Muk-a-dishib (the Black Duck) was a brave warrior and early chief of the Pembina and Red Lake Ojibwe. He maintained his home camps and hunted at Stump Lake, and near Fargo, North Dakota during the early years of the 1800s.
Black Duck decided to go to war against the Dakota Sioux. He sent around tobacco and raised a war party that left Pembina, marching towards Lake Traverse (Sisseton, South Dakota). The march took thirteen days. The war party searched the area around Big Stone Lake and Lake Traverse, but did not find the Sioux. They then proceeded west towards Ogema-Wadju, a large hill where the Sioux were also known to camp. Not finding a village there, the war party became disenchanted. Chief Peguis, took his men and returned home, but the remaining men who stayed with Black Duck kept searching until they came upon a village of about 300 Sioux. The fight was a resounding victory for Black Duck and his troops, but a few Sioux had been able to escape and they made their way to a nearby camp and roused more warriors who quickly came to press the fight against the Ojibwe.
Out of bullets and tired from the fight, Black Duck and his men retreated as quickly as they could, but they saw that they would soon be overtaken. Knowing that they would all be slaughtered in the upcoming fight, it was decided that most of the men would keep running, while a small party remained with Black Duck to fight and secure their escape.
Black Duck and his stalwart companions calmly took off their clothes down to their breechcloths, folded them into bundles, then they took out their pipes and smoked and prayed to the manitous for pity.
Almost 300 Sioux warriors came upon them and the fighting was hand-to-hand. During the short battle, 13 warriors fell to their deaths, including Black Duck. One man escaped across the river and was able to sneak away to report the fate of his companions and the brave Black Duck.
The final battle took place near modern-day Wild Rice, North Dakota, a small town south of Fargo. During the middle-1800s, a priest named Father Genin was told about Black Duck's bravery and he took pity on the men. He went to the location where they fell and ordered the erection of a large, white cross at the spot where Black Duck died. When white men finally came to North Dakota after the land was opened up ceded by to settlers following the 1863 Old Crossing Treaty, many of them were surprised to see the white cross as they crossed the Red River. Most were unaware that this location was where a mighty warrior and his brave men lost their lives.
Black Duck is relatively unknown today, but many of his descendants can be found at Cypress Hills and Cowessess Reserve in Canada, and at Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota.
Adapted from: Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. Indian Tribes of the United States. (1884) and O.G. Libby. Collections of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, Volume 1. (1906)
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities