Wahpeton Indian Tribe History
Wahpeton (wakhpe, 'leaf';
tonwan (French nasal n), 'a village'; hence probably 'dwellers among
leaves'). One of the 7 primary divisions of the Dakota. Historic and
linguistic evidence proves the affinity of this tribe with the Sisseton,
Wahpekute, and Mdewakanton. Hennepin (1680) mentions them as living in the
vicinity of Mille Lac, Minn., near the Mdewakanton, Sisseton, and Teton.
On his map they are placed a little to the northeast of the lake. Le Sueur
(1700) places the Oudebatons, or "river village," among the eastern Sioux,
and the Ocapetons, "village of the leaf," among the Sioux of the west. As
both these names seem to be forms of Wahpeton, it is probable that they
are applied to different villages of the tribe, which was subsequently
found most of the time in two bands. It was not until Lewis and Clark and
Pike visited the northwest that the name appeared again in history.
According to the former (1804) they resided on Minnesota river, just above
its mouth, and claimed the country to the mouth of Chippeway river, thence
northeast to Crow Wing river. Pike (1806) says: "They hunt on the St.
Peter's [Minnesota river.], also on the Mississippi, up Rum river, and
sometimes follow the buffalo on the plains."
They gradually moved up Minnesota river, so that in
1849 they lived north and west of the Wahpekute, their villages extending
far, upstream toward its source. They had one of their most important
villages in the vicinity of Lac qui Parle. Here missionaries established
themselves as early as 1835, at which date the tribe numbered about 1,500
persons. According to Sibley (Minn. Hist. Coll., III, 250, 1880) the lower
Wahpeton were found on Minnesota river, not far from Belleplaine; the
upper Wahpeton villages were on the shores of Lac qui Parle. They were
ultimately gathered with the Sisseton on Lake Traverse reservation. The
estimates of population vary from 900 to 1,500. In 1909 the Sisseton and
Wahpeton together, under the Sisseton agency, South Dakota, were reported
as numbering 1,936. They were participants in the Minnesota outbreak and
massacre of 1862.
According to Long (Exped. St. Peter's R., 1, 367, 1824)
these Indians were good-looking and straight; none were large, nor were
any remarkable for the symmetry of their forms. They were, for the greater
part, destitute of clothing, except the breechcloth, though some of the
young men were dressed with care and ostentation. "They wore
looking-glasses suspended from their garments. Others had papers of pins,
purchased from the traders, as ornaments. We observed that one, who
appeared to be a man of some note among them, had a live sparrow hawk on
his head, by way of distinction; this man wore also a buffalo robe, on
which 8 bear tracks were painted. . The squaws we saw had no ornament, nor
did they seem to value themselves upon their personal appearance. Both
males and females have small feet and hands. The dress of the women
consisted of a long wrapper, with short sleeves, of dark calico; this
covered them from the shoulders to the waist; a piece of blue broadcloth,
wound two or three times round the waist, its end tucked in, extended to
the knee. They also wore leggings of blue or scarlet cloth. Their forms
were rather clumsy; their waists not very delicate; they exhibited a great
breadth of hips, and their motions were not graceful."
The village consisted of skin lodges, yet they
cultivated maize to some extent. According to Pike the tribe devoted a
considerable portion of the year to pursuit of the buffalo.
Lewis and Clark mention two divisions, the Wakpaatonwan
and Otekhiatonwan. Parker (Minn. Handbk.,140, 1857), adds the
Inyancheyakaatonwan and Inkpa. Ashley (15th Rep. B. A. E., 216, 1897, and
letters) enumerates the following bands: Inyancheyakaatonwan
Waddapawjestin and the village of
Wahnacsoutah can not be identified with any of these.
The books presented are for their
historical value only and are not the
opinions of the Webmasters of the site.
of American Indians, 1906
Index of Tribes or Nations