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GOVERNMENT APATHY—NO ATTEMPT TO PUNISH THE OUTLAWS—ROARING CLOUD VENTURES NEAR THE AGENCY—IS KILLED BY A PARTY OF SOLDIERS AND VOLUNTEERS LITTLE CROW SENT IN SEARCH OF THE OUTLAWS—CLAIMED TO HAVE KILLED THREE AND DEMANDS THEIR ANNUITIES WHICH ARE FINALLY PAID THEM.
THE APATHY of the government in not attempting to devise some more effectual means for the detection and punishment of this marauding band of savages was much criticized. It was known all summer that the headquarters of the band were at Skunk Lake, in Dakota. What was asked was that another fort be established at some place, say Sioux Falls, and then that troops enough be sent to the frontier to not only secure protection, but to make an aggressive movement practicable. It will be seen that the moves made against these Indians were made by wholly inadequate forces. Could a strong column have been sent out simultaneously from Fort Ridgley, Fort Randall and Sioux Falls, the band could have been captured or destroyed. The feeble attempts that were made by the Indian agent and the commander of the fort were not sanctioned by the Federal authority.
Judge Flandrau and the commandant at the fort did everything they could do with the means at their command, but the War Department seemed to be perfectly indifferent and the only measure proposed by them to accomplish the object was to withhold the annuities from the agency Indians until the outlaws were surrendered. Of course, the agency Indians regarded this as a great wrong. How much it may have had to do with intensifying the hostile feeling existing at the time we don't know; also whether it may be reckoned as one of the factors in precipitating the Minnesota outbreak in 1862, we don't know, but, view it as we may, the stubbornness and stupidity of the War Department .at this time are wholly incomprehensible.
Some time in July word was received by Major Flandrau that a portion of Inkpadutah's band were in camp on the Yellow Medicine not far from the agency. Upon holding a consultation with the commandant of the fort it was decided that an effort must be made to capture or destroy them if possible. Accordingly Lieutenant Murray, with a small force of about twenty regulars and as many or more volunteers, was detailed for that service. John Other Day, the same Indian who led the rescuing party that rescued Mrs. Sharp from the Indians, was sent forward as a scout to reconnoiter and ascertain the facts. This force left Fort Ridgley about dark. They moved forward as fast as possible, and when a few miles from the Upper Agency were met by their guide, and were informed by him that the report was true that a part of Inkpadutah's band were in camp not a great distance from the agency. How many, he did not know. They consisted of six tepees and were out at one side by themselves about five miles up the river. The party again moved forward, piloted by their Indian guide, and reached the river where they intended to cross just after daylight. The hostile camp was in full view on the high ground on the opposite side of the river. As the soldiers were nearing the spot .an Indian holding a squaw by the hand sprang from one of the tepees and started rapidly for the river. Other Day, the guide, recognized him as Roaring Cloud, the son of Inkpadutah. The soldiers opened fire on him at long range with their rifles, but with what effect they did not know, as the Indian did not halt until he reached cover. From there he returned the fire of the soldiers three or four times. Every time he shot the soldiers would fire a return volley at the spot from which the smoke arose and he was soon riddled with bullets, and as the firing ceased a soldier rushed forward and finished the work with a thrust of his bayonet. It will be remembered that this was the same Indian that murdered Mrs. Noble after she had been purchased by the Yankton. The squaw was taken prisoner. The other Indians escaped.
It seems that the wife of Roaring Cloud was one of the agency Indians, and this .accounts for the risks he ran in coming so near to the agency at a time when he was sure to be killed if recognized. The taking this squaw prisoner came very near causing serious trouble with the agency Indians. In going down to the agency, the expedition passed through a camp of several thousand Indians. These Indians were nominally friendly to the whites but the sight of one of their tribe being held a prisoner aroused their indignation to an alarming degree. The purpose of the troops in making this squaw a prisoner was to get such information as they could regarding the Indian that was killed, also the balance of the party. The troops realized that they had got themselves into trouble. The excitement was intense. The angry warriors crowded around them on every side, making all kinds of hostile demonstrations. A shot from either side would have doubtless precipitated a collision, and in all probability, the force would have been annihilated on the spot. Fortunately no collision occurred and they reached the agency in safety. Here they took possession of a log house and awaited results, determined in case of an attack to defend themselves the best they were able. After a few days anxious suspense and sleepless anxiety they were relieved from their perilous situation by the arrival of Major Sherman with a force of regulars and a battery of artillery, having been ordered there from Fort Snelling to attend the payment of the annuities. Thus strengthened the troops were powerful enough to defend themselves in case of an attack. But with the release of the prisoner the affair blew over and matters quieted down to their normal condition.
The only other .attempt made by the government to capture the renegade chief was later in the season. The garrison at Fort Ridgley had been materially strengthened and as the time approached when the annuities were to be paid the Indians were informed that they would be required by the government to deliver Inkpadutah and his band to the authorities as a condition on which they would receive their annuities. To this the Indians strenuously objected. They regarded it as a great wrong, punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. However, they succeeded in organizing, a force made up of squads from the different bands, numbering in the neighborhood of a hundred warriors. This force, under the leadership of Little Crow, made a campaign into the Indian country and were gone about two weeks. Upon their return they claimed that they had killed three of his band, wounded one and taken one squaw and one papoose prisoner. The Indians now claimed that they had done all that they could do and all that they. ought to be required to do to entitle them to their annuities.
The agents of the government on the other hand insisted that it was the duty of annuity Indians to pursue and either capture or exterminate the outlaws. The time for paying the annuities had now arrived and matters began to look serious. After discussing the question in all its bearings the government authorities decided that it would be better to yield the point and pay the annuities than to run the risk of precipitating hostilities with the entire Sioux nation by withholding them longer. This opinion was largely held by the settlers along the border and by the population of Minnesota generally. Accordingly, on the eighteenth of August, Major Cullen sent the following dispatch to the Department:
"If the Department concur, I am of the opinion that the Sioux of the Mississippi have done all in their power to punish or surrender Inkpadutah's band, and their annuities may with propriety be paid them. * * * The special agent awaits answer to this dispatch at Dunleith and for instructions in the premises."
The annuities were accordingly paid and the government made no further effort to capture or punish this little band of marauders, who had wrought such destruction and spread such consternation along the entire northwestern frontier. Nothing definite is known of the remainder of Inkpadutah's band subsequent to this time, but it is supposed that they scattered, the different members uniting with other bands, thus destroying their identity and making their pursuit or capture as a distinct band impossible.
So far as can be ascertained there is absolutely no tradition claiming to give the final fate of Inkpadutah. Several times during the summer of 1857 rumors were circulated telling of his death, and these were as often denied. Had he remained among the Indians along the frontier, he must at some time have been seen and recognized by some of the traders, trappers, half-breeds or friendly Indians of that region, but so far as known, nothing of the kind ever occurred. He dropped out of sight completely, and there is no authentic account of his ever having been seen or heard of since.
Mrs. Sharp, in speaking of his family, says: "His family consisted of himself and squaw, four sons and one daughter."
As has been related, the eldest son, Roaring Cloud, the murderer of Mrs. Noble, was killed some time in July by a party of soldiers and volunteers near the Yellow Medicine Agency. There is a theory, and it is a plausible one, entertained by many that the three sons hovered around the frontier for some years; that they were leaders in many of the petty difficulties along the border, and that they were active in inciting the annuity Indians to deeds of violence and insubordination. When the outbreak at the agency carne, in August, 1862, they were among the foremost in their deeds of violence and bloodshed, and later that they participated in the many sanguinary conflicts on the upper Missouri, and the great western plains, and that they were known to have been present at and participators in the Custer Massacre on the Little Big Horn in 1876.
A little book, entitled "Twenty Years on the Trap Line," by Joseph Henry Taylor, insists there is abundant proof of this fact. The author claims to have been a member of Captain White's company of the Northern Border Brigade, stationed at Correctionville, and other points along the frontier, and that after receiving his discharge he spent the next twenty years trapping on the Missouri River and its tributaries. In his reminiscences he mentions several instances of coming into close proximity with these Indians and had several narrow escapes from them. ".Mill Creek," in Cherokee County, seems to have been one of his favorite trapping grounds. In writing of his experiences there, he says:
"As the rapidly changing season commenced to spot the furs, I made ready to pull up traps and move down to the settlements. On the morning of my final departure I noticed a man passing along the edge of the bluffs without seeming to see the camp. With gun in hand, and with a brace of pistols in my `war' belt, I intercepted him with a `Hello!' On approaching, I discovered him to be a half-breed, and seemed to be trailing something. `Did you see anybody pass here?' he said in good English. `No,' I answered. 'You were in luck they didn't see you.' `Why so?' Because Inkpadutah's boys don't often let a chance slip.' `Inkpadutah's boys, I repeated mechanically. `Yes, Inkpadutah's sons. Inkpadutah's sons I well remember the cold chill that crept over my nerves at the half-breed's mention of the dreaded name. As soon as he had disappeared down the winding valley I critically examined the trail he was following and found the moccasin tracks of six different Indians all pointing down the valley. After having taken up the traps, I moved up on the high divide and took a bee line, for Correctionville. * * * Striking the valley of the Little Sioux at least once a year on a hostile raid seemed to be a fanatical observance of Inkpadutah's band that they could not .abandon. Whether fishing for pickerel around the shores of Lake Winnipeg, or hunting antelope on the plains of the upper James River, or buffalo in the Judith Basin or along the Muscleshell River, time and opportunity were found to start out hundreds of miles on a dreary foot journey to count a `coup' on their aggressive conquerors. The battle on the Little Big Horn is still rated the most important engagement between the whites and Indians since that day on the banks of the turgid Tippecanoe, when, the sycamore forests hid the broken columns of Tecumseh and the prophet from Harrison's victorious army. Various writers have ascribed Custer's death as the culminating episode in this latter day fight and to heighten the color of the picture have laid his death to the personal prowess of Rain in the Face or on the field altar of Chief Priest Sitting Bull. It has long since been proven that Rain in the Face was not on the field of battle that day, but was miles .away in charge of the pony herd. About, Sitting Bull's hand in the affair, he has expressed himself again and again by saying in about these words to the charge, `They tell you I murdered Custer. It is a lie. I am not a war chief. I was not in the battle that day. His eyes were blinded that he could not see. He was a fool and rode to his death. He made the fight, not I. Whoever tells you I killed Custer is a liar.' * * * Any intelligent Yankton, Santee, Uncpapa Blackfoot or other Sioux, who participated in the fight against Custer's battalions on that twenty-fifth day of June, 1876, will tell you it was difficult to tell just who killed Custer. They believed he was the last to fall in the group where he was found. That the last leaden messengers of swift death hurled amongst this same group of falling and dying soldiers were belched forth from Winchesters held in the hands of Inkpadutah's sons."
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