Taopi was one of the leaders of friendly Indians
who helped captive white settlers during the Dakota War.
Although Taopi wanted to stay out
of the war when it started, angry Dakota threatened
the Farmer band and forced members to go along on raids. They also
ordered the Farmer band
to guard a camp of white captives. During this time, Taopi worked
with others to smuggle letters from the captives' camp
to Henry Sibley, explaining that he wanted to help. Sibleys
messengers smuggled a letter back, asking the helpful Indians
to fly white flags when Sibley's troops came.
were waiting for Sibley, Taopi and others dug deep trenches in
around the tepees where the captives were held. The captive women
and children crawled into the trenches so they would not be hurt
during battle. Sibley soon came to "Camp
Release"and the prisoners
were freed. When the war was over, Sibley issued Taopi a printed
him for his help.
You can read the text of the letters between
Taopi and Sibley below.
Taopis first smuggled letter
to Henry Sibley from the captives' camp:
You know that Little Crow has been opposed to me
in every thing that our people have had to do with the whites.
He has been opposed to everything in the form of civilization or
Christianity. I have always been in favor of, and of late years
have done everything of the kind that has been offered to us by
the government and other good white people he had now got
himself into trouble that we know he can never get himself out
of, and he is trying to involve those few of us that are still
the friend of the Americans in the murder of the poor whites that
have been settled in the border, but I have been kept back by threats
that I should be killed if I did anything to help the whites; but
if you will now appoint some place for me to meet you, myself and
the few friends that I have, we will get all the prisoners that
we can, and with our family go to whatever place you will appoint
for us to meet...We have not much time to spare.
Your true friends, Wabashaw, Taopi
Henry Sibleys response to Taopi:
I have received your private message. I have come
up here with a large force to punish the murderers of my innocent
people. It was not my purpose to injure any innocent person. If
you and others, who have not been concerned in the murders and
expeditions, will gather yourselves, with all the prisoners, on
the prairie in full sight of my troops, and when the white flag
is displayed by you, a white flag will be hoisted in my camp, and
then you can come forward and place yourselves under my protection.
My troops will be mounted in two days time and in three days from
this I expect to march. There must be no attempt to approach my
column or my camp, except in open day, and with a flag of truce
conspicuously displayed. I shall be glad to receive all true friends
of the whites with as many prisoners as they can bring, and I am
powerful enough to crush all who attempt to oppose my march, and
to punish those who have washed their hands in innocent blood.
I sign myself the friend of all who were friends of your great
H.H. Sibley, Col. Com Mil. Expedition.
Flying white flags
Samuel Brown reported on the scene at Camp
Release when Sibley came to the "rescue:"
man and woman in the camp, and every child old enough to toddle
about, turned out with a
flag of truce...White rags were fastened to the tips of tepee
poles, to wagon wheels, cart wheels, to sticks and poles stuck
in the ground, and every conceivable object and in some grotesque
manner and ludicrous way.