How the Dakota Sioux Gained Control of Prairie Island
Prior to the Dakota Sioux taking control of their beloved Prairie Island, this location was the temporary home of a wandering band of Hurons and Ottawa who had accompanied the French explorer Radisson up the Mississippi during the middle 1600s.
At first, the Dakota were very affectionate to both Hurons and Ottawa, and the Hurons and Ottawa were careful to show submission to the Dakota, as they were visitors in their lands and were grateful to be able to use Prairie Island in a climate of peace. During their time of occupation, they often received friendly visits from the Dakota.
One day it happened that the Hurons met some Dakota while hunting on the prairies. They killed the party of Dakota, who were eventually found by their relatives and were noted to have had their corpses abused. The Dakota were incensed and they returned in haste to their village with the sad news. On their way, the Dakota found some Hurons and they made them prisoners, taking them to their chiefs, who forgave the Hurons and released them back to their people. The Hurons took this gesture as a sign of weakness and they soon conspired with the Ottawa to make war upon the Dakota and to try to drive them from the country so that they might have more extended hunting grounds.
The Ottawa and Hurons joined forces and marched against the Dakota. They believed that as soon as they appeared, the Dakota would retreat out of fear; but they were much mistaken, for the Dakota sustained their attacks and even repulsed them. If the Hurons and Ottawa did not retreat themselves, they would have been entirely destroyed by the great number of Dakota who came from the other villages to aid in the battle.
Eventually, the Hurons and Ottawa retreated to Prairie Island, where they were obliged to build a poorly fortified defensive system, but this could not stop the Dakota attacks. Knowing that they could not win, the Hurons and Ottawa retreated to the east and eventually made their way to Black river. Here the Hurons found a suitable place to fortify and establish their village. The Ottawa pushed on further, and established themselves at Chagouamikon. The Dakota took control of Prairie Island for good and have lived there for over 300 years, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited Native settlements in the region.
Adapted From: McCalester College Contributions: Department of History, Literature, and Political Science (Vol. 1). (1890). St. Paul, MN: Pioneer Press Publishing Company.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities