We made a pact, and you’re not paying it.

Mr. Blue talks about the treaties between the Dakota and U.S. government and how this led to the War of 1862.

Things to think about: 

Mr. Blue makes a reference to the incident at Acton, MN, where Dakota men killed members of a white family. This is often cited as the incident that started the U.S.-Dakota War. How does Mr. Blue describe this and explain the root causes?

Audio Chapters

When the government made this agreement (I suppose I should say treaty; treaty a nasty word with us because of the 800 treaties made with the Indians throughout the United States, some were very minimal, and some of them were huge, like the one I’m talking about. Over 800 of them, and the U.S. never lived up to one; not a single one). So anyway, they broke the treaty, and so therefore, that’s when the Indians decided: they’re not going to do a darn thing, so we might as well try to defend ourselves. So that’s how this began. Here’s a real trick: when they took that land and they told the Indians back then that they would pay them annuities on a yearly basis, they put the money for payments in the U.S. Treasury. And the few payments that they did make (I think it was two – probably three annuities were paid) – but here’s the catch: the annuity payments that were in the U.S. Treasury, the interest that accumulated from that money that was sitting there, they paid as the annuity. So they never actually paid for the land; never paid a cent for all this vast territory. It was the interest money that accrued. That’s history, but you don’t hear that, and it’s not in history books, certainly.

When they treatied with the government, what they did was, they had agreed every year to make a payment to purchase the land. They thought they could develop it. Which is very true; the white folks are prone to development – there’s no question about that.

So they wanted it, and they started crowding into the reservation. And of course the Dakota at that time thought, well, okay, it’s no big deal, but you have to understand, that’s our land. Well, the more they let them in, the more they wanted.

But that’s not the whole issue. Between the State and the Feds then they finally made a pact, okay, annuities are paid once a year. If those annuities were held, it would create problems. That’s how it all began. It’s true that some young bucks [Dakota warriors] did kill some settlers. But the point is, they were hungry, they were starving because they were not allowed to go off the reservation to hunt. So when the game left for the plains, they had nothing left. The [settler] family was killed, and the U.S. got into the action immediately. You know damn well that they were already prepared to act by virtue of the fact that they withheld annuities; not just one year, not just two years, but three years – no annuities.

Meanwhile then the Dakota say, where the heck’s my money? We made a pact, and you’re not paying it. And meanwhile your white farmers and your white lumber people, they’re crowding into our land and taking what’s basically ours. That’s what started the whole damn war. It was because the Indians finally decided: enough of this! When the U.S. Government, who made a pact with us, would not live up to its agreement, we had to defend ourselves. That’s how it all began. But of course they blamed the Indians for starting the war. Well, they probably did, but there’s a good reason. That reason was that they were losing their land, the government was not living up to its agreement. That’s what started the whole thing.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Dean Blue Interviewer Deborah Locke, Made in Granite Falls, Upper Sioux Community, MN | Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. We made a pact, and you’re not paying it. April 18, 2024. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/1006

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