Lower Sioux Agency: Stories and Reflections




Lower Sioux Agency

Cecelia Campbell Stay, Anglo-Dakota, 1882 (read by Lenor A. Scheffler): “Lower Sioux Agency was a neat little village built on the top of the hill 12 miles west of Fort Ridgely. A belt of timber was on one side facing the river and on the other, prairie.”

Narrator: The U.S. government built the Redwood, or Lower Sioux Agency in the 1850s. It served as a hub for Dakota, Anglo-Dakota, French-Dakota and European settlers. It was the first location of the U.S.-Dakota war of 1862.

How the U.S. Dakota War Impacted the People and Land

Narrator: Following the War of 1862, the US government exiled the Dakota from Minnesota, even those who had no involvement in the war, tearing families apart.

Michael Childs: “They exiled the Sioux ­­­– they called them, the Dakota - from the State of Minnesota, which included my grandparents, of course. They were taken by barge down the Mississippi and then up the Missouri, up to Santee, Nebraska. Also Crow Creek. And, I mean, that was a desolate place and a lot people died."

Narrator: The US government promised to punish only those who fought in the war. However, more than 300 Dakota were convicted in makeshift tribunals, some lasting as short as 5 minutes.

Sandra Geshick: “It gives you peace to know that I’m standing in a place where my ancestors were. I wonder what they were thinking when they were here. But it gives me comfort to know that they stood right here. They knew.”

Pamela Halverson: “To be Dakota in Minnesota- what they went through. It overwhelms me. It takes me to why my people are the way they are today, why we haven’t healed. It takes me back to praying for those ancestors. I’m here because they survived.”

Stories and Reflections about Land and Home before the War

"There is a language on the ancient landscape. Symbols that relate ideas traveling from time immemorial to humanity. Shadows of voices sustain memory in the continuous prairie wind. Okiya from Sacred and wise relatives. This same prairie wind that caused pioneer women to go mad."

“Shadows of Voices,” a poem by Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan

Narrator: For more than a hundred years before the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, French, British, Dakota, and mixed race families coexisted on Dakota land because of economic and kinship ties.

Nancy McClure, Anglo-Dakota, 1894 (read by Shara Siyaka): “At the time of the outbreak we were living two miles from the Redwood agency, on the road to Fort Ridgely. The winter and spring before had been very enjoyable to me. There were a good many settlers in the country. We used to meet at one another’s houses in social gatherings, dancing parties and the like, and the time passed very pleasantly.”

Narrator: While life on the prairie was fraught with challenges, settlers still came to seek new opportunities.

Sylvan Schumacher: “When Leavenworth got going then, my great-grandpa, he bought a store. My great-grandma, she was a midwife because there were no doctors around in the earlier years. Why you would leave Wisconsin and come that far, not knowing where you’re gonna go or anything, with two kids. They must have really thought it would be a really nice place to live.”

Narrator: But for the Dakota, living on the land had a different meaning.

Michael Childs: “We didn't own the lands, they belonged to everybody, and so we were willing to share with others that we felt needed. It was used against us. The generosity was used against us.”