'Cut Nose Who Stands on a Cloud': Willmar grad tells more than the story of the infamous warrior in his first book

In the history told by Loren Dean Boutin, the Dakota warrior known as Cut Nose was certainly one very nasty man. At the onset of the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862, he approached unsuspecting pioneer families in a friendly manner and killed them. H...

In the history told by Loren Dean Boutin, the Dakota warrior known as Cut Nose was certainly one very nasty man.

At the onset of the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862, he approached unsuspecting pioneer families in a friendly manner and killed them. He intercepted a wagon carrying settlers fleeing the conflict, lined the women and children in a circle and delivered each one a fatal blow to the back of their heads as they prayed. He led the attack on the citizens of New Ulm.

Yet in Boutin's newly published book, "Cut Nose Who Stands on a Cloud,'' readers will discover that it's not for his notoriety that the story of this man's life demands our attention.

It's the very real danger that we will not learn from the mistakes of the past, and continue the tragedy that Cut Nose knew.

Cut Nose was among the 38 Dakota warriors who were hanged at Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862, in what remains the largest mass execution ever in the United States.


He was originally known by his given Indian name "Who Stands on a Cloud.'' He became known as Cut Nose after a fight at a young age when his opponent John Otherday bit off a piece of his nose. The deformity only contributed to the fiendish image by which he has been almost singularly known.

In his 160-page book, Boutin helps us see past the obvious and depicts Cut Nose for his human qualities as well as his brutal nature.

Boutin is a native of Brooten who moved to Willmar at age 6. He graduated from Willmar High School in 1951, worked for the Burlington Northern Railroad, and served in the U.S. Army in Korea.

He returned to his job with the railroad, but quit to study at the University of Minnesota. Today, he lives in St. Peter where he is semi-retired after a 40-year career as psychologist. He continues to serve on a review panel that considers the requests of those committed to the St. Peter Hospital as sexual offenders.

Boutin said he became interested in Cut Nose after hearing a mention about him many years ago on a morning radio show. It was the start of research that Boutin conducted "on and off'' for more than a decade. It led to the writing of this, his first book.

Boutin said Cut Nose is not as well known as Chief Little Crow, but he was a very influential figure in the war all the same. Cut Nose was the leader of a Dakota soldier's lodge, and consequently directed many of the military activities.

Boutin describes it this way: If Little Crow is considered to be like the president, then Cut Nose was the secretary of defense.

His book depicts Cut Nose as a very able hunter and warrior. He held to the native Dakota ways as a "blanket Indian.'' Many others in the tribe were "cut hairs'' who adopted the ways of the whites.


Cut Nose developed a reputation as a very promiscuous man and a drunk. His drinking nearly cost him his leadership role in the tribe. He had become willing to take on any job offered by the whites -- no matter how menial -- for a bottle.

He eventually quit drinking. He retained a strong anger toward the whites.

Cut Nose went to war in hopes of killing all of the whites and taking back the land for the Dakota, said Boutin.

The author makes it clear that his motives were really no different than the "highly opinionated'' views many of the whites held toward the Dakota.

The mass execution of the 38 warriors followed military tribunal trials at which most of the accused professed to have done no killing. The "crime'' of many was no more than having admitted to participating in the hostilities. Just hours after their execution, the bodies were stolen from a mass grave and sold for medical research.

At the war's end, the Dakota people were led on a forced march to Fort Snelling. Unruly crowds taunted and threw stones at the procession.

In Henderson, a baby was grabbed from his Indian mother and tossed to the ground and fatally injured.

Some 1,500 Dakota were shipped "like animals'' to Nebraska, Boutin wrote. The Dakota were banned from Minnesota, and a bounty placed on the heads of those who might return.


"The whole thing was a tragedy," said Boutin of the conflict.

The lesson it teaches is that the capacity to commit genocide or create a holocaust is an innate part of humanity. It is seen in our own history, Boutin pointed out.

By following the fate of Cut Nose and his remains that were stolen from their grave, Boutin offers a look at how the tragedy of 1862 continued long after the war. Ultimately, this history also offers hope that we can learn from it.

There are important steps being made toward reconciliation, and Boutin points them out in his book.

"Cut Nose Who Walks on a Cloud'' is published by North Star Press of St. Cloud. It is available at Book World in the Kandi Mall and through North Star Press.

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