Wahpekute Tribe

Wahpekute Indians (wakhpe, leaf; kute, to shoot: shooters in the leaves’). One of the 7 primary divisions of the Dakota. Although the name Santee was originally applied only to the Mdewakanton, it was early extended to the Wahpekute, so closely were the two tribes connected, and eventually by the Teton also to the two other tribes of the eastern Dakota. Historic and linguistic evidence proves the close affinity of the tribes of this group. The Wahpekute were doubtless living in the vicinity of the Mdewakanton of Mille Lac, Minn., when first visited by the French (1678-1680), and were still so closely combined with them as to be included under the one term. In 1766 Carver met the Wahpekute somewhere on Minnesota river. They were in 1804, according to Lewis and Clark, on both sides of that stream below Redwood river, and numbered about 150 men. Pike (1806) spoke of them as the smallest band of the Sioux, residing generally between Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and hunting commonly at the head of Des Moines river. He characterizes them as “the most stupid and inactive of all the Sioux.” Long 1 says: “This tribe has a very bad name, being considered to be a lawless set of men. They have a regular hereditary chief, Wiahuga (‘the raven’), who is acknowledged as such by the Indian agent, but who, disgusted by their mis-behaviour, withdrew from them and resides at Wapasha’s. They have no fixed villages, they inhabit skin lodges, and rove at the head of Cannon and Blue Earth rivers. Their hunting grounds are in that vicinity and west of it.” He estimated them at 100 lodges, 200 warriors, and 800 souls. According to Sibley, 2 they were in 1834 in villages on Cannon river, a short distance from the present city of Faribault, Minn., and at a few other points. They numbered then about 150 warriors. Between 1842 and 1857 they were under two chiefs named Wamdisapa (Black Eagle) and Tasagi. The lawless and predatory habits of Wamdisapa and his band prolonged the war with the Sauk and Foxes in which they had been engaged, and created difficulties between them and the rest of the Wahpekute which caused a separation.

Wamdisapa and his band went west and occupied lands about Vermillion River, South Dakota. So thoroughly were they separated from the rest of the Wahpekute that when the latter, together with the Mdewakanton, made a treaty at Mendota in 1851 ceding their lands in Minnesota, the remnant of Wamdisapa’s band was not regarded as being a part of the tribe and did not participate in the treaty. In 1857 all that remained of this straggling band were some 10 or 15 lodges under Inkpaduta. It was this remnant that committed the massacre in 1857 about Spirit lake and Springfield, Minnesota. 3 In 1856, according to the Report on Indian Affairs for that year, the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute together numbered 2,379. A part at least of the tribe participated in the massacre of 1862. They are now with the Mdewakanton of the Santee Reservation, Nebraska.Citations:

  1. Exped. St. Peter’s River, 1, 386, 1824[]
  2. Minn. Hist. Coll., III, 250, 1880[]
  3. Flandreau in Minn. Hist. Coll., III, 387, 1880[]

Santee Reservation,

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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