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Wamditanka (Big Eagle)

Also known as Jerome Big Eagle, Wamditanka was born in 1827 at Black Dog’s village, a few miles above Mendota on the south bank of the Minnesota River. He succeeded his father, Grey Iron, as chief in 1857; the next year he joined the community of Mdewakanton farmers at the Lower reservation. When war came he led many of his community into war against the U.S. He was imprisoned after a conviction by the Military Commission, but his sentence was commuted to a prison term by President Lincoln. After several years living on reservations, Wamditanka and his family returned to Minnesota where he lived until 1906.

On the pages below are segments from Wamditanka's 1894 newspaper interview with Return I. Holcombe, which was translated by Nancy McClure Huggan and Rev. John Eastman. As you read them, think about what Wamditanka says about his motives for going to war in 1862.


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Big Eagle, leader in the U.S.- Dakota War.


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Robert Hopkins Chaska and family at Chaska's house near Dr. Thomas Williamson's Pajutazee mission near the Yellow Medicine Agency.


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Indian Land Cessions and Reservations to 1858


Memories of War U.S. Military Non-Combatants Dakota "Peace Party" Dakota Soldiers