Minnesota Massacre and Arrival of Dakota in Canada


In 1851, a treaty was signed between the Dakota and the American government that stipulated that they would be provided for during the following fifty years. The Treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota, as they were named, also forced the Dakota to cede all remaining lands in Minnesota and a small part of South Dakota. Historical accounts suggest the american government failed to deliver promised food, goods and payment for land transfer to the Dakota bands in 1862, thus breaching treaty promises. The Minnesota Massacre, also known as the Dakota War of 1862, was an armed conflict between the United States and several bands of Dakota. Following settler encroachment on Dakota lands near the Minnesota river, as well as broken treaty promises, tensions arose and attacks were committed against settler communities, with the american military eventually retaliating against the Dakota bands. The conflict ended with the hanging of 38 Dakota men on December 26, 1862, making it the largest mass execution in american history. Thousands of Dakota fleeing the violence crossed the border into Canada. Oral history accounts suggest that at the time, bounties were potentially being offered for Dakota who were suspected of having participated in the Minnesota Massacre. It is possible americans travelled to Canada and deliberately poisoned Dakota members living there in retaliation for their participation in the Minnesota Massacre. Please see the Robert Goodvoice interview, pages 5-9, for further information.---------------- In 1876, a group of Dakota led by Chiefs Whitecap and Medicine Bear requested that they be granted reserves in British territory, but were refused by government officials on the grounds that they had already signed a treaty with the United States. However, this treaty had been nullified following the Minnesota Massacre. In fact, in 1863 the Lincoln government expelled the Dakota from Minnesota to Nebraska and South Dakota, and their reserves were abolished. Oral history accounts suggest the government of the United States subsequently offered the Dakota who had fled to Canada following the Minnesota Massacre an amnesty. The amnesty was intended to encourage them to return to the United States. They were told that those who returned would receive a quarter section per adult and eighty acres per child. Only one person, Wasoomacanow, returned to the US and received his land. The offer of amnesty for returning Dakota following the Minnesota Massacre was open for ten years.

The Minnesota Massacre and ensuing Dakota immigration into Canada is significant because the bands demanded to sign treaties with the canadian government, which they were refused. The Canadian government considered the Dakota to be refugees and thus were not included in treaty negotiations. They would be tolerated in Canada as a matter of grace and expediency, since there was no military or police force in the West strong enough to expel them at the time. Citing their alliance with the British crown during the War of 1812, the Dakota maintained (and continue to maintain) the canadian government had the obligation of providing them a treaty and treaty entitlements. Their lack of treaty increased the vulnerability of the band for several reasons. The fact they the band had no treaty signified they could not make land claims, and received no annuity payments or other supports from the canadian government. This translated to less land for reserves, less support for economic development and diminished access to opportunities. Nonetheless, the Dakota were able to adapt to their new situation in Canada, developing solid agricultural economies and occupying jobs at trading posts around Fort Ellis and Fort Qu'Appelle. Other bands and Métis communities in the Red River region were also unhappy with the arrival of the Dakota, as food and commercial resources were diminishing rapidly. The Métis, already threatened with the transfer of their lands to the country of Canada, did not wish to see another claimant to lands and political consideration in the Northwest. The following Saskatchewan bands received reserve land, but were not included in the treaty process: Whitecap Dakota First Nation, Wahpeton Dakota First Nation and Standing Buffalo First Nation.
Sub Event
Dakota denied treaty by canadian government.