In 1889, Rolette County officials illegally attempted to force the Turtle Mountain people to pay taxes on cattle issued to them by the US Government under treaty obligations. The county Sheriff and his men had entered the Turtle Mountains and had confiscated several cattle for payment of taxes, but since this taking was illegal, the Turtle Mountain people finally refused and told the officials that they would not allow any more of their cattle to be taken and that they would not pay taxes on their own property.
The Sheriff did not take kindly to be told what to do by the Indians, and he was determined to force them to comply with his orders. He made a request to Major McKee of Dunseith, for the National Guards to aid him in his efforts. The Major ordered all of his citizen soldiers from Troop A to report to the armory at Dunseith in January. He rallied the troops under his own accord, not having received orders from the Governor.
In total the Major brought together about 50 men and equipped them to march into the hills. The soldiers spent one night in the armory and then, after breakfast the next morning, they started to march to the north of Dunseith. Before they have proceeded very far, they were met by the local Indian Ageny H.W. Brenner. Brenner had a telegram from Governor John Miller, calling back the troops.
It was fortunate for the soldiers that they were stopped by the Governor and the local agent, because the Indians and half-breeds were well prepared for them. There were approximately 700-800 Turtle Mountain men prepared for war, and they were positioned to ambush the troops once they entered a long coulee during their march. It was said that each of the Turtle Mountain warriors had chosen a specific soldier for their target. They were planning to let the soldiers enter the ravine, then when they were all within the walls of the ravine they would be ambushed from both sides and from behind with no way to defend themselves from the sharpshooters.
In an effort to de-escalate the conflict, the Agent Brenner, Major McKee, and the local Episcopal minister went in peace to the home of Mr. Lambert on the edge of the hills and had a conference with the Turtle Mountain men who were promised that there would be no further attempts to levy taxes on them or to take their livestock.
Read more at:
(1923) O.G. Libby. Collections of The State Historical Society, Vol. V. Bismarck, ND
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