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Little Crow, other Dakota killed in war and its aftermath honored at Hutchinson, Minn., ceremony

Great-great-granddaughter Fern Cloud speaks Saturday during a ceremony in Hutchinson honoring Chief Little Crow, who was killed in on July 3, 1863, in Meeker County, and other Dakota killed during the U.S.-Dakota War and its aftermath. Cloud now lives in Granite Falls and is a pastor at the Pajuhutazizi Presbyterian Church. (Tribune photo by Kelly Boldan)1 / 2
A photo of Chief Little Crow was displayed Saturday in Hutchinson during the ceremony to honor him and others killed in the U.S.-Dakota War and its aftermath. (Tribune photo by Kelly Boldan)2 / 2

HUTCHINSON -- Descendants of the Dakota leader Taoyateduta, early Minnesota settlers and others gathered here Saturday for a ceremony to honor the Dakota chief, known as Little Crow, and other Dakota.

The ceremony was held on the occasion of his death, July 3, more than 150 years ago. It honored Chief Little Crow and other Dakotas who died during the U.S.-Dakota War and its aftermath. More than one-quarter of the Dakota in Minnesota died in the Dakota Diaspora following the war.

A similar ceremony is scheduled Aug. 25 at Fort Ridgely to honor the Minnesota soldiers and settlers who died during the U.S.-Dakota War period and its aftermath.. More than 600 Minnesotans died during the war and the aftermath.

"War brings evil on both sides and (the U.S.-Dakota War) was no exception," said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City. "People on both sides (of this war) charge the other side with murder in the war and aftermath." he said.

Four members of the Dustin family of Howard Lake were killed by Dakota men in Wright County, only four days before Little Crow's death in July 3, 1863.

"There is no honor in murder and (we) do not honor the killing of women and children by either side in the war or aftermath," said Urdahl, a descendant of an Acton Township settler in Meeker County.

The purpose of the Hutchinson and Fort Ridgely events is to continue the healing and the reconciliation, said Urdahl.

"Little Crow would want all of us to carry the message of reconciliation forward," said Fern Cloud, a great-great-granddaughter of the Dakota chief and a pastor now living in Granite Falls.

"We pray that someday the bitter tears of the past will be wiped (away) for the last time," said Urdahl.

Little Crow, like Confederate General Robert E. Lee, opposed going to war against the United States and only reluctantly agreed to lead his nation's rebellion, said Hutchinson Mayor Steve Cook.

While Lee and his Confederate soldiers were allowed to return home after their defeat, Little Crow and all the Dakotas, including those who protected and/or fought for Minnesotans, were all exiled from Minnesota by Congress following their defeat, Cook said.

When Cloud asked her family and fellow Dakota living in South Dakota and Nebraska what message she should carry to this ceremony, many said to "tell them we are still here."

Once the Dakota went to war, Little Crow argued that the war should be fought only "soldier to soldier," said Urdahl. There is no evidence that Little Crow participated in an attack on any Minnesota settlers.

In fact, at the Battle of Acton, Little Crow got into a dispute with another Dakota leader over this issue, Urdahl said.

Born near St. Paul, Little Crow grew up a traditional Dakota, but saw a rapidly changing Minnesota in his lifetime due to the arrival of European settlers and related cultures, said Lori Pickell-Stangel, McLeod County Historical Society director.

Little Crow fled Minnesota in late 1862, leading a Dakota band of more than 1,000. He returned with only a handful in 1863 to his homeland in search of horses.

A chance encounter on July 3, 1863, of a Dakota father, Little Crow, and his son picking berries and a settler father, Nathan Lamson, and his son walking to their homestead in southern Meeker County resulted in an exchange of gunfire. Both fathers were shot: Little Crow was killed and Lamson injured.

Little Crow's body was carried to Hutchinson, mutilated and discarded. When he was later identified as Little Crow, his body was recovered and sent to St. Paul. His skull and bones remained in the Minnesota Historical Society until 1970, when they were returned to his family and reburied at Flandreau, S.D.

"There are responsibilities as a Little Crow descendent," said Cloud. "We try to be good role models for our people."

"We remember the life and death and the spirit of Taoyateduta," said Urdahl. "We must learn from the life (Little Crow) lived and how he died."

Kelly Boldan

Kelly Boldan has been the editor of the West Central Tribune of Willmar, since joining the newspaper in October 2001. He has previously worked as the editor at the Bemidji Pioneer, also part of Forum Communications Co., and other daily newspapers, online Web sites, and weekly agriculture newspapers in Wisconsin, Texas and Minnesota. You can follow via Twitter at @KellyBoldanWCT or read about the Tribune's newsroom blog at: or the Tribune's blog at:

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