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Ojibwahs, Sioux once clashed in what is now Lyon County

The following article was first published in the June 22, 1970, issue of the Marshall Messenger, with no author listed. It is interesting information about the pre-settlement of immigrants from Europe in the area.

“When Lyon County was first occupied by human beings is uncertain but when white men first penetrated the Northwest it was inhabited by Indians. Nearly the whole present state of Minnesota was in control of the Dakota or Sisseton Sioux tribe.

The Sioux had their favorite hunting grounds on the prairies, and although they were domiciled in the timber lands bordering the prairies, they were strictly Indians of the prairie.

About the middle of the eighteenth century the aggressive Ojibwah, or Chippewa, drove the Sioux out of Northern Minnesota. Thereafter, until white men took charge of the future Lyon County lands they were ruled by the Sioux. The Lyon County branch was the Sisseton Sioux.

The timberland along the Redwood River in Lyon County was a paradise for these Indians of the prairie and some of the band had their homes there; others frequented it on trapping and hunting expeditions and to gather the syrup from the maple trees.

Parker I. Pierce, who visited the future Lyon County in the early sixties, has given an interesting account of early Indian life here. He wrote: ‘At Lynd there were about 1500 acres of timber (most of it having later been cut by the settlers), consisting of oak, bass and sugar maple. This timber was a paradise for the Indians, furnishing shelter and fuel for winter and a feeding ground for their ponies. In the summer they would hunt and kill buffalo and dry the meat for winter. After the cold weather set in they devoted their time to trapping the fur-bearing animals, such as otter, mink and muskrats, which were abundant.

In every slough one could count from three to forty houses or dens, which were made of rushes and varied in height. When there was to be high water in the spring they were built high, and when low water they were built low. That sign hardly ever failed. Now the rats have disappeared. The otter were not very plentiful, as the Indians kept them well trapped out. Their skins brought a fair price, probably two quarts of brown sugar. Wolves were very plentiful before the white trapper came among them. The Indian was so superstitious that he would not kill any; he said they were his Great Father’s dogs. The same with a snake.

The history of Lyon County before the white race took possession must be left almost entirely to the imagination; there is little data from which to write it. If inanimate things could speak, what wild tales of Indian adventures could be poured forth! But inanimate things cannot speak and the animate aborigine is [a] notoriously worthless historian, so a very interesting part of the history of Lyon County must forever remain unrecorded. Only trifling bits of history, intermingled with a plethora of legend, are preserved of the days before the Caucasian race took possession.

Let us, in imagery, take a look at the Lyon County of years gone by, when it was in primeval state, when it was as Nature had formed it. Its topography was practically the same as we find it today. There were the same broad, rolling prairies, stretching as far as the eye might reach, presenting in summer a perfect paradise of verdure, with its variegated hues of flowers and vegetation; in winter a dreary and snow mantled desert. The rivers and creeks flowed in the same courses as now; the lakes occupied the same banks as at the present day. But what a contrast!

Wild beasts and birds and wilder red men then reigned supreme. Vast herds of bison, elk and deer roamed the open prairies and reared their young in the more sheltered places along the streams. With that wonderful appreciation of the beautiful, which Nature has made an instinct in the savage, the untutored Sioux selected the country as his hunting ground and roamed it at will. Such was the Lyon County before the march of civilization brought the white man to supplant the red.'”

Source: “Ojibwah, Sioux Once Clashed in What is Now Lyon County,” Marshall Messenger, June 22, 1970.

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