“If you just give me a hand up, I know that I can make it.”

Ms. Anywaush discusses the aftermath of the 1862 war. She shares stories about the Dakota being forced to march to Fort Snelling, life in the Fort Snelling internment (or concentration) camp, and eventual removal from Minnesota by steamboat to Crow Creek, South Dakota.

Things to think about: 

Think about how different groups of people view Fort Snelling. Explain why some people refer to the internment camp as a concentration camp.

Audio Chapters

DL: It sounds like you have been to Fort Snelling. What are your thoughts about Fort Snelling?

JA: Well, like I said, it’s too bad there isn’t some place, like a cemetery or something. I always wondered; even last night I was thinking about that and I was wondering: I wonder what they did with all the people that died there. And there must have been a lot of them that died there. What happened to them? Expendable, I guess. That’s the way I feel about it. They were throw-away. It still happens today anyway. [I] feel kinda bad about that. When you go down there- have you ever been down there? And you see some of those trees are really old and I was always wondering if somebody could drill a hole and take a core sample and see how old some of those trees are. They say if walls could only speak, or trees could only speak and say what they’ve seen.

DL: Do you have a Dakota name?

JA: Yes, Witopaywi, or, Careful Lady. And I inherited that; that was my mother’s name. And her grandmother, the one that was on the 1862 march, gave that to her. So I was very happy to get that.

DL: So your mother’s grandmother gave her that name and then you inherited it.

JA: Yes.

DL: Your mother’s grandmother was on the march?

JA: Yes.

DL: Tell us more about that.

JA: Her name is Wechankpeotowe which means “Many Stars Woman.” As my mother tells it, her grandmother was three when she was on that march. They went to Fort Snelling and that’s where the mother and dad died, and all she had left was her sisters and her aunties. One of them carried her on her back. They said they went up that gang plank, or whatever that was, into the boat or the ship, and they went down to, where was it, Crow Creek. And I think they said that, what was his name, Bishop Whipple…you know, I always wished I had listened harder. My mom was fluent Dakota and we could have been talking Dakota. Even when my grandmother talked, it was like talking in an undertone, or talking in an aside—never real loud or conspicuous. They didn’t want to be conspicuous when they were talking.

DL: What do you remember them saying about Bishop Whipple?

JA: That before they got on that boat, or at some point in time, he was praying. He prayed for them when they were on that boat.

DL: But that little three year-old did survive.

JA: Yes, she survived. Later certain things really stuck out in their memories. They cut down a living tree, not a dead one, and they hollowed out that tree and they built fires under it, and they were using that to boil meat. I don’t know what kind of meat it was, but the reason why they talked about it was because it was a living tree and the sap from that tree went into the soup. I don’t know what kind of soup they made, but it tasted bad so they took the meat out of that soup. They must have had pots and pans. They ended up having to re-cook that meat and cook that sap taste out of it before they could eat it. And I thought, how long did it take to cut down a tree, hollow it out, build that fire, and cook that meat? They must have landed someplace, gone ashore, and all sat there, waiting to eat.

JA: Then they set up camp. Their tents must have been kind of close together, and they talked about how they were inside the tent. And you kind of wonder what was going on too, because one of those soldiers came and they could see his shadow through the tent, and he proceeded to urinate on the side of their tent. It kind of makes you wonder: Why did he choose that tent? Ordinarily it would be reasonable to think that you would go outside the area, where there must have been some place where they were going to the bathroom. But he chose their tent to urinate on. Ma said they left in the middle of the night after that happened. I don’t know how long it took them, but they went all the way back from Crow Creek back to Santee. That’s where they ended up.

DL: They walked back to Santee.

JA: Yes. But that kind of makes you wonder, how did they survive? What did they learn so they could walk that far and survive? What did they eat? It’s really kind of mind—boggling that they managed to make it all the way back.

DL: Did you ever hear what your great-great-great grandparents died from when they were at Fort Snelling?

JA: No. Oh, and then they told another story about that too. I imagine there were a lot of them dying there, I suppose from whatever sickness, but this story was about a baby that died. It was during the winter and I suppose the ground was really hard, but they must have tried to dig down to bury that baby. They said that there must have been dogs inside the walls and that a dog must have dug that baby up. They saw it running, and they were all yelling that he had the body of that baby.

DL: Did they catch it?

JA: I don’t know. That’s all they said. It must have been a pretty awful site.

JA: I don’t have very positive thoughts about 1862.

DL: That war, or that period.

JA: Abraham Lincoln, either. It’s kinda funny, but then again it really isn’t funny. They were saying kind of awful things about President Lincoln. Everybody celebrates his birthday. And how he viewed the slaves and why, and Civil War and all of that, and yet, how did he view the Indians? I don’t know; what was his opinion? How come he didn't go after the people that were supposed to be giving supplies to the Indians? I think that would have been the direction to go, but I don’t think it could have happened any other way. They wanted Indian land. We paid a big price for all of that; even today, and who knows, tomorrow.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Judith Anywaush Interviewer Deborah Locke made in Granite Falls, MN | Thursday, March 10, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. “If you just give me a hand up, I know that I can make it.” December 11, 2019. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/990

Viewpoints: All viewpoints expressed on this website are those of the contributors, and are not representative of the Minnesota Historical Society.