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H’DAMANI (Hadamane, Hydamani, Hdyamani, literally “walking bull” or “rattles as he walks,” also known in his early years as Wigiya, meaning “yellow tent”), Santee Sioux chief, hunter, and trapper; b. c. 1831; d. August 1912 on Oak Lake Indian Reserve, near Pipestone, Man.

H’damani was a sub-chief of a Wahpeton Santee village on the upper Minnesota River below Lac qui Parle (Minn.). Wiyan, his first wife, was a sister of the notorious rebel Wahpekute chief Inkpaduta, responsible for the attacks at Spirit Lake (Iowa) in 1857 and an important participant in the Sioux uprising of 1862 [see Tatanka-najin*]. H’damani participated in both conflicts to a lesser degree than his volatile brother-in-law, who was hated by both Caucasians and Sioux as vicious and treacherous. H’damani left his wife and young son (Edwin Phelps, who became a Congregational missionary in South Dakota) and married Tunka; they would have three sons and two daughters who grew to adulthood. In late 1862 he led 30 Wahpekute and Mdewakanton Santee families across the border into what is now southern Manitoba and, after negotiating a purchase agreement with Ojibwas of the region, settled on the northwestern slopes of Turtle Mountain.

H’damani’s band was closely allied to several other Sioux bands which had moved into southwestern Manitoba, but it had a strained relationship with that of Inkpaduta, who lived nearby while conducting guerrilla raids into American territory. During the famous battle at Little Bighorn River in 1876, Inkpaduta led a strong force under Sioux chief Sitting Bull [Ta-tanka I-yotank*] and played a key role in defeating George Armstrong Custer. Afterwards, he returned for a while to the Canadian side of Turtle Mountain with 60 families. On numerous occasions, rebelling American Sioux crossed over to seek sanctuary with H’damani, who was deeply committed to living peacefully in Canada. No evidence exists that H’damani ever broke that resolve.

In the early years the bands had lived by hunting, fishing, and trading furs at Fort Ellice and Upper Fort Garry (Winnipeg). In the summer of 1877 H’damani travelled to White Horse Plain (St François Xavier) to ask Lieutenant Governor Alexander Morris* for a reserve. That year the four-section Oak Lake Indian Reserve was created, but H’damani and a number of families refused to leave their beloved mountain foothills. The chief continued to press government officials. Consequently, despite strong objections from some officials because of its proximity to the United States, the Department of the Interior had a single section of land just north of the international border surveyed in 1886 and named Turtle Mountain Indian Reserve. There was, however, no order in council confirming the reserve.

Although some grain was grown and cattle raised at the Turtle Mountain reserve, hunting, fishing, and trapping predominated. American transients considered unwelcome were forcibly removed by the powerful chief, in later years with help from the North-West Mounted Police. From 1892 to 1895, the interdenominational Christian Endeavour Society operated a school but after its bankruptcy native children were sent to a residential school in Regina. H’damani’s family refused to send its children. Most Caucasian settlers liked and respected the old chief and his dwindling band.

Government officers repeatedly tried to shut the little reserve down and managed to induce three families to move to Oak Lake in 1898 and five more in 1908. The members of the five remaining families listed as official residents of Turtle Mountain, mostly old, infrm, and dying, were subjected to increasing pressure to release the reserve. On 9 Aug. 1909 three men voted for closure; H’damani and his grandson Chaske (Charlie Eagle) voted against. Only the male heads of the five families had been allowed to vote and H’damani’s title of chief had been removed from the surrender forms. Thus ended the tiny reserve. Indian affairs commissioner David Laird would discover the following year that eight others, including some who had left the reserve earlier, should have been allowed to vote.

Widowed, old, feeble, and homeless, H’damani lived for some time on a reserve near Devils Lake, N.Dak., with his daughter Mazadusawin (Anna). He died while visiting relatives at Oak Lake. The Turtle Mountain reserve was auctioned off to settlers; the funds resulting from the sale were allotted to the five families as the government saw fit. In 1954 Oblate missionary Father Gontran Laviolette discovered a substantial unpaid balance. In 1991 the Oak Lake band formally staked a claim to the Turtle Mountain reserve.

Peter Lorenz Neufeld

Records concerning H’damani were obtained by the author from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Headquarters in Ottawa; Dept. of Justice Canada, Yellowknife regional office; Man., Dept. of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Winnipeg, Vital statistics; and the N.Dak. State Hist. Soc., Bismarck. He also received information from Bob Caldwell of Deloraine, Man., R. W. Meyer of Mankato, Minn., and Mrs M. Zaruk and the late Father Gontran Laviolette, both of Winnipeg.

NA, RG 10, 3602, 3607–8, 3644, 3650–51, 3728, 3773, 3881. Deloraine Times and Waskada News (Deloraine), 25 May 1944. Winnipeg Free Press, 9 Dec. 1991. Winnipeg Tribune, 20 May 1944. P. D. Elias, The Dakota of the Canadian northwest: lessons for survival (Winnipeg, 1988). Gontran Laviolette, The Dakota Sioux in Canada (Winnipeg, 1991); The Sioux Indians in Canada (Regina, 1944). P. L. Neufeld, “Hdyamani – Turtle Mountain’s man of peace,” Indian Record (Winnipeg), 47, no.10 (October 1984): 17–19.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Peter Lorenz Neufeld, “H’DAMANI,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 22, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/h_damani_14E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/h_damani_14E.html
Author of Article:   Peter Lorenz Neufeld
Title of Article:   H’DAMANI
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1998
Year of revision:   1998
Access Date:   February 22, 2024