Wapasha I

Successive Hereditary Chiefs

Main Lodge   -|-   Wapasha I Children

Wapasha II   -|-   Wapasha III

(About 1720 - 5 Jan 1806)

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The following is an excerpt from the Steve Kerns article, "Explorers found hills, valleys alive with Indians" that appeared in the Winona Sunday News on November 14, 1976

Wapasha I was the son of a Dakota chief and a Chippewa princess. Born in approximately 1720, he was the eldest of two sons. Despite his Chippewa blood, Wapasha I led the Sioux in several battles with his mother's tribe.

One such incident marks the first recorded reference of his name by the white men. After a band of Sioux warriors slew several Chippewa, a tribe which had been promised protection by the French, Wapasha and those with him on the raid offered to submit to French justice in order to keep peace with the incoming military forces of the Europeans. On March 9, 1740, the action was recorded by the commander of the French garrison at Mackinac, Michigan. No retribution was taken against the Sioux.

After military defeats at the hands of the British in the middle 1700s, the French began to withdraw from lands they had formerly held in Mississippi River valley. The French had enjoyed the loyally of the Indians, who aided them in their defeat with the British. After the French defeat, the English were both suspicious and fearful of the Indians. As a result, there were no English trappers and traders bargaining with the Sioux.

The Sioux had developed a dependency on such trade. They had become more accustomed to hunting with rifles than bows and arrows. Furs traded with French trappers brought provisions and ammunition and the Dakota found it difficult to survive without this commerce. Perhaps also fearing a war with the British, Wapasha I convened a council in 1763 to find a way to bring the British hack to this area.

Several incidents that took place during the French and Indian War made English trappers apprehensive about returning to the Mississippi River valley. One such incident took place in 1761. A Dakota named Ixkatapay had shot an English trader called Pagonta (Mallard Duck) by the Indians. The two had quarreled earlier, and Pagonta was reportedly killed while Sitting in his cabin smoking. To appease the British, it was decided Ixkatapay would be turned over to them for the killing. Wapasha I led the party, composed of 100 men, to the English, headquarters in Quebec.

Wapasha's enthusiasm for. peace with the English was shared by the tribe, but evidently this did not extend to submitting one of their own to the justice of the British. By the time Wapasha had reached Green Bay, Wisconsin, there, were only six of the original 100 left -- Wapasha and five braves. The others had drifted off in small groups. One of these deserting bands had taken Ixkatapay with them, and returned to their homelands. Wapasha I and the remaining five continued to Quebec and offered themselves as surrogates for Ixkatapay in the English court. He explained the plight of his people and their desire for peace, and asked the British to return to the area. Taken with his courage, the British awarded the Dakota chief seven military medals, hanging one around his neck in a ceremony at the fort. Trappers and traders soon returned to the area.

During the American Revolution, the Sioux fought on the side of the British. Wapasha led his warriors against the Sauk and Fox forces which had sided with the rebelling colonists. In British military communiques, he is referred to as General Wapasha. His aid in the British cause during the revolution was not forgotten. When he traveled to Montreal on one of his many visits to the British army commanders there, he was always greeted with the salute of a cannon.
Wapasha I died of neck cancer Jan. 5, 1806, at a camp on the Root River in Houston County. He was probably somewhere in his 80s when he died, ending a public career that spanned 66 years.

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