Saving Many Others

A Closer Look

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. Sibley’s messengers smuggled a letter back, asking the helpful Indians to fly white flags when Sibley's troops came.

While they were waiting for Sibley, Taopi and others dug deep trenches in and 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 commendation, praising him for his help.

You can read the text of the letters between Taopi and Sibley below.

Taopi’s 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 Sibley’s 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 American Father.
H.H. Sibley, Col. Com Mil. Expedition.

Flying white flags

Captive Samuel Brown reported on the scene at “Camp Release” when Sibley came to the "rescue:"

“Every 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. “

 

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Alexander Faribault

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Making the Town Grow
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Translated

Mary Whipple

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Taopi

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Saving Others
When it Started

Henry Whipple

Back Home
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Six Children
Time of Crisis
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