You can learn more about the history of Fort
Snelling at the Fort
Snelling Historic Site, Minnesota Historical
Can you imagine life at Fort Snelling in 1862?
the Dakota War in August, 1862, all Indians, no matter what their
role in the war, were held captive. They were
initially imprisoned at the Redwood Agency, where trials
were held and
Dakota were sentenced to death. On November 7, all those
who were not condemned were ordered to march to Fort Snelling.
Indians and mixed-blood settlers were forced to march for
six days to get to the Fort. Taopi was one of only 40 or 50 men
on the march.
In some places, settlers still angry about the war attacked
the four-mile train of prisoners.
This is how one artist
imagined the scene inside the Fort Snelling prison in 1863.
Drawing by W.H. Childs. Courtesy of
the Minnesota Historical Society.
Read the following accounts of this time. How
are they alike? How are they different? What is the viewpoint of
Gabriel Renville, a mixed
blood Farmer Indian.
Good Star Woman, eight years old at
the time of the war.
Harriet Bishop McConkey, Minnesotas
Historian Mark Diedrich
a mixed blood Farmer Indian raised as a Dakota, gave this account
sometime before he died in 1892:
The friendly Indians and their families, and the families
of the prisoners, on their way to Fort Snelling, passed through
Henderson, at which place the whites were very much angered and
threw stones at the Indians, hitting some of them, and pulled the
shawls and blankets off the women, and abused them much. But they
finally got through the town without any one being killed... a fence
was built on the south side of the fort and close to it. We all
moved into the inclosure, but we were so crowded and confined that
an epidemic broke out among us and children were dying day and night...
(Through Dakota Eyes, p. 234)
Woman was eight years old at the time of the war. In the
1930s, she told Francis Densmore about that time. Densmore
wrote down her
||A child captive. This boy lived
in the Fort Snelling camp in 1863. Photo
courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.
"At last the pitiful column of friendly
Sioux reached Fort Snelling. A high fence was put around their
camp, but settlers
came and took their horses and oxen. They were provided with
soldiers drove a wagon among the tents and gave crackers to the
children and bread to the older people. Measles broke out, and
Indians thought the disease was caused by the strange food. This
was the first time they ever had the disease. All the children
measles and one of her sisters died. Sometimes 20 to 50 died
in a day and were buried in a long trench, the old, large people
and the children on top. A Roman Catholic priest brought a box
each body and put them in the trench until spring, then he buried
(Through Dakota Eyes, p 264)
Harriet was the first schoolteacher in Minnesota.
She visited the encampment. She did not think it was fair that
the government was spending money to house and feed the Indians
the widows and orphans of those killed during the war were getting
no help from the government. She said the prison camp was disgustingly
filthy, because the streets were the receptacles
of all the offal of the lodges, where barefooted women and children
(Diedrich, Old Betsey, p. 67)
||Tepees of the imprisoned Dakota in
the Fort Snelling enclosure, November, 1862. Photo
by Benjamin Franklin Upton. Courtesy
of the Minnesota Historical Society .
At Fort Snelling the Dakota were
quartered in an immense picket fence. Their lodges were erected
with streets, alleys, and a public
square. Anti-Indian sentiment was so strong that soldiers
paraded within and without the encampment to protect as much
Even so, one Dakota woman was killed by soldiers during
a target practice. One newspaper evidently saw this as a homicide
than an accident: We doubt not but that there will
be a great many such accidents if Abraham [Lincoln] dont
consent to let them swing. On December 2, 1862 a
census was taken of the Dakota camp. Taopis band
was numbered at 214 people.
Old Betsey, p. 67)