By Jennifer Kotila
MEEKER COUNTY, MN Descendants of Chief Little Crow and others gathered July 6 near the place he was killed July 3, 1863, to honor and remember him, as well as heal the wounds that still run deep between the Dakota and those of European descent.
Little Crow’s death
Chief Little Crow was picking berries with his son, Wowinape, south of Dassel, when a settler and his son came across them.
The settler, Nathan Lamson, and his son, Chauncey, had left the safety of Hutchinson to hunt and check on their livestock.
Both parties opened fire on each other, with Nathan delivering the fatal shot to Little Crow. Nathan was also wounded in the shoulder during the exchange of shots.
Wowinape stayed with his father until he died, then fled.
Although there was a bounty of $500 for the death and scalp of Little Crow, the Lamsons were unaware who they had shot.
When they returned to Hutchinson, the Lamsons informed other settlers they had killed an Indian northwest of town.
The following day, during an Independence Day celebration, a group of settlers brought Little Crow’s body, which was scalped, into Hutchinson.
Debate ensued about whether or not it was Little Crow, during which time the body was mutilated.
Accounts of Little Crow’s death tell of his body being dragged through the streets of Hutchinson, and eventually being thrown into a the pit for a slaughterhouse.
Later, his head was removed from his body and tossed into a field to decompose in the hot, summer sun.
Wowinape was eventually captured July 28 near Devil’s Lake, and positively identified his father as being the man who had been killed by the Lamsons.
The scalp was turned over to the State of Minnesota, and Nathan collected his $500 check, with Chauncey also collecting a bounty for his role in the death of Little Crow.
Wowinape would be tried for his alleged participation in the US-Dakota War of 1862, was found guilty, and sentenced to be executed.
However, Wowinape was pardoned, after which he converted to Christianity, changing his name to Thomas Wakeman.
Little Crow’s skull and some of his bones were donated to the Minnesota Historical Society.
State keeps remains for more than 100 years
Little Crow’s scalp, skull, and other bones went on display at the state capital in 1879, and stayed there until 1915, when they were removed at the request of Little Crow’s grandson, Jesse Wakeman.
Wakeman began his attempt to have the remains returned to the family in the 1960s, and was finally granted the request in 1971. The remains were interred in a family plot near Flandreau, SD.
“I’ll never forget the day they brought him back,” commented Billy Gilbert, one of Little Crow’s descendants, as he recalled the day the remains were interred in the family plot. “It was this beautiful September day. They brought him back in this little copper box and that was how he was buried. Right at the end of the service, this flock of little blackbirds this whole flock came flying up the hill and all around us. I think that was to let us know he was happy with the way things were, to be out of that museum and back here, where he belongs.”