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Dakota-Asiniboin

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The Dakota are mentioned in the Jesuit Relations as early as 1639-40; the tradition is noted that the Ojibwa, on arriving at the Great Lakes in an early migration from the Atlantic coast, encountered representatives of the great confederacy of the plains. In 1641 the French voyageurs met the Potawatomi Indians flying from a nation called Nadawessi (enemies); and the Frenchmen adopted the alien name for the warlike prairie tribes. By 1658 the Jesuits had learned of the existence of thirty Dakota villages west-northwest from the Potawatomi mission St Michel; and in 1689 they recorded the presence of tribes apparently representing the Dakota confederacy on the upper Mississippi, near the mouth of the St Croix. According to Croghan’s History of Western Pennsylvania, the “Sue” Indians occupied the country southwest of Lake Superior about 1759; and Dr. T. S. Williamson, “the father of the Dakota mission,” states that the Dakota must have resided about the confluence of the Mississippi and the Minnesota or St Peters for at least two hundred years prior to 1860.

According to traditions collected by Dorsey, the Teton took possession of the Black Hills region, which had previously been occupied by the Crow Indians, long before white men came; and the Yankton and Yanktonnai, which were found on the Missouri by Lewis and Clark, were not long removed from the region about Minnesota river. In 1862 the Santee and other Dakota tribes united in a formidable outbreak in which more than 1,000 whites were massacred or slain in battle. Through this outbreak and the consequent governmental action toward the control and settlement of the tribes, much was learned concerning the characteristics of the people, and various Indian leaders became known; Spotted Tail, Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, American Horse, and Even-his-horse-is-feared (commonly miscalled Man-afraid-of-his-horses) were among the famous Dakota chiefs and warriors, notable representatives of a passing race, whose names are prominent in the history of the country. Other outbreaks occurred, the last of note resulting from the ghost-dance fantasy in 1890-91, which fortunately was quickly suppressed. Yet, with slight interruptions, the Dakota tribes in the United States were steadily gathered on reservations. Some 800 or more still roam the prairies north of the international boundary, but the great body of the confederacy, numbering nearly 28,000, are domiciled on reservations (already noted) in Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

The separation of the Asiniboin from the Wazi-kute gens of the Yanktonai apparently occurred before the middle of the seventeenth century, since the Jesuit relation of 1658 distinguishes between the Poualak or Guerriers (undoubtedly the Dakota proper) and the Assiuipoualak or Guerriers de pierre. The Asiniboin are undoubtedly the Essanape (Essanapi or Assinapi) who were next to the Makatapi (Dakota) in the Walam-Olum record of the Lenni-Lenape or Delaware. In 1680 Hennepin located the Asiniboin northeast of the Issati (Isanyati or Santee) who were on Knife lake (Minnesota); and the Jesuit map of 1681 placed them on Lake-of-the-Woods, then called “L. Assinepoualacs.” La Hontan claimed to have visited the Eokoro (Arikara) in 1689-90, when the Essanape were sixty leagues above; and Perrot’s Mémoire refers to the Asiniboin as a Sioux tribe which, in the seventeenth century, seceded from their nation and took refuge among the rocks of Lake-of-the-Woods. Chauvignerie located some of the tribe south of Ounipigan (Winnipeg) lake in 1736, and they were near Lake-of-the-Woods as late as 1766, when they were said to have 1,500 warriors. It is well known that in 1829 they occupied a considerable territory west of the Dakota and north of Missouri river, with a population estimated at 8,000; and Drake estimated their number at 10,000 before the smallpox epidemic of 1838, which is said to have carried off 4,000. From this blow the tribe seems never to have fully recovered, and now numbers probably no more than 3,000, mostly in Canada, where they continue to roam the plains they have occupied for half a century.


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