to negotiate in writing a peace treaty with Hole-in-the-Day of the Ojibway. [One of the Dakota signatories is Inyang Mani, whose widow was resident on Turtle Mountain IR#60 in the 1870s. Three letters are preserved in Nicollet’s published journal. Nicollet p. 277-280.]
1844 – The Metis led by Cuthbert Grant sign a treaty of mutual peace and occupation with the Dakota in southwest Manitoba. The treaty text is published by Alexander Ross the Sheriff of Assiniboia. As printed, the Dakota side the treaty is signed by: “Wan en de ne ko ton money; In yag money; Etai wake yon; and Pin e hon tane.”
1850-51 – Battles of Grand Couteau, Buck’s Hill [Boissevain] and the Turtle’s Heart [Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reserve] over dwindling buffalo lead to a series of multilateral peace treaties between Ojibway, Cree, Dakota and Metis.
1854-1858 – American Fur Trader, Edwin Denig retires from Fort Union with his second wife, Deer Little Woman, to the Metis settlement of Granttown on the White Horse Plain in Manitoba. He writes his second book “The Assiniboine” to fill out areas he left out of his first book “Five Indian Tribes on the Upper Missouri.” In “The Assiniboine” he provides censuses which may be as recent as 1858, in which he states that the area of Turtle Mountain and southwestern Manitoba is under the control of the “Gens du Canote” led by The Serpent. [Cano in French means chanter just like the Dakota word Canu does, and is pronounced much the same way. It sometimes gets mistranslated into English as “the Canoe Band” but the similarity to the present-day band name “Canupawakpa” suggests a continuation of the same political-entity.]
Denig adds that there is an off-shoot of the Gens du Cano which included survivors of a smallpox epidemic from the old Gens du Cano, plus those of other bands and immigrants and was led by Blue Boy. He calls this the Red Branch or Red Root.
Denig puts the Cano band at 220 lodges and the Red Branch at 30 lodges.
1854 – Missouri Compromise allows the Americans to temporarily bury their own differences long enough to invade and occupy territory in the Old Northwest and across the Mississippi. White colonist pressure on Dakota communities begins to climb sharply.
1861 – William McDougall, Canadian colonial Superintendent of Indian Affairs, negotiates [or imposes] the Manitoulin Island Treaty. This treaty is the first to be negotiated by the colonial administration, and becomes the model for the subsequent system of numbered Canadian treaties.
1861-1862 – the Minnesota Uprising of Santee Dakota against the Americans fails to save northwestern Minnesota from the settler advance. Refugees are forced north and west to the relative safety of British North America. These refugees seek the safety of their own relatives living in scattered villages throughout present-day southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan. [Charles A. Eastman specifically states in his own memoirs that he was sent by his father from Minnesota to the safety of his uncle and grandmother who farmed on the British side of Turtle Mountain. This is first-person testimony that the Eastman clan specifically was on both sides of the border at that time.]
1861 – American Civil War breaks out delaying US expansion west from Minnesota. British briefly support South and “black operations” within US territory. [This support probably included arms and ammunition to the Dakota.] Raiders are allowed to operate from British North American territory against the US.
1862 – Hadamanie negotiates a treaty of safe passage and occupation with the “Ojibway chief warrior” for the remaining British side of Turtle Mountain. [The Ojibway chief was probably Little Shell or Hole-in-the-Day. Hadamanie says in a letter written by George Hill in 1873, that it was for the whole mountain but the Ojibway-Saulteaux had already occupied most of the American side by then.]
1862 – A large Dakota delegation travels to the Red River Colony to meet with HBC Governor Dallas. Dallas sits on the fence. He provides a little food and ammunition, and suggests the Dakota camp west of Portage. [He also permits American bounty hunters to pass into British territory where in cooperation with Metis and Ojibway at Portage they attack the Dakota at Flee Island, as well as kidnapping chiefs Little Six and Medicine Bottle. Dallas is reprimanded from London. There will be no more sanctioned attacks on the Dakota but Little Six and Medicine Bottle are executed by the Americans.]
1863 – Battle of Gettysberg in American Civil War marks the “highwater mark” of the Confederacy who begin to lose the war. British Empire drops recognition and support of South in favour of American North. Clandestine aid to groups opposing the US is ended, including support for Natives resisting American expansion.
1867 – Confederation of Canada (then southern Ontario and Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.) Responsibility for Indian Affairs within this area is transferred to the new Dominion government. West and north of “Canada” responsibility remains within the old Indian Affairs department of the British Army. 1869 – Canada “acquires” Rupertsland from the Hudson’s Bay Company. Canada interprets this as outright ownership. The British government advises that Canada must negotiate treaties with aboriginal occupants to ensure entitlement.
1869 – Captain Dennis, the future Surveyor-General of Canada, arrives in Manitoba to begin the survey and is immediately stopped by Gabriel Dumont and the Metis. Dennis sits out most of the winter at Portage. William McDougall, now appointed as Lt. Gov. of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories is prevented by the Metis from crossing from North Dakota into Manitoba.
1869-1870 – First Riel Rebellion (Manitoba) breaks out. Dakota offer to Captain Dennis at Portage to fight on “British” side against the Riel government, but Dennis declines the offer. Irish Fenians on both sides of the border are financed by US government to raid into Manitoba and to support Metis but that help is too little and too late for the Metis.
1870 – Wolseley Expedition to Red River to put down Rebellion.
1870 – Canada sets up governments in Manitoba and Northwest Territories and assumes responsibility for Indian Affairs for rest of interior British North America. Lt. Col. J.A.N. Provencher (a nephew of the bishop) and McDougall’s assistant, is appointed as Canadian Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, based in Winnipeg.
Dakota chiefs, along with other First Nations, press the new Lt. Gov. Adams Archibald to negotiate treaties, but Archibald says he must wait until Ottawa acts.
1871 – Weymiss Simpson appointed by Ottawa as Commissioner for Indian Affairs with the power to negotiate treaties. Treaty One is signed at a large conference held at Lower Fort Garry (the “Stone Fort.”) Treaty One primarily covers the old “postage stamp” province of southeastern Manitoba.
1871 – Treaty 2 (the Manitoba Post Treaty). Weymiss Simpson reported Nov. 3, 1871, “The second [treaty] meeting was appointed to be held on August 17th, at Manitoba Post, a Hudson’s Bay Company’s Post, at the north-west extremity of Lake Manitoba, s it was deemed that such of the bands of Indians residing without the limits of the Province of Manitoba, as I purposed to deal with at present, would meet there more readily than elsewhere.” [Morris, p. 37]
The language used throughout the Indian Affairs documents of the period talks of treating all Indians equally, making “no distinctions”, and treating with the Indians from the “rising sun to the setting sun.”
In the same report quoted above, Simpson wrote, “At Portage la Prairie, both Chippewas and Sioux were largely employed in the grain field…”
1872 – CPR chief engineer Sanford Fleming lead a scouting expedition westward from Red River to locate the best route for a trans-Canada railroad. His party is unaware that there are distinctions of status between Dakota and Cree or Objiway. Fleming’s secretary, Rev. George Grant makes several observations.
Referring to exaggerated fears of Indians, Grant wrote, “And what of the Indians…? Myths, as far as we could learn, with as little foundation as myths generally have. Neither Crees nor Sioux have given those settlers the slightest trouble. The Sioux ask only for protection, and even before Governor Archibald made the Treaty with the Saulteaux and Crees… they molested no one.” [Ocean to Ocean p. 83]
“At 4 P.M., we prepared to follow our party [leaving Portage, going west] but, at this moment, a body of sixty or eighty Sioux, noble looking fellows, came sweeping across the prairie in all the glory of paint, feathers and Indian warlike magnificence. They had come from Fort Ellice, had recently traveled the long road from Missouri, and were now on their way to Governor Archibald to ask permission to live under the British flag, and that small reserves or allotments of land should be allowed them, as they were determined to live no longer under the rule of ‘the long knives’ [US Army]… they would have liked a long pow wow but we had time for hasty greetings and a few kindly words with them.” [Ocean to Ocean pp. 87-88.]
1872-1874 – joint British-American Boundary Commission appointed to survey 49th parallel border from Lake of the Woods to the Pacific. Boundary Commission records with National Archives of Canada include photographs of Dakotas in southwestern Manitoba, treaty-like negotiations, extensive correspondence with Dakota chiefs, and a one-hundred page report by the Chief Commissioner on the “Plains Indians”.
Chief Commissioner Cameron tells the British and Canadian governments that the boundary survey cannot proceed without the agreement of the Dakota. A liaison with the Dakota is established under George Hill at Lake Max on Turtle Mountain. Although a nominally a “fur trade post”, Hill’s reports go to Lt. Gov. Morris and to the Foreign Office in London.
Hill also writes several letters on behalf of Hadamanie and Bogaga regarding land, settlement, agricultural and environmental issues.
1873 – Robert Bell, a Dominion Land Surveyor, reports confidentially to Lt. Gov. Morris about angry sentiments among the Native and Metis populations of the Northwest over treaties, surveying and immigration.
In his cover letter sent back to Ottawa with the report, Morris wrote on Oct. 13, 1873, “I am sorry to find that the Manitoba Post Treaty [Treaty #2] cannot be looked upon as a binding one, on the great body of the Indians in the part treated for, as only a very small portion of them were parties to it, and only about 100 receive Treaty money.” [National Archives of Canada: Indian Affairs “Black Files”, no. 2593]
1874 – Treaty Four (The Qu’Appelle Treaty) is signed by six Saulteaux chiefs.
Dakota oral history has it that White Cap attended this meeting and attempted to dissuade the Saulteaux or Cree from signing as it was Dakota territory they were giving up.
[The official final version of the Canadian text of the treaty and meeting does not record the presence of any Dakota, or of White Cap. This version records only the presence of Saulteaux (sometimes referred to as Ojibbewas) and Cree.
However, the secretary’s rough notes in the appendices do mention the presence of Assiniboines and/or Stonies as well. The secretary’s day by day record notes some disturbances in which unnamed Indians sometimes intimidate the Saulteaux or Cree chiefs from attending a meeting, even to the point of leaving the Commissioner’s tent and returning to their own camp. Armed “Indian soldiers” are described, and are sometimes set guard-to-guard against Canadian militia or police, although no actual shooting breaks out. The affiliation of the “Indian soldiers” is left vague or entirely unexplained.]
A chief named Che-e-kuk (the Worthy) objects to the treaty negotiations because so many other bands are not present, “…the Young Dogs are not here, the Stonies my children are not here…”
In the end, after many days of negotiations, only six chiefs (all Saulteaux) signed the treaty. Treaty 4 provided for one square mile for every five persons within a band.
To accommodate others who were not present, the Saulteaux chiefs Waywayseecappo (Man Proud Standing Upright) and Shaponetung (Long Claws) are allowed to sign adhesion agreements to Treaty 4.
1874 – According to Dakota oral history collected by Doug Elias, the Dakota lobbied Lt. Gov. Morris. “In the summer of 1874, Tatankanaje [Standing Buffalo] the Younger and Wapahaska [White Cap] told Lieutenant Govenor Alexander Morris that the elder Tatankanaje had made an enduring peace with the Cree of the prairie.”
[Elias p. 28-29]
1875-1876 – Morris is sent to Portage to do damage control because the adhesion of one large recognized “Portage band” under Yellowquill has not worked out. There have been White and Native protests, blockading and secession of bands and chiefs. Instead of one reserve as the government wished, Morris negotiates to recognize three separate bands: Yellowquill, White Mud and Short Bear. The last group become the Long Plain Reserve and include some Dakota as well as Saulteaux. [In this case, a few Dakota families were able to acquire Canadian aboriginal status by being included in the same band list with Saulteaux. Morris notes that one Saulteaux chief showed him a George III medal. The government may not have realized that some Dakota people had been included in the Long Plain Reserve, or perhaps Morris was trying to make a point on the Dakota’s behalf. His correspondence shows a growing frustration with Ottawa that the Dakota were not being accorded the same status as other Indians.]
1876-1877 – Morris complains of obstructionism from Indian Affairs in Winnipeg.
1877 – White Cap succeeds in getting a Dakota conference at Swan River, with Lt. Gov. David Laird. From the text it is clear that White Cap feels he is picking up from where he left off at the Qu’Appelle conference.
There is no treaty as such resulting from this conference, but Laird seems to have gone some distance to state the Dakota case into the official record. All the issues of: border splits, War of 1812, treaty medals, dual-citizenship, past commitments, Saulteaux claims, are raised in the meeting. Laird acknowledges that White Cap was at Qu’Appelle.
“The Governor then said. I saw you 3 years ago at Qu’Appelle and I believe you are a good Indian. I never heard any bad report of you and am pleased to see you again. The Good Mother has so many children she cannot do much for them all. She can do but little for you except to give you freedom to hunt and trade the same as others.”
1877-1878 – A closed door Royal Commission investigates corruption in Indian Affairs. Superintendent Provencher is found guilty on 15 counts of various types of fraud. Inspector Ebeneezer McColl notes in his memoirs that he suspects there are another 4,000 false invoices. Provencher is quietly retired. McColl is appointed as Inspector of Indian Affairs, a kind of policeman on the Indian Agents. Reporting and administration improve.
[In the case of the Dakota, McColl notes that agricultural implements and supplies paid for by the Department rarely arrived on the reserve, or were resold and inferior products substituted. In Turtle Mountain’s case, McColl did not think that a single implement purchased for the reserve had ever arrived there.]
1885-86 – Indian Affairs allows as “a matter of grace, not right” the surveying of Indian Reserves 58, 58A, 59 and 60 (Canupawakpa, Oak Lake Hay Camp, Sioux Valley and Turtle Mountain respectively.) At the time the department was trying to encourage assimilation by privatization and the reserves were surveyed into 80 acre plots held by individuals (usually heads-of-families.)
The reserve southwest of Oak Lake is askew and does not line up properly with either the section lines, or a north-south axis. The local village history book notes that the surveyor was “drunk and incompetent.” The reserves of Turtle Mountain, the hay camp and Sioux Valley surveyed around the same time do not contain these errors.
1894 – Indian Affairs Inspectorate is discontinued after the death of Chief Inspector McColl.
1896 – Standing Buffalo II is buried on his reserve at his own request with his British flag. [The flag may be from an earlier round of treaties.]
1898 – Indian Affairs holds out financial inducements for people to relocate from Turtle Mountain to Wood Mountain or Oak Lake.
1901-1903 – Standing Buffalo [III] sends a specific claims protest to Governor-General Lord Minto regarding the survey and calculation of the size of his reserve.
1909 – Swampland Surrenders. Reserves throughout Manitoba lose parcels of land expropriated by the provincial government as “wasteland.” Canupawakpa loses ¼ section in this way from its Hay Camp.
1909 – Indian Affairs forces the closure of Turtle Mountain IR#60 by resurveying and jerrymandering a vote. No plot owner will give permission to sell any of the eight plots comprising IR#60. Indian Affairs has the reserve re-surveyed into a whole section of four quarters held in common by the “band” [which previously it had not recognized as an entity.] Fourteen families are included in a census, but ten are disallowed because the heads-of-families are “American Indians” having come over the border in 1861. No vote is allowed for one mentally incompetent adult ward of the municipality although the municipality as trustee ought to have acted on his behalf. Three families (of five male voters total) were allowed to vote because they were, according to Indian Affairs, the original band. [This would make them “Canadian Indians” but that is overlooked.] A vote was held which failed to carry, and the Indian Agent conducted a second vote to obtain his objective. By a vote of 3 to 2 the entire reserve was put up for auction.
In 1909 the auction was aborted because no one would submit a bid. In 1910 the auction was held again, this time at devalued prices and the reserve sold off. The auctioneer and Deloraine chief of police both protested in writing to Indian Affairs that they thought the proceedings were irregular and unfair.
The Surveyor-General of Canada, now Colonel Dennis, recorded two objections on the survey notes: one is that in his opinion the Turtle Mountain Dakota are “Treaty Two Indians” and secondly, that having previously surveyed the reserve into 80 acre plots, eight individuals were “in a manner” confirmed in private ownership. [The implication being that everything that followed was improper, if not illegal.]
1910-1956 – There are a number of attempts over these years by various people to obtain compensation for those portions of Turtle Mountain IR #60 which their family lost. [Some of these obligations were met shortly after 1911 when the reserve was sold, but most were not. Hadamanie refused to recognize the results of the vote or to accept payment right up to his death in around 1914-1916. The so-called trust fund was emptied well before 1920, but there are discrepancies in the valuation of the reserve by Indian Affairs before and after the vote, and the amounts paid out.]
1958 – Diefenbaker’s government introduced constitutional amendments to grant citizenship to Native people regardless of status. Dakota acquire citizenship in Canada, if not aboriginal status.
1981-1982 – Repatriation of the Canadian Constitution [moving legal responsibility from London to Ottawa.] An Assembly of First Nations delegation to London includes representatives of the Dakota Nations of Canada. The House of Lords is persuaded that its trustee duty over the treaties of the British Empire requires that their recognition be enshrined in the constitution. Accordingly the constitution is repatriated with an amendment that the Royal Proclamation of 1763 must serve as the treaty protocol for all past and future treaties of Canada with aboriginal people.
1991 – Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba, a Royal Commission, concludes that there are three outstanding comprehensive land claims within the province of Manitoba: Metis; Dene; and Dakota.
“The federal government, however still takes the position that there is no outstanding Aboriginal title in Manitoba. In view of the fact that the Dakota people of the province have never signed a treaty (despite the fact that the federal government was willing to do so in the 19th century) and of the assertion of Aboriginal title by the Metis and the Chipewyan [Dene], the resolution of comprehensive claims is likely to gain importance in Manitoba. The unresolved nature of Aboriginal title to water and beds of water may also constitute comprehensive claims.” [AJI p. 183]
1993-2001 – Canupawakpa Dakota Nation pursued a specific claim regarding Turtle Mountain IR #60 to overturn the 1909 dissolution vote. The particular argument used at the time was rejected by the Indian Claims Commission and the 1909 dissolution was allowed to stand. [The Claims Commission did not admit of any comprehensive claim issues in its dealings as being outside of its mandate and jurisdiction. Consequently the issue of the excluded band members, or even Canadian aboriginal status, could not be introduced.]
1990s-2000 – Indian Affairs signs limited self government agreement with Sioux Valley, but does not admit that this follows from a comprehensive claim.
Bibliography – Textual Sources Consulted
Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba; Province of Manitoba 1991.
Bray, Edward C. and Martha Coleman Bray (editors); Joseph N. Nicollet on the Plains and Prairies: The Expedition of 1838-39 with Journals, Letters and Names on the Dakota Indians; translated from the French; Minnesota State Historical Society Press, 1976.
Elias, Peter Douglas; The Dakota of the Canadian Northwest: Lessons for Survival; University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg 1988.
Eastman, Charles A. [b.1858-d.1939]; Indian Boyhood; Dover Publications, New York 1971.
Grant, Rev. George; Ocean to Ocean: from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Sanford Fleming’s Expedition in 1872; originally published 1872, reprinted in facsimile by Coles Publishing, Toronto 1979.
Indian Claims Commission Proceedings (2003) 16 ICCP; Rulings on First Nations Objections – Canupawakpa Dakota First Nations Inquiry; Government of Canada 2003.
Morris, Alexander; The Treaties of Canada with the Indians; originally published 1880, reprinted in facsimile by Coles Publishing, Toronto 1971.
Laviolette, Rev. Gontran; The Dakota Sioux in Canada; DLM Publications, Winnipeg, 1991.
Richardson, John; Casselman, Alexander Clark (ed.); Richardson’s War of 1812; originally printed 1902, reprinted in facsimile by Coles Publishing, Toronto, 1974.
Seed, Patricia; Ceremonies of Possession in Europe’s Conquest of the New World 1492-1640; Cambridge University Press 1995.
The Seven Council Fires
(as told by Sleepy Eye I & Wanatan II to Joseph Nicollet in 1838)
spelling as found in Nicollet
primary source: Bray, Edmund C. and Martha Coleman (translators and editors): The Expeditions of 1838-39 with Journals, Letters and Notes on the Dakota Indians; St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society, 1976, 1993
People (English meaning)
Name of Band or Chief (English name) Area or Band Name
Wichashta yatapi (the Reknowned Man) = title of “grand chief” of the Seven Fires
- Mdewakantonwon-nan (Spirit Lake) NE Minnesota
1.1 Wapasha (Red Standard) [deceased] Keyooksa (Mingled People)
1.2 Marhpia manza (Iron Cloud) Lake Pepin
1.3 Marhpi wichashta (Cloud Man) Minneapolis
1.4 Che tan wakua mani (Little Crow)[?Hawk] Kap’oje, Kaposia (Light ones)
1.5 Tachanku washte (His Good Road) Tanina ottonwe (Old village)
1.6 Marhpia nazhe (Standing Cloud) Tinta ottonwe (Prairie village)
1.7 Wanmedi tanka (Big War Eagle) Hohannskae (Long avenue)
[1.8 possibly]? Eagle’s Head
- Warhpetonwan-nan (Village of the Leaf)
2.1 Wanaksante (Rebounding Iron) Little Rapids,
2.2 Nonpakie (He Who Speaks Twice) Lac qui Parle
2.3 Opiyande (He who overtakes the bird tail) Big Stone Lake
Tizaptan (5 Lodges), Pipestone Quarry
- Sisitonwan-nan (Those Who Go on Foot) or (Smell Like Fish) or (Dwell on Flat Places)
3.1 Ishtarhimba (Sleepy Eyes) Mayakichakse (Cut Bank)
3.2 ? White Rock
3.3 Manka indea (Burning Earth) Waziata Sisiton (Northern Sisiton)
- Warhpekute (Those Who Shoot at the Leaf) nomadic
4.1 Tasagie (Cane)
4.2 Wanmedia sapa (Black War Eagle)
- Ihanktonwan-nan (People at the End) (Yankton)
5.1 Waanantan (He Charges At) Pamaksa ewichakiapi (Cutheads)
5.2 Wamenaeza (Corn) Watapaatidan (River lodges)
5.3 Takokokipeshni (He Fears Nothing) San cihiapi (Whiten themselves)
? ? Wazikute (Shoot at Pines
? ? Onkpati (Camp at the End)
? ? Kiuksa (Breakers)
[It is unclear from Nicollet’s text which has been edited together from field notes, whether he meant that the Yankton had three subdivisions or up to six. One list organizes the information into three bands, a second list presents four – one of which definitely overlaps one name on the first list. Wanatan is mentioned in the first list as chief of the Cutheads, and in the second of the Wazikute, and in other sources as Grand Chief of the entire Seven Council Fires.]
- Itokarh-ihantonwan (Southern Yankton)
Pete yuteshni (He Does Not Eat Buffalo Cow) Des Moines River
[Only the one chief of the Southern Yankton is mentioned in Nicolett’s first list, but five subdivisions are mentioned by name without their chiefs in a second list.]
? Oyurhpe wanitcha (Those who never rest)
? Taku ibotto (Hit Themselves)
? Ambdowapuskia (They Dry on Shoulders)
? Iangthowannan (Stony dwellers)
? Waziata Iangthonwan (Northern Stony)
- Titonwans (Tetons) or (People of the Prairie) or (People of the Big Lodge)
7.1 Saone (Whitish) Cheyenne River & Black Hills
7.1.1 Minikanye oju (They Clear Near Water)
Maraska (White Swan)
Oranduta (Red Fish)
P’tesan onka (Noble White Cow) [?White Buffalo Cow]
Wain’nahiza wichasta (Corn Man)
Kanrichiganan (Little Crow)
7.1.2 Wanonwakteninan (I Killed by Mistake) Cheyenne River
Chantewaniche (No Heart)
Mato Topapa (Four Bears) [named after the famous Mandan, died 1837]
7.1.3 Itazichonan (Sans Arcs) [without bows] Cherry Creek, South Dakota
Kanriwiyaka (Crow Feather)
Elk Head (Erakapha)
7.1.4 Sia-sappa (Blackfeet)
Chuwi-randorecha (Empty Chest) [? “vacancy”?]
7.1.5 Onkpapa (End of the Cricle) [Hunkpapa] Grand River, Cannonball River, ND
Matochiganan (Little Bear)
Kanri nompa (Two Crows)
7.2 Oglala (Throw Ashes in Their Eyes)
7.2.1 Onkp’hatinas (Lodges at End of Circle) Black Hills, Platte River
Wanmdiri (Yellow Eagle)
7.2.2 Ku-Inyan (Gives the Rock)
Shonkanashkiyan (Mad Dog)
7.2.3 Oyurpe (Put Down Their Burden)
Skaska Oki (White Earrings)
7.3 Sichanrus (Burnt Thighs) or (Brules)
7.3.1 Chokatowanyans (Middle Village) White River, Niobara River
7.2.2 Wazazi (Osage) [mixed Osage-Lakota band) White River and Cheyenne River
Hesappa (Black Horn)
7.2.3 Minishanan (Red Water) Niobara sand hills
Le Borgne (One eye) of Red Water [to distinguish him from Le Borgne the Hidatsa]
7.2.4 Kiuksa (Those Who Divide)
Eraka nompa (Two Elks)
Shawanon (the Shaunee, because he affected a “Mohawk” haircut)
The Hohe (fish netters) [other sources say “strident voice”]; the Siouan people who separated from the Seven Council Fires to ally with the Cree and Ojibway. All the sources consulted agreed that the Assiniboine, a Nakota or Nakoda people, are most closely related to the Yankton group of all of the original Seven Council Fires.
According to Nicolett’s sources, Sleepy Eye and Wanatan, the Assiniboine continued to retain the form of government of the Seven Council Fires. Nicolett says that they chose a grand chief for themselves, as formerly they had followed the Wichashta yatapi (the Reknowned Man) of the Seven Council Fires. He states that the Assiniboine changed this title in their case to Wichasta onka (the Noble Man).
A.1 Watopenans (the Canoiests) between Yellowstone and Devil’s Lake
A.2 Wichiyenans or Hohes between Yellowstone and White Earth River
A.3 Inhantonwanyans (Rock Village People) Fort Union, Montana
A.4 Watopa’ndate, (Boats covered with Skin) between Yellowstone and Wood Mountain
A.5 Iya openaka (Speak in a Sharp Manner) Yellowstone, Wood Mt., Edmonton, Souris
A.6 Wakpatowan, (River Villagers)
A.7 Minishnan-atowan (Village of the Lone Water)
A.8 Tchan rtata (Soft wood)
Other Recognized Siouan Nations [allied but independent of the Seven Council Fires]
Oyate yamni (Three Nations) (the Omaha)
Okanke (Horned Sturgeon) (the Winnebago)
Watorhtata (Their Canoes are Not Solid) (Oto)
Ayurhamba (They Fall Asleep) (Iowa)
Wazazes (Osage) [same name used for Osage-Lakota]
Mini uttati (Those at Entrance of River) (Missouri)
Metis (Non-Siouan, not allied)
Washicon ikcheka (Metis)
Other Siouan National or Language Groups Not Mentioned in Nicollet
(supplementary information taken from Manitoba Historic Resources chart “Siouan Language Relationships”)
Stoney [? distinct from Assiniboine?]
[Omaha and Osage already noted above]
Eastern Siouan [? east of the Santee?]
The British-Sioux Treaty of 1768 and War of 1812
1) Dakota oral history recalls the
existence of a treaty between the
Dakota nations and the British Empire.
A few details and anecdotes of
the treaty are preserved in the oral
2) The few facts stored in the oral
history appear to stand up when
checked against historical records.
3) Some early Canadian treaty
negotiators such as Alexander Morris
referred to the “Sioux Treaty”,
even though none of its terms or
understandings were carried into the
numbered treaty system of Canada.
4) The British-Sioux Treaty existed.
The treaty had a pronounced
effect on the history of central North
America as well as laying the groundwork
for the peaceful settlement of
the prairies by Canada.
5) The relationship originally embodied
in the British-Sioux Treaty is
an historic constitutional relationship.
Dakota oral history
Dakota oral history preserves
several memories of a period when
the British Empire and the Dakota
According to this view, the
Dakota had developed an alliance
with the French. When the British
defeated the French in 1759 and
thereby “won” what became known
as “British North America”, they
were anxious to replace the role of
the defeated French. The British
stepped into trade and military rela
tionships across the continent, anxious
that their own control should be
assured and that rivals would not be
allowed to enter.
There are several detailed
memories of these events, which are
still preserved among the Manitoba
Dakota; some of which were recorded
in written form by Father
Gontran Laviolette in the 1930s –
1970s. These stories include details
of: treaty medals; battles; a particular
cannon; British officers and their
names; and a few legalistic phrases.
The following passage from
Laviolette contains direct quotes from
Chief Holy Sky, recorded on Oak
Lake reserve in the early 20th century.
The passage begins with a general
poetic recap of the issue of the
War of 1812 (from the Dakota point
of view), but then adds some interesting
details of events.
“The Americans (Isan-tanka
Long Knives) said the British
(Shagda-sha Red Coats) could not
continue to fight, but the British refused
to go back. ‘I was the first to
come and I am going to get the land I
like, said the British.’ Dakota Chief
Holy Sky said that one of the British
and one of the Americans arranged
to load their guns and shoot at each
other; the one who won would get
the land. The British man’s gun did
not go off and he was killed.”
“The Wahpetons were the
first of the seven Indian nations
who joined in with the British.
There were not many white people
in the country at the time to fight
for the British, but the Indians were
good fighters and they beat the
Americans. The British got the In
dians a big cannon. One of the
warriors, Maza-mani, was told by
the British to sight it with his thumb
and to shoot through the window
of a big house. He shot right
through it. The Americans came out
of the house waving a white flag
and were made prisoners. After a
while they were told to go home.
The Indians met with the British
who told them to leave behind all
war supplies: guns, powder and
provisions. The British said all of
the seven Indian nations who
helped them would be their first
children from now on.” Laviolette,
Laviolette adds that the names
of three battles at which the Dakota
fought with the British against the
Americans, are preserved in the oral
history memory: Fort Meigs,
Michilimackinac and Prairie-du-
Chien. He also notes that the relationship
began in the 1780s and originally
the military alliance was directed
against the American Revolution. In
the War of 1812, the same enemy and
the same ally were involved, but over
a larger area.
“The Canadian Dakota oral
tradition retains the names of eleven
Santee chiefs who received George
III medals on August 17, 1778, in recognition
of the assistance given British
troops during the War of Independence:
Wabasha (Red-standard) of the
(Sacred-weasel) of the
Mdewakantons; Wakan-to (Blueabove)
of the Wahpekutes;
Wakinyan-duta (Red-thunder), a
Sisseton; Hupa-duta (Red-wing), a
British-Sioux Treaty – Page 1
Sisseton; Inyang-mani (Runs-walking),
a Wahpeton; Wambdi-hotonmani
Wahpeton; Ta-cante (His-heart), a
Wahpeton; Waanatan (Charges-at),
a Yanktonai; Wamaza (Maize), a
Yankton; and Ta-wahukeza-nonpa
(His-two-lances), a Teton.”
Laviolette p. 101
One of the main centres of
administration and distribution under
the old French fur trade was the island
of Michilimackinac. (The exact
location of the post moved around
from time to time: on the main island,
on another island, or the nearby shore,
or an adjacent bay, but always close
to this place.) When the French with
drew, the British moved literally into
the same quarters and attempted to
take up the same roles. The first
phase of the British-Sioux Treaty belongs
to this phase, when the British
were trying to take up the place formerly
occupied by the French. However
the main rivals of the British
turned out not to be the French or
Spanish, but their own relatives and
colonists – the Americans. The Dakota
supported the British against the
Americans because, they believed, the
British honoured treaties more faithfully.
When the Revolution was over,
the importance of the treaty between
Dakota and British began to fade.
The second phase of the British-
Sioux Treaty begun with the War
of 1812. The advance of Americans
British-Sioux Treaty – Page 2
into eastern Dakota areas meant that
the Dakota needed a strong ally. The
same advance threatened Canada,
and the British also needed an ally. It
was a natural step to revive the old
British-Dakota alliance which had
operated only a generation before.
This second phase, the War of
1812-1814, is known in Dakota oral
history as “When the Red-Head
(Pahinshasha-wacekiye) Asked for
Our Help.” This “Red-Head” was Lt.
Col. Dickson, a British officer and
Indian-agent at Michilimackinac who
used his good connections to recruit
Dakota and Ojibway warriors for the
In brief, the war went well for
the Dakotas but poorly for the British
overall. In the end, despite several
victories, the British bargained
away their rights to land which would
become part of the United States.
With it, they bargained away the rights
of the Dakota.
Taking up Holy Sky’s narrative
again, Laviolette said this issue was
brought to a head around 1820s by
some of the British Empire’s former
Indian allies at a meeting at
Michilimackinac. Black Hawk of the
Shaunee Ojibway was the main
speaker, but he was also supported
by Wabasha and Little Crow. The
Americans continued to encroach on
Native territories and the British
would no longer help.
“About eight years (in 1823)
after the war…the British had a big
paper made (for the Wahpetons).
This paper gave us one hundred
miles of land for our help in the
war.” (This official document was
held by Mahpiya-wakan (Holy
Sky) until the day it was given to
Canada’s Governor General, the
Duke of Connaught during his visit
of the Sioux Valley Reserve in
Manitoba, during his term of office,
1911-1916.) Laviolette p. 101
In review, the key features of
the treaty in the oral memory appear
• Seven Years War and War of
• land exchange for service
• treaty medals as testimony
• three-way treaty (BritishOjibway-
Dakota) versus one
Indian Affairs Lists
An early explicit statement of
the treaty relationship is contained in
a regulatory appendix which is attached
to the 1763 Royal Proclamation.
In 1775 Governor-General
Carleton issued a “Plan for the Future
Management of Indian Affairs”
which contained a series of regulations
detailing how Indian Affairs
would carry out its mandate under the
1763 Royal Proclamation. There are
clauses on when and how a survey
may be conducted, which are echoed
in Whitecap’s objections a hundred
years later at Qu’appelle, suggesting
that Whitecap was familiar
with the procedures laid out in the
An appendices provides an
“A” and “B” List of tribes which are
to have Indian Agents assigned to
them. The “B” list covers the so-
called “Southern Department” which
was lost to the United States after
the Revolution and War of 1812. The
“A” List covers the “Northern Department”
which continued to function
through both of these wars and
until Indian Affairs was taken over
by the new Province of Canada in
What is relevant is that the
“Sioux” are clearly labeled under the
“A” List. Every other First Nation on
the “A” List either acquired aboriginal
status under the Canadian
constution, or was consolidated into
another group which did. Alone on this
list, the Sioux were not accorded “Canadian”
status after Confederation.
(the “Red Head”)
The “Red-Head” was a specific
historical person, Lt. Col. Robert
Above: Detail of George III IndianTreaty & Peace medals.
Below: Wanduta of Oak Lake withmedal, 1905 ca.
British-Sioux Treaty – Page 3
Dickson: Indian-agent; fur-trader;
British officer; and related by different
marriages to the leadership of the
both the Ojibway and Dakota nations,
as well as to the leadership of the
Northwest Company. His brother-inlaw
on the Dakota side was none
other than Wabasha (Red Standard),
a prominent chief who may have
been the principal Seven Council Fires
grand chief during this period. Dickson
left a paper trail which included the
recruitment of Dakota warriors for
the British in the War of 1812. He
carried out spy missions for the British
as recently as the 1820s and as
far west as the Cypress Hills. He has
left descendants among the Dakota,
Ojibway, Metis and non-Native populations.
George III Treaty Medals
The treaty medals exist, but are
not specific to Dakota people. Generically
they are called “King George
III Indian Treaty & Peace Medals”
and perhaps as many as a hundred
were issued between the 1780s and
the 1820s. But, although the Dakota
medals are not unique, they are part
of a set of medals which was only
given to mark treaties between the
British Crown and First Nations. In
oral tradition the medals are mentioned
by people such as Holy Sky.
In archival records they are shown
in photographs of Sitting Eagle and
A surprising number of historical
figures recorded seeing these
treaty medals in the hands of Dakota:
Gov. Alexander Dallas in 1862; Indian
Affairs Superintendent Spragge
in 1872; Rev. George Grant in 1872
and Alexander Morris himself. For
good measure Sitting Eagle posed for
a Winnipeg Free Press photographer
in 1937 with his medal in hand, and
which the reporter described in the
An inventory of known
George III treaty medals provided by
the National Archives of Canada led
to inquiries by Sioux Valley band
council at a museum in Denver, Colorado
and at the Glenbow Institute in
Alberta. Medals were seen at both
locations and the band council at the
time (2005) reported that the provenance
indicated both medals had
come from southwestern Manitoba.
Mutual Military Alliance
The Dakota presence at the
battles of Forts Meig,
Michilimackinac and Prairie-du-
Chien are all attested to in the historical
first-person accounts available.
It is interesting that the British
accounts tend to generalize the Dakota
as either “Scioux” are sometimes
just “Western Indians.” The
American accounts are much more
explicit when they unexpectedly run
into the dreaded Sioux at these battles.
These battles also receive relatively
little attention from British and
Canadian historians perhaps because
they are perceived as being at the
western edge of events. For the Dakota
however, the battles were at the
centre of stabilizing their own eastern
frontier with the Americans.
The eye-witness account of
Major John Richardson, who served
as a young staff officer at the Battle
of Fort Meigs, attests to Sioux presence
there, as well as quoting correspondence
of others regarding
Michilimackinac and Prairie-du-
Chien. Richardson specifically adds
the detail that a British quarter-master
sergeant issued firearms to several
hundred “Scioux” to prepare for
the battles of Michilimackinac and
If an oral history story re
counted someone receiving something
common like gunpowder or bullets
at some time, it would be hard to
refute or support. A cannon, however,
is something big enough to make an
impression. Even better for the historical
researcher, this cannon was a
rarity because it was allegedly used
in a wild frontier of bush, rivers and
lakes; and, it was used in cooperation
with Indians against whites. It
was not a common cannon, and therefore
if the Dakota story were true and
the cannon really had existed in the
circumstances described, then it
should leave an historical trail.
And in fact it does. The cannon
was quite special and made a
spectacular impression on people.
At the beginning of the War of
1812 there were still a lot of old cannons
lying around left over from the
French-Indian Wars of the late 1700s.
(The cannons at Fort Prince of Wales
in Churchill, which the French overturned
in the 1770s were surplus left
over from the late 1600s!)
The French and British had
both deployed a great deal of heavy
cannons, measured in size of their
typical weight of shot – 12, 24, 32 and
42 to 48 pounders. Most of these
ended up in fixed fortifications like
Quebec City. There were also lighter
weight cannons – 4, 6 and 9 pounder
typically – for the “horse artillery”
which were meant to move faster.
None of these were very suitable for
dragging through the bush.
The further one gets away
from seaports, foundries or good
roads, the fewer cannons can be
found. In Western Canadian history,
the cannon at Fort Prince of Wales
are still there being too heavy to move,
while the combined cannons of Army
and Mounted Police in the entire
1800s can be counted on the fingers
of two hands. (There were only five
6-9 pounders used in the whole
Northwet Rebellion, and two Gatling
A “loose cannon” therefore,
should stand out historically.
There is the appearance of
cannon at all three War of 1812 battles
mentioned in the Dakota oral history,
and it (or they) come in for considerable
comment from eye-witnesses.
Richardson notes that that the
Northwest Company had several “2
pounder” or “3 pounder” cannon on
their Great Lake ships. The “Nancy”
(now a famous museum in
Missassauga, Ontario) was hauled
into a bay, and burned to prevent it
falling into the hands of the Americans.
Before this, the Norwesters
took the precaution of removing all
of its guns which Richardson states
they brought with them to the Fort
Meigs battle. This was one of several
smaller battles which were
fought around Detroit.
Richardson states that three of
these guns were employed at Fort
Meigs, and he goes further to criticize
the handling of the guns by the
commander who did not understand
their new design. They were used by
Colonel Procter in the front line, like
old fashioned smoothbore cannon who
used a shot-gun like effect against
enemy infantry. One of them was almost
captured, and Richardson says
that it was Indian warriors who recaptured
the gun for the British. He
also explains that trained artillerymen
were scarce and due to casualties
became even more rare. Consequently
the guns towards the end of
the campaign were being serviced by
crews of 1 trained Royal Artillery man
and a squad of 6 to 10 enthusiastic
helpers. (The few trained squads had
to be kept for operating the heavier
12 and 24 pounder field guns.)
At Michimackinac, the fort
surrendered to the British and Indian
forces when the British somehow
managed to maneouver a cannon
onto a highpoint of ground at the cen
British-Sioux Treaty – Page 4
tre of the island, allowing it to overlook
into the palisade of the fort. This
for some reason, convinced the
American commander that it was now
time to surrender.
Both of the two foregoing battles
were fought on islands or peninsulas
immediately adjacent to the
Great Lakes where the cannon could
be transported by ship. The third battle,
Prairie-du-Chien occurred hundreds
of miles inland near the confluence
of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.
At Prairie-du-Chien the
Americans had refortified an old
French outpost, adding to blockhouses
at opposite corners with two
12 to 24 pounder cannon each, and
another two at the front gate, for a
total of six medium cannons of the
old Seven Years War era type. The
blockhouses and fort were log constructed,
but built to the standard of
the day to withstand anything of 24
pound weight or lighter.
There were also three “gunboats”
(very large row boats) with
small “carronades” of possibly 4 to 6
pounder weight on them. These
would probably have fired a buck-
shot-like affair, but also small round
Prairie-du-Chien had become
personal as well as strategic. When
the Americans captured the place
earlier in the war from the Dakota
(who had the old palisade but no cannons,)
they had killed 10 or 11 out of
a dozen or so Dakota prisoners they
took. One was let to go to carry the
message. Among the slain were relatives
of Wabasha, and therefore also
of Lt. Col. Dickson.
Dickson and Wabasha organized
a joint British-Dakota force of
over 300 people, including British
regulars, Canadian militia, Metis – but
mostly Dakota. The eye-witness accounts
(mostly from the American
side) make several mentions of the
cannon and attribute the victory more
to it than to any other cause. (This
may be just being sore losers, but it’s
still an interesting observation.) Two
British artillery men accompanied the
cannon, plus a squad of ten volunteers
(who may have included our friend
One contingent of British arrived
in a single “gunboat” of similar
size to the three American ones. Canoes
of Indians fanned out behind it.
The single cannon was mounted in
the gunboat and was used to such
good effect that one American boat
was sunk outright, and other two retreated
downstream from the battle
According to the American
accounts, the British debarked the
cannon onto an island near the opposite
side of the river from the fort.
The Americans had only a few dozen
men in the fort, and could not risk trying
to attack out through several hundred
“Scioux”, to get to the British
The following day the sole British
gun started up, and after putting a
few rounds into the fort, the Americans
surrendered, turning over all six
The 2-pounder or 3-pounder
cannon was introduced by the British
just before the War of 1812 as
the latest military technology. A solid
lead shot weighed three pounds, but
it’s steel-jacketed armour-piercing
explosive version weighed only two
pounds. Hence it was referred to as
either a 2 or 3 pounder cannon.
The small shot size allowed for
a lighter weight barrel – only 250
pounds – which could be either hand
carried, or matched to heavy all-terrain
carriages. (The gun carriages
were larger than the gun, with wheels
almost the length of the whole assembly.)
We don’t know if this was the
case at Prarie-du-Chien, but these
were also the first cannon to use both
armour-piercing shells and shell casings.
Where previous light and medium
cannon fired in the hundreds of
yards, and only heavy naval ordnance
of 32 to 48 pounder could fire a mile,
here was a light weight gun which
could fire over a mile.
These details set the several
stories in perspective. The guns were
popular on the small lake ships, as
well as having been introduced into
the British Army at this time. The
same guns were used by both and so
the guns at Fort Meigs could have
come from either or both sources, and
Richardson says they were serviced
by Norwesters, Royal Navy and
Royal Artillery men.
The light weight, easy carrying,
and collapsible aspect of the guns
explains why this was a cannon which
could be “lent to the Indians.” Only
one or two trained artillery men
needed to accompany the weapon,
with the rest of the crew trained on
spot. (These men are mentioned by
John Halkett, the executor for Lord
Selkirk, who tried unsuccessfully to
get them discharged onto land grants
at Red River where he thought they
would make a good addition to the
defence of the colony.)
Finally, Maza-mani’s anecdote
about “going through the house”;
Richardson’s complaint about deploying
the guns too far forward; and the
US gunboat withdrawal; all have explanation
in the unusually long range
the weapon had for its time. It was
the range (as well as the penetrating
high velocity) that allowed a single
gun to dominate the heights at
Michilimackinac, the American gunboats,
and the fort at Prarie-du-Chien
from across the wide Mississippi.
The Dakota oral history
matches the British and American
military histories in placing Dakota
people with British heavy weapons.
It should be noted (and it was noted
British-Sioux Treaty – Page 5
by Richardson) that all of this was
done according to the forms and rules
of the British Army. The firearms
were signed for. Chiefs were commissioned
as officers in the “Provincial
Army”. Tecumseh, the highest of
these, was a brigadier general.
Dickson was a lieutenant colonel. The
British Army does not hand out titles,
much less weapons, to just anyone.
All of this attests to a treaty relationship.
“A Hundred Miles of Land”
Laviolette recorded Holy Sky’s
oral history in which the promissory
phrase “a hundred miles of land” was
used. Holy Sky was a young man
when Wanatan and other original negotiators
of the British-Sioux Treaty
were still alive. The phrase sometimes
crops up in oral history accounts, but
it is not known how many other witnesses
aside from Holy Sky these
may be traced back to.
The phrase is not a Dakota-
like phrase. It echoes English-language
legalisms. And according to the
version from Holy Sky through
Laviolette, it was not a traditional
Dakota claim, but an offer of recompense
from the British for military
According to the tradition,
while the phrase may have been written
down as late as 1827, it was part
of the understanding of the British-
Sioux Treaty going back to the American
Revolutionary period of the 17701780s.
So far, no intact text of this
treaty has emerged. But, in addition
to the oral history outline, there are
surviving fragmentary references to
the operation of the treaty, or to other
documents which were used in the
One of the possible co-authors on the
British side – Major Robert Rogers
– alleged in the 1780s that all of his
papers had been deliberately destroyed
by his political-rival Sir William
Johnson, the Army’s Superintendent
of Indian Affairs. This
doesn’t produce any documentation,
but it is interesting that a British officer
went on record as saying that
there had been documentation about
his negotiations with what he called
the “Nadouessious” and more properly
One of Roger’s junior officers,
Jonathan Carver, also had all of his
papers seized by the British Army and
found his missions to the Sioux had
been repudiated by higher authority.
The embarrassment to the British
government of that day was that
Rogers had authorized these missions
within what was claimed as Spanish
territory. Since the British now
needed Spain’s support against the
Americans, they did not want anyone
publicly announcing that they had
been making an alliance with Native
people within territory claimed by
Carver funded himself by rewriting
his travels from memory and
publishing them as private journeys,
which may be only fictional. His book
passed the censors because he never
says anywhere that he worked for the
British Army, or had a rank, or was
under any orders. But it also clear that
Carver’s “gentlemen adventurers”
have a hierarchy about them, and
their “French servants” are Metis
Although heavily censored,
there are still echoes of the treaty in
Carver’s account. Firstly, there are
long descriptive passages of meetings
of councils which are nominally for
“goodwill”, but seem to discuss military
alliances and demilitarized zones
Carver also asserted that he
facilitated a treaty between the Dakota
and Ojibway for mutual peace,
the only benefit of which he derived
Hutchins’ 1760 map showing the
Mississippi Valley divided into
100 by 100 mile “townships.”
was the right of British traders to pass
through the territory between. He
refers to a map surveyed just a few
years before by Captain Thomas
Hutchins of the 60th (Royal American)
Rifles. This Hutchins map, published
in 1760, shows what was then
known of North America, and marked
out in multiple colours are new colonies
to be developed along the interior
riverways, up to and including the
Roughly a dozen of these
“townships” had been laid out, each
roughly one hundred miles by one
hundred miles, with the two or three
northwestern ones lying within traditional
Dakota territory in Minnesota
Carver says outright that the
area described as “Township No. 1”
is behind the Dakota lines, and that
“Township No. 2” is designated as a
demilitarized zone between the Dakota
and the Ojibway. (Presumably
the Ojibway by this time had already
British-Sioux Treaty – Page 6
overrun the townships immediately to
the east as they are not mentioned
by Carver in the treaty discussions.)
For good measure, Carver includes
an appendix in his book in which he
gives his own opinion about the colonization
merits of Hutchins’ numbered
townships. The appendix does not
explicitly state it is linked to a treaty,
but it does link to Hutchins’ map on
the one side, and to Carver’s discussions
of the Dakota-Ojibway cease-
fire on the other.
Subsequently in the 19th century,
some of Carver’s heirs and successors
may have attempted to claim
property or inheritance rights in the
land of “Township No. 2.” This is
referred to obliquely in Kenneth
Roberts 1930 book “Northwest Passage”,
in which two of the fictional
characters who accompanied the real
Rogers and Carver, discuss Carver’s
involvement with “Township No. 2”
Taken together what these
clues tell us is that there had been an
official British Army survey of the
Mississippi and Ohio valleys in the
1760s, and there were surveyed plans
of “townships” roughly one hundred
miles by one hundred miles. (Some
were longer width and shorter depth.
Township No. 2 is 80 miles by 120
It also tells us that Carver and
Rogers – both one-time British officers
– believed that they were negotiating
an important treaty with the
Dakota for the benefit of British interests.
We can also see that the
Dakota believed Carver and Rogers,
and conducted themselves accordingly.
In this light, the “one hundred
miles of land” promise makes sense.
To secure the alliance of all of the
“western Indians” as the British
thought of it, the current war between
Dakota and Ojibway had to be negotiated
to a ceasefire, if not a peace.
The “fur trader ” depicted in this painting by Alfred Jacob Miller
hanging a medal on Sioux chief in 1846 was actually British
Guards captain William Drummond-Stewart. In this way the British
Army maintained close relations with Dakota on the south side of
the Medicine Line right up until the American Civil War.
The British (as demonstrated later in
the War of 1812) needed both the
Dakota and Ojibway to fight with
them against the Americans. Township
No. 2 became the sacrifice the
Dakota paid for the treaty, even before
the Americans were ever engaged.
The natural promise by the
British, in keeping with the same policies
they announced to the Six Nations
and to the United Empire Loyalists,
was that land lost in fighting the
Americans would be recompensed by
equivalent land within the boundaries
of British North America.
For the Dakota negotiating a
treaty, it was easy to agree to the
British terminology that described the
parcel under consideration as “a hun
dred miles of land.”
The Six Nations picked up
their compensation in new reserves
along the north shore of Lakes Ontario
and Erie. The non-native United
Empire Loyalists each received a plot
to compensate if they’d lost a plot of
land in the United States. Even escaped
black slaves were given small
In the case of the Dakota there
was no immediate need to redeem this
promise because the Dakota had won
their battles with the Americans in the
War of 1812. True, the territory of
“Township No. 2” was being overrun
by the Americans, but it had filled
up with other refugee Native people
from further east such as Cherokees,
Shaunees, Sauk and Fox, Ottawa and
British-Sioux Treaty – Page 7
even Delaware. They in turn were
being pushed along by the Americans.
The Dakota, for a time, were able to
hold onto their eastern front line which
the British had once described on a
map as the boundary between Townships
No. 1 and No. 2.
It was only in the 1850s that
the Americans finally pushed into the
territories of northwestern Minnesota
that were still held by the Dakota. It
was while retreating from this invasion,
that the Dakota people of the
southeast crossed the Medicine Line
and asked that the “hundred miles of
land” promise to be honoured.
The British-Sioux Treaty was
remembered by the Dakota in the oral
history. The Dakota memory of the
importance of a unique cannon, a
promise of land compensation, and
their presence at three battles of the
War of 1812 is confirmed by corroborating
Even as late as 1846, the
American landscape painter Alfred
Jacob Miller painted a picture of British
guards captain William Drummond
Stewart hanging a treaty medal on the
neck of a Sioux chief. The painting
was made in what is today Montana
or Idaho and confirms that British
operatives were still engaged in military
liaisons with Dakota nations lying
within the boundaries of the United
States. When in 1861 refugees began
to move across the Medicine
Line, it was not a distant memory of
alliance but a recently confirmed one
which led them to expect – and to
obtain – safe refuge.
None of the foregoing subtracts
from any Dakota comprehensive
claim within Canada. If it were
determined that the Dakota were also
in fact “aboriginal” within the meaning
of the Canadian constitution, the
promise of “one hundred miles”
would only add to the amount owed
to the Dakota by Canada and its provinces
James A.M. Ritchie
Boissevain, October 24, 2006
Adams, John W.: The Indian Peace Medals of George III: or His Majesty’s Sometime Allies; George Frederick
Kolbe publishers, Crestline, California, 1999.
Carver, Jonathan; Travels through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767 and 1768;
Cole’s Facsimile Edition, 1974, originally published 1778; also, the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions
Gilpin, Alec R.; The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest; East Lansing, Mich., Michigan University Press.
Laviolette, Gontran; The Dakota Sioux in Canada; Winnipeg, DLM Publications, 1988.
Miller, Arthur Jacob; Braves and Buffaloes; text and watercolours by Arthur Jacob Miller, introduction by Michael
Bell; Toronto, University of Toronto Press, Public Archives of Canada, 1973.
Morris, Alexander; The Treaties of Canada with the Indians; Toronto; Bilfords, Coles Canadian Collection,
originally printed 1880, facsimile edition 1971.
Richardson, John; Alexander Casselman editor; Richardson’s War of 1812; Facsimile Edition, Toronto, Coles
Publishing 1974; originally published Toronto, Historical Publishing Company, 1902.
Smith, Derek G. [ed.]; Canadian Indians and the Law: Selected Documents 1663-1972; McClelland and Stewart,
National Archives of Canada RG 10 series, correspondence of Alexander Morris and David Laird respecting Sioux
British-Sioux Treaty – Page 8