Friday, May 16, 2014

Our Chief Sleepy Eye

Chief Sleepy Eye

Our Chief Sleepy Eye

There is little written about Chief Sleepy Eye yet we know that, Ish-tak-ha-bah was a powerful man and stood six feet in his moccasins, with what we know as a lazy eye. He was straight as an arrow and a born leader. He had a reputation for fairness and square dealing that made him the friend of all with whom he came in contact with. He had lived in the area for years, had hunted and fished in the waters of the Cottonwood, in the skycolored waters of the Minnesota, and the pellucid floods of the famed Sleepy Eye Lake (Minnewashte Chanhatonka). His truest instinct was on the hunt, his the truest aim was when the great buffalo went down, his greatest success was at trapping, and his largest and most comfortable moments were in and near his tepee (at home). He became a fast friend of the Coutouriers - "French Cap" the fur trader, and many times was a welcome guest at their humble cabin on the lake shore. Once in a while he would talk of his (Chief Sleepy Eye's) people, and sometimes of the interesting history of the country. History with him is legend among his friends and family. 

In 1824 Indian Agent Lawrence Taliaferro took a group of four Sioux and four Ojibway to visit President James Monroe in Washington, D.C. Taliaferro had been a lieutenant in the army, stationed at Fort Snelling. Among the Sioux who went to the capital in Washington, D.C., was Sleepy Eye, and a Little Crow who was grandfather to the Little Crow who was the leader of the Indians in the Uprisings of 1862. Chief Sleepy Eye was named "chief", by President Monroe and the Bureau of Indians Affairs. Chief Sleepy Eye was chief of all the Sisseton Sioux from Carver to Lac Qui Parle. He succeeded Wakanto (Blue Spirit). It is also stated that Sleepy Eyes is to be the son of a chief - though the name of his father is unknown. 

Sleepy Eye is a leader among his people. In 1851, he was the most important chief at the signing of the Treaty of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux. On July 19, 1851 Chief Sleepy Eye stated to the government, "your coming and asking me for my country makes me sad, and your saying I am not able to do anything with my country makes me still more sad."

Over the years treaties have been signed offering and giving up more and more hunting grounds, fishing lands; without realizing how much was giving up or lost. In 1851 there were two treaties written that ceded all remaining lands except a ten-mile strip on each side of the upper part of the Minnesota River. These treaties were made at Traverse des Sioux on July 23, 1851 and August 5,1851.

In 1852, Chief Sleepy Eye selected the site that became Mankato. Sleepy Eye advised the traders not to build in a low lying land near the Minnesota River. This land often flooded. Sleepy Eye had suggested moving the location to higher grounds, located today where it is known as "Front Street". This location became the location for Mankato's trading post.

At this point in history we know that Chief Sleepy Eye was granted the right to remain off of the reservation and remain by Swan Lake - near Nicollet. He remains there peacefully with his band till 1857 when the renegade Ink-Pa-Du-Ta and his band attacked settlers at Spirit Lake, Iowa, and Jackson, Minnesota. At this point Chief Sleepy Eye had moments to move his band onto the reservation. Our present day town (City of Sleepy Eye) just happened to be within the 20 mile reservation mile marker line (10 miles south of the Minnesota River). After Sleepy Eye moved here to the lake of " Pretty Water by the Big Tree" (Minnewashte Chanhatonka).

Chief Sleepy Eye died in 1860, but not before rendering his assistance at his own risk of his own life many times during his early years, on the sun-kissed prairies attempting to undo the years of hearts bleeding and happy homes from becoming desolated wastes. The spring after Chief Sleepy Eye's death two hundred of the Chiefs band gave a Remembrance Dance to honor the memory of Chief Sleepy Eye, this was the last time this dance with the band was performed. Those who have survived the years are scattered all around the state on various reservations, although most were sent to the Dakotas and traveled to Canada.

A friendly Indian was the Chief and there were many instances in history where he had not only shown kindness and consideration to the white people in times of trouble but actually saved life and nursed back to health men, women, and children who were wounded in battle by warfaring Indians.

Other Treaties Signed By Sleepy Eye;
Prairies Du Chien - 1825
Prairies Du Chien - 1830
St Peters (Mendota) - 1836
Traverse Des Sioux - July 1851
Traverse Des Sioux Sioux - August 1851

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