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Inkpaduta: A Santee Leader
Inkpaduta was born around 1815 in what later became Dakota Territory. His father was a leader of a band of Wahpekutes, a part of the Santee (or Eastern) Dakota Nation. Inkpaduta, like his father, was a man who had a bad temper and he often quarreled with members of his tribe, sometimes violently. Because of that, he was often considered an outcast from the tribe and did not participate in treaties with other Santees.
On the other hand, when white settlers began to occupy northern Iowa where Inkpaduta lived with his band, he often got along well with them. During the hard times of the bad winter of 1857, Inkpaduta’s band began to run low on food. Then came news that whites had committed crimes against some of the Dakotas in Iowa. Inkpaduta decided to take revenge. Inkpaduta and his followers murdered 39 white settlers near Spirit Lake. The Army set out to capture and punish the Wahpekutes, but never caught up to them. Freedom seemed to make Inkpaduta more famous.
After the massacre at Spirit Lake, Inkpaduta’s band traveled widely, spending time with the Yanktonais and Yanktons. Sometimes he briefly joined with the Hunkpapas or other bands of Tetons. He probably participated in the battles of Big Mound, Dead Buffalo Lake, and Stony Lake, though he had come to that place only to hunt. He also fought at Killdeer Mountain. He may have been at the Battle of the Little Big Horn (1876), though by then he was an elderly man and probably did not engage directly in the battle. After that battle, he made his way to Canada where he died in 1881. Some Dakotas preferred to keep their distance from Inkpaduta because they knew that the Army was still looking for him and his presence could mean trouble for his friends.
After the massacre at Spirit Lake, Inkpaduta gained a reputation as a fearsome murderer. His name was known far and wide and stories of his actions were told and re-told long after his death. White people seemed to fear Inkpaduta more than other Dakotas because he was never caught, never lived on a reservation, and never signed a treaty. He spent his life defending his people and their way of life. For this, he was respected by the Dakotas.