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Slaughter Slough

Part I

This series was written with excerpts from a Slayton newspaper account by John Silvernale (no date found). The attempt here was not to do full-fledged research on the Great Dakota Conflict; that has been done by many authors. I was only attempting to give information about the conflict, especially as it pertained to the Lake Shetek portion, since the United States Fish and Wildlife Service eventually dedicated a rock monument acknowledging the significance of the 1862 battle site at Slaughter Slough.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service dedicated a rock monument on Sept. 24, 2003, to acknowledge the significance of the 1862 battle site at Slaughter Slough, as part of the 100th anniversary of the Fish and Wildlife Service. The site is located two miles northeast of Currie in Murray County. Speakers at the dedication included Native Americans, a historian and a descendant of a Slaughter Slough battle survivor.

During the summer of 1862 tensions between the Native Americans and the white man reached a boiling point, ending in violence across the state with the Great Dakota conflict. Native Americans, dissatisfied with treatment from Indian Agents, traders and the late annuity payments from the U.S. government turned to violence which reached settlers living near Lake Shetek on Aug. 20, 1862

John Silvernale, in an early issue (no date found) of the Slayton newspaper, lists three theories for the unrest that led to the conflict. First, was the misunderstanding and disagreement over the treaties, which the government made with the Indians and the annuities, which were to be paid for the land acquired. A possible $475,000 was to be paid to the Indians when they moved onto their reservation in 1853. But more than half of this amount was claimed by representatives of the American Fur Company. Secondly, there was irritation among the Indians that arose out of the massacre of 1857 at Spirit Lake, Iowa. A renegade Wapekutan, by the name of Inkpaduta, who had murdered his own chief, was marauding around the headwaters of the Des Moines River, near Lake Shetek. Upon receiving some guns, he and his followers began murdering settlers near Spirit Lake. From there they returned to Lake Shetek where they camped. As a result of these crimes the U.S. government sent Little Crow to find Inkpaduta and bring him back for justice. He was never found, so the annuities were paid and the matter forgotten. But Little Crow reasoned that, if one outlaw Indian could massacre whole white settlements, maybe it was possible a banded-together Sioux nation could drive the white population back over the Mississippi. The third motive was “racial conflict,” the white man’s attitude that they were the superior race and, therefore, the Indians should be converted to the attitudes and practices of the white race.

The first attacks were at Fort Ridgely in Meeker County on Aug. 17, 1862. The next day the marauding Indians attacked the Lower Sioux Agency near Morton, then went on to the Upper Sioux Agency the following day. On Aug. 20, the same day as the attack on Fort Ridgely, a band of Indians approached the Aaron Myers cabin located at the extreme north end of Lake Shetek.

(Continued next week)

Sources: “Slaughter Slough,” John Silvernale, Slayton Newspaper, undated; Article by Bill Bolin, Southwest Sailor, August 27, 1997.

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