Mdewakanton Indian Chiefs and Leaders

Last Updated on July 26, 2014 by


Redwing. The name of a succession of chiefs of the former Khemnichan band of Mdewakanton Sioux, residing on the west shore of Lake Pepin, Minnesota, where the city of Redwing now stands. At least four chiefs in succession bore the appellation, each being distinguished by another name.

The elder Redwing is heard of as early as the time of the Pontiac war, when he visited Mackinaw, and was in alliance with the English in the Revolution.

He was succeeded by his son, Walking Buffalo (Tatankamani), who enlisted in the British cause in 1812. The name was maintained during two succeeding generations, but disappeared during the Sioux outbreak of 1862-65. The family was less influential than the Little Crows or the Wabashas of the same tribe.


Wamditanka (‘Great war eagle’). A chief of one of the bands of Mdewakanton Sioux at the time of the Sioux uprising in 1862; commonly called Big Eagle, and sometimes known as Jerome Big Eagle. According to his personal narrative, recorded by R. L. Holcombe 1 , he was born in 1827 at the Indian village near the site of Mendota, Dakota county, Minn., and on the death of his father, Gray Iron, succeeded him as chief. In his youth he often went with war parties against the Chippewa and other enemies of his tribe, and on occasion wore a headdress with six feathers representing as many Chippewa scalps taken by him. Although Wamditanka took part with the Sioux in the uprising of 1862, he claims that he did not participate in the massacres of the settlers, but even used his influence, in some instances, to save from death both whites and converted mixed-bloods. The evidence shows this claim to be substantially correct, and that he was perhaps pressed into the war by his people. At this time his village was on Crow creek, in McLeod county, Minn. His band consisted of about 150 to 200 persons, including about 40 warriors. Soon after the battle of Birch Coolie, Minn., in 1862, Wamditanka and his band, with others, surrendered to Gen. Sibley. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to three years imprisonment, part of the time at Davenport, Iowa, the remainder at Rock Island, Ill. After his discharge he was converted to Christianity. He was twice married; his second wife was still alive in 1894, at which time his home was at Granite Falls, Yellow Medicine county, Minn. He visited Washington with a delegation of his tribe in 1858, and was one of the signers of the treaty with the Sioux negotiated June 19 of that year.


Shakopee (Shakpe, ‘six’). The name of a succession of chiefs of the Mdewakanton Sioux, residing on Minnesota river not far from the present town of Shakopee, Scott county, Minn. Three men of the name are mentioned in succession. The first met Maj. S. H. Long at the mouth of the Minnesota in 1817, when he came up to distribute the presents which Lieut. Z. M. Pike had contracted to send them 12 years earlier, and Long found him very offensive. This Shakopee was succeeded by his son, who was known as Eaglehead- Shakopee, and he by his son Little Six (Shakopeela), who was a leader in the Minnesota massacre of 1862.


Mankato (properly M-ak’-to, ‘blue earth’). A former band and village of in the Mdewakanton Sioux, probably at or near the site of the present Mankato, at the month of Blue Earth r. Faribault County, Minnesota, named from a chief known as Old Mankato. A later Mdewakanton chief who bore the name Mankato, the son of Good Road, was a member of the delegation who signed the Washington treaty of June 18, 1858, in which his name appears as “Makawto (Blue Earth),” and he is referred to also in the Indian Affairs Report for 1860, in connection with his band as under the Lower Sioux Agency, Minn. He took an active part in the Sioux outbreak of 1862, and was one of  the leaders in the second attack, in Aug. 1862, on Ft Ridgely, Minn., in which, it and is said, about 800 Sioux and Winnebago were engaged. He participated also in the fight at Birch Coolie, Minn., on Sept.  3 of the same year, and was killed by a cannon ball at the battle of Wood (or Battle) lake, Sept. 23.


Napeshneeduta (‘Red man who flees not’). A Mdewakanton Sioux, the first full-blood Dakota man to be baptized and received into a Christian church. He was a son of the sister of Mrs. Renville, wife of Joseph Renvulle the trader, and claimed kindred with some of the principal chiefs of the Mdewakanton. He is described as having been above the average height, well formed and with a countenance indicative of intelligence, kindness and honesty. He was baptized at Lac-qui-Parle, Minnesota, Feb. 21, 1840 receiving the name Joseph Napeshnee; his wife was received into the church at the same time, and he brought four children to be baptized, three of them by former wives. His wife died within 5 years, when he married a convert, Pretty Rainbow, who deserted him; he later married another Christian, woman and removed to Little Crow’s Village, a few miles below Ft Smelling, on the Mississippi, where many of his relatives lived. Here he became ill with fever, and because of his change of religions faith his people refused him food and help. When the outbreak of the Sioux began in 1802 Joseph, like the other Christian Indians, befriended the whites, and in the following spring he was engaged as a Government scout, a position he held for several year, returning finally to Lac-qui-Parle where he died in July 1870. In his last years Joseph was respected for his piety and industry by both whites and Indians.  For nearly 10 years he was a ruling elder in the Presbyterian church, and supported his family, not withstanding the infirmities of old age, without Government aid.


  1. Holcombe, Minnesota Historical Society Collections, vi, pt. 3, 382-400, 1894[]


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

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