In the spring of, 1860, Charles Grant was encamped with a party of Ojibwe and Metis hunters on the Mouse River. In the middle of the night, twelve horses were stolen. No trace of the horses could be found.
Later that summer, a party of thirty-six Yankton Dakotas arrived at St. Joseph with the stolen horses for the purpose of returning them in honor of the Sweet Corn treaty. The delegation with the stolen horses arrived, opposite St. Joseph about two o'clock in the afternoon on June 10th; they immediately crossed the river to return them. Unfortunately a large party of Ojibwe warriors fired on the Dakota, who were in the act of entering J.B. Wilkie’s home to surrender the horses officially. Under fire, the Dakota took possession of the house, removed the "chinking" from between the logs, and returned fire.
During the heart of the battle, Mule – the son of the Red Bear – was shot three times in an attempt to enter the house to end the stalemate. Once at the door, he struggled to his feet, but he was stopped at the threshold by one of the Dakota who cleaved his head through to the chin with an axe.
The firefight lasted until midnight. A constant barrage of bullets was kept up between the Indians up until the very end. At midnight, the Dakota finally fled the house and rushed about two hundred feet to the river, and were compelled to wade across the river on foot.
When the fighting stopped, six Ojibwe, three Dakota, and two Assiniboine were killed. Wilkie's daughter was severely wounded in the thigh by an arrow. The Sioux left behind them thirty-two horses, (in addition to the twelve stolen ones). The Ojibwe cut up the bodies of their foes and burned them.
The Metis had refrained from taking any part in the fight and afterwards sent emissaries to the Dakota at Devils Lake to assure them they still honored the treaty. The Dakota accepted their peace, but promised that they would return to settle accounts with the Ojibwe in numbers like the mosquitoes.
In response to this brazen escalation in hostilities, the US Congress appropriated $50,000 for the erection of a fort at Pembina River to help keep the peace.
Source: July 12, 1861, (Page 6) of the New York Times: An Indian Fight.; BATTLE BETWEEN THE SIOUX AND CHIPPEWAS.
During the middle of summer in 1851, a group of Ojibwe and Métis departed Pembina and headed west for their annual buffalo hunt. On the first night out they waited for the contingent of Métis from Grant Town (St. Francois Xavier) to meet them. Once the second group rendezvoused, the combined force elected two captains to lead them on the expedition. The Grant Town group selected Jean-Baptiste Falcon as their leader, while the Pembina group chose Pascal Breland.
Departing the rendezvous site for the hunting grounds in the west, each group advanced – separated by several miles – using a standard formation with mounted scouts out front and on both flanks of the two groups. These scouts would “float” around the field, keeping contact between the two groups using various signals, while the captains led from the front center of the line of Red River carts that followed along.
After about a week, both parties were in sight of the Missouri Coteau and the Souris (Mouse) River. The more northerly group was near present-day Minot, while the other was off to the southeast of Minot in the vicinity of present-day Sawyer, near Maison du Chien (Dogden Butte). It was likely that they would be able to find buffalo within a few days, as the region was rich with game. However, unbeknownst to them their enemy the Cut Head (Yanktonais) Dakota had observed them and were planning to attack them.
That evening, the Métis scouts of the northern group spotted a large encampment of Dakota. Knowing that they were in danger of attack, the group immediately went into a defensive posture and circled their wagons, creating a fortress from where they could defend themselves if needed. Within this makeshift fort, the Ojibwe and Métis dug a large hole in the center for the women and children to hide themselves. The animals were secured within the enclosure as well. Then, the men worked through the night digging trenches and foxholes outside of the ring of carts to serve as defensive rifle pits, with the excess dirt acting as berms for added protection.
The next morning, they saw the Dakota approaching. Estimates are that somewhere between 2,500-3,000 warriors were in the enemy force. A head count of the Ojibwe and Métis was made. They only had 77 men – including several young boys who could handle a rifle – with which to defend themselves. Two men were sent out to ask for a truce, but the Dakota rejected it and the next day the battle started.
The Dakota attacked the encampment throughout the day, but the defenders were able to hold position without a single life lost. In turn, they killed eight Dakota warriors and wounded over twice that many. The next day, it was hoped that a retreat could take place so that they could join the group near Dogden Butte, but they were quickly cut off and they were forced to retreat back to the wagons. The Dakota, angry that they could not break through, fought with increased intensity but the Ojibwe/Métis force again fought them off with the help of some of the women loading their spare guns so that they always had a ready firearm to shoot. They suffered three minor casualties and only one man died. Again the Dakota suffered worse and lost a few dozen warriors in their attack.
That afternoon, the sky darkened with an impending thunderstorm on the horizon. A Dakota emissary was sent to parlay. He announced that the Dakota would stop their attack, then a group of several hundred warriors circled the wagon fort and fired a final volley into the sky. The Dakota departed and the storm came. With the storm came 300 men from the group at Dogden Butte. These men were ready to take the fight to the Dakota, but Father Laflèche and Father Lacombe, the attending Catholic priests present, begged the warriors from pursuing the Dakota.
Later that fall, the Ojibwe and Métis sent a peace offering to the Dakota. It was agreed that they would thereafter share the hunting grounds of the Missouri Coteau.
Battle of Grand Coteau—North Dakota: 12-14 July 1851. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.lermuseum.org/index.php/colony-to-confederation-1764-1866/1815-1866/battle-of-grand-coteaunorth-dakota-12-14-july-1851-1
Eyewitness Account of the Battle of the Grand Coteau. (2013, September 11). Retrieved from http://www.metismuseum.ca/resource.php/11684
Morton, W. L. (1961). The battle at the Grand Coteau, July 13 and 14, 1851. Publisher not identified.
Notes taken by the Lewis & Clark expedition, in which they reported on the origins and territories of various Indian tribes in the region, including the various Ojibwe bands they encountered. These are described as follows:
Chippewa of Leach Lake—Claim the country on both sides of the Mississippi, from the mouth of the Crow wing river to its source, and extending west of the Mississippi to the lands claimed by the Sioux, with whom they contend for dominion. They claim, also, east of the Mississippi, the country extending as far as Lake Superior, including the waters of the St. Louis. This country is thickly covered with timber generally; lies level, and generally fertile, though a considerable proportion of it is intersected and broken up by small lakes, morasses and small swamps, particularly about the heads of the Mississippi and river St. Louis. They do not cultivate, but live principally on the wild rice, which they procure in great abundance on the borders of Leech Lake and the banks of the Mississippi.
Chippewa of Red Lake Claim the country about Red Lake and Red Lake River, as far as the Red river of Lake Winnipeg, beyond which last river they contend with the Sioux for territory. This is a low level country, and generally thickly covered with timber, interrupted with many swamps and morasses. These, as well as the other bands of Chippewa, are esteemed the best hunters of the northwest country; but from the long residence of this band in the country they now inhabit, game is becoming scarce; therefore, their trade is supposed to be at its greatest extent.
Chippewa of River Pembina—These people formerly resided on the east side of the Mississippi, at Sandy Lake, but were induced, by the North West Company, to remove, about two years since, to the river Pembina. They do not claim the lands on which they hunt. The country is level and the soil good. The west side of the river is principally prairies or open plains; on the east side there is a greater proportion of timber. Their trade at present is a very valuable one.
Algonquin of Rainy Lake—With the precise limits of country they claim, I am not informed. They live very much detached, in small parties. The country they inhabit is but an indifferent one; it has been much hunted, and the game of course nearly exhausted. They are well disposed towards the whites. Their number is said to decrease.
Algonquin of Portage La Prairie—These people inhabit a low flat, marshy country; mostly covered with timber and well stocked with game. They are emigrants from the Lake of the Woods and the country east of it, who were introduced, some years since, by the North West traders in order to hunt the country on the lower parts of Red river, which then abounded in a variety of animals of the fur kind.
Gass, P. (1808). A journal of the voyages and travels of a corps of dicovery under the command of Captain Lewis and Captain Clarke of the army of the United States, from the mouth of the River Missouri through the interior parts of North America to the Pacific Ocean during the years 1804, 1805 & 1806, containing an authentic relation of the most interesting transactions during the expedition, a description of the country and an account of its inhabitants, soil, climate, curiosities and vegetable and animal productions. Pittsburgh: Printed for David MKeehan.
Canadian Geographer, Alexander Jamieson Russell wrote (in 1869) about the Ojibwe of the Red Lake Band making regular fishing expeditions to the Rainy River district of Ontario to harvest sturgeon and visit with their relatives residing in that region.
He mentions that, in addition to fishing, that the Red Lake people were teaching the Indians at Rainy River how to negotiate with the Crown when it came to protecting their land rights in the face of colonial pressure. Russell noted:
“Some of those who assemble at Rainy River for the sturgeon fishing, in summer, come from Red Lake, in the neighboring State of Minnesota, where they possess hunting grounds; and, among these latter, are some who have being parties to treaties with the United States for relinquishing certain tracts for settlement, for which they are now in receipt of annual payments. The experience they have thus gained has rendered them expert diplomatists, as compared to Indians who have never had such advantages, and they have not failed to impress on their kindred and tribe, on Rainy River, the value of the lands which they hold on the line of route to Red River.”
Russell, A.J. (1870). The Red River Country, Hudson's Bay and North-West Territories, Considered in Relation to Canada. With the Last Two Reports of S. J. Dawson ... on the Line of Route Between Lake Superior and the Red River Settlement. Accompanied by a Map. Third Edition, Illustrated. Montreal: G.E. Desbarats
Compiled and edited by Charles J. Kappler, this historically significant, seven volume compilation contains U.S. treaties, laws and executive orders pertaining to Native American Indian tribes. The volumes cover U.S. Government treaties with Native Americans from 1778-1883 (Volume II) and U.S. laws and executive orders concerning Native Americans from 1871-1970 (Volumes I, III-VII).
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vol. 1 (Laws)
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vol. 1 (Index)
Laws/Orders Compiled to Dec. 1, 1902
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vol. 2 (Treaties)
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vol. 2 (Index)
Treaties from 1778-1883
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vol. 3 (Laws)
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vol. 3 (Index)
Laws/Orders Compiled to Dec. 1, 1913
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vol. 4 (Laws)
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vol. 4 (Index)
Laws/Orders Compiled to March 4, 1927
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vol. 5 (Laws)
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vol. 5 (Index)
Laws/Orders Compiled from December 22, 1927 to June 29, 1938
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vol. 6 (Laws)
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vols. 6-7 (Index)
Laws/Orders Compiled from February 10, 1939 to January 13, 1971
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vol. 7 (Laws)
Indian affairs: laws and treaties, Vols. 6-7 (Index)
Laws/Orders Compiled from February 10, 1939 to January 13, 1971
One day, in the early 1800s, three law officers from the Red River settlement in Manitoba arrived at Red Lake, Minnesota, on a mission. They had been sent by the governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, bearing a letter from him stating that one of the Red lake men had stolen $1500 from the company a few weeks earlier. The letter acknowledged that the officers had no authority to arrest the guilty party, but that they were respectfully requesting that the leaders at Red Lake would accept their plea to recover the money.
The old headman named Way-win-che-gnon met with the officers and listened as the letter was read to him. He thought for a while afterwards and then gave his reply through the missionary, who acted as interpreter. He said, “Yes, that is true. A distant relative of mine has the money and he shall deliver it up to you.” The accused man was across the lake at Ponemah. Way-win-che-gnon sent two other headmen after him, asking that he to report at once at the Mission at Red Lake with the money. He then called the other headmen of village together at his house.
When the suspected thief arrived, Way-win-che-gnon said to him, “Lay the money on the table cousin.” The man did what he was asked. Way-win-che-gnon then asked him, “Now stand up; hold up your hand and swear by the Great Spirit that you will tell us the sober truth as to how you got this money.” To this, the man arose, held up his hand and said, “Ningah-dag-gay-de-kit-o-yan; nin-gah-ta-be-way-dush.” (or “The Lord of all shall hear what I shall say ; and I will tell the whole truth”). The man then proceeded to relate how he had stolen the money.
According to his statement, while at the Red River Settlement, he was visiting with two French half-breeds. They had been admitted into the Hudson Bay Company's store, where they noticed a large package of new bank notes lying in the office. When they came out they began to consult how they might get possession of the money. They noticed that the window was open, so they grabbed a ladder and waited until nightfall. With the ladder they were able to enter the store and snatch the money bag. However, as they were descending the ladder they were noticed. The Red Lake man was the last to come down, and he was holding the money. The two Metis men quickly ran away, leaving him holding the proverbial bag. Finding himself deserted by his companions, the Red Laker prudently ran in the opposite direction and quickly left the Settlement. He reached Ponemah a few days later with the money. His accomplices were arrested, and told the authorities that they could find the man at Red Lake, which is what led the governor to dispatch his officers to recover the money if they could.
Hearing this, Way-win-che-gnon suggested that the money be carefully counted to see if it was all there. The missionary, serving as an honest party counted the bag. The exact sum fifteen hundred dollars was recovered and the men left to go back to Red River Settlement.
Rev. James Peery Schell. (1911) In The Ojibway Country. A Story of Early Missions on the Minnesota Frontier. Chas. H. Lee Publishing. Walhalla, ND
In his 1851 book, Traditional History and Characteristic Sketches of the Ojibway Nation, George Copway describes a few of the species hunted by the Ojibwe at Red Lake and how successful they were in their endeavors. Copway wrote:
“Moose and Deer are taken, chiefly however in the northern parts of Lake Superior and in the vicinity of Red Lake. The Moose is one of the largest animals found, and the hunters have quite a merry time when three or four are taken at one time. It is considered best to take them before they leave their yard in the winter. If they are not thus taken, it is very difficult to secure them, as they are very fleet [and are usually found in boggy areas].
The Reindeer [Caribou] is also taken…it is the hardiest animal in the country. They are often chased for days in succession by the Indians, and a coat of ice is seen to cover them, caused by their perspiration; at the same time a thick steam arises from them. They go in droves, and when they are on the run, the light snow rises in clouds in every direction.”
In speaking about the Buffalo, Copway describes hunting incorporating Red River carts, skilled horsemen, and well-trained horses being part of the annual event:
“The Buffalo are taken at the head of Red River, where the Chippewa and the half-breeds kill between eight and ten thousand every year. The Indians form into companies and take their wagons with them when they go on a Buffalo hunt. The drove of Buffalo is very large, and grazing they blacken the prairie as far as the eye can reach.
The tread of the Buffalo makes the earth to tremble. The hunters are mounted on ponies whom are so taught that when a wounded animal falls they immediately start for an encounter with another. The Indian gathers his arrows from the grass while he is riding at full speed—a feat which is considered very dexterous, but which is quite common on the western prairies."
Copway, G., & Hulan, S. (2014). Traditional history & characteristic sketches of the Ojibway nation. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities