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MATOKINAJIN (meaning “bear that comes and stands”; also called Little Standing Buffalo), Santee Sioux chief; b. 1846, son of Standing Buffalo [Tatanka-najin*]; d. 21 June 1921 in Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask.

Matokinajin was born in the region of North America that became the Minnesota and Dakota territories. Details of his childhood remain obscure. In 1862, after several decades of maladministered treaties, the Sioux in the eastern part of the region were left destitute with no lands in Minnesota and relegated to temporary reservations. Finally, when annuities became further delayed by the Civil War, some Sioux (or, more correctly, Dakota) seized food and clothing and began a resistance, killing settlers. Tatanka-najin’s band, the most westerly of the eastern Dakota, was not part of the fighting and he gathered many who were fleeing and led them west and north, eventually into British territory. In this diaspora, all sorts of bands were dissolving and others were being created in the flight onto the prairies.

Upon Tatanka-najin’s death on 5 June 1871, and following the family tradition of his father and grandfather, Matokinajin took the name of his great-grandfather Standing Buffalo. Known as Little Standing Buffalo, he became the leader of a portion of his father’s northern Sisseton and Wahpeton followers. In 1872, when his band was living at Wood Mountain (Sask.), he travelled to Winnipeg, visiting other Wahpeton and Santee on his way, and met with Lieutenant Governor Alexander Morris* to discuss his desire for a reserve. He declared his loyalty to Britain, and his request was forwarded to Ottawa in December. When treaty commissioners arrived at Fort Qu’Appelle to meet with the Plains Cree and the Saulteaux, they talked as well on 16 Sept. 1874 with Sioux leaders including Little Standing Buffalo, who confirmed his resistance to moving east into Manitoba or back to the United States, a position he restated a year later to commissioner William Joseph Christie*.

The arrival of Sitting Bull [Ta-tanka I-yotank*] in May 1877, in flight before the American army, forced many refugee Sioux to choose sides. Though the record is scanty, Little Standing Buffalo and most of his followers appear to have stayed far away from the Sitting Bull groups in their efforts to press their claim to remain in Canada. Deprivation became the norm in the absence of buffalo, and in the spring of 1877 Little Standing Buffalo found Lieutenant Governor David Laird* at Fort Pelly (Sask.) and stated his preference for a reserve that included the Jumping Deer Creek coulee northwest of Fort Qu’Appelle. This time the request was granted, on 22 Jan. 1878, and Standing Buffalo Reserve was formed. Seed and some implements were supplied by federal authorities, but no more tangible help with housing or farming was forthcoming as the Sisseton-Wahpeton shifted from the hunt to agriculture and wage labour for settlers. Some women also sold handicrafts at rail stops while others worked as domestics and cooks. American attempts in 1882–83 to induce Indians to return were countered by Canadian insistence that troops could not cross the border to lure or pursue them.

In 1885 events were already converging in the move toward rebellion [see Louis Riel*]. Disappointment among various tribal constituencies about the problematic implementation of the prairie treaties gave cause to some Indian groups to join in the Métis resistance [see Kāpeyakwāskonam*]. The Sisseton-Wahpeton led by Wapahaska (White Cap) were intimidated by Métis forces into joining as hostilities came to their doorstep, but the Standing Buffalo band remained far from the fighting and at peace. Not allowed into treaties, the refugee Sioux were destitute but grateful for sanctuary in Canada. As settlers flooded into the region, change affected the reserve. A Roman Catholic boarding school operated from 1886 until 1895, when children needing education were sent to Father Joseph Hugonard*’s establishment in nearby Lebret. By 1900 the band numbered 220, and most of the families had moved to the benchland above the coulee to take up agriculture in a serious way, producing oats, wheat, corn, and potatoes, sometimes with surplus to sell. Tightening supervision by the Indian department, including the suppression of ceremony, produced vigorous complaints from Little Standing Buffalo in 1903, but to no avail.

Little Standing Buffalo was aware of the manner in which the eastern Sioux had been punished for the outbreak of 1862 in the United States, and he sought a way to join eastern Sioux efforts for the restoration of the suspended annuities. In 1914 Frank Abbott of the American Department of the Interior, who visited him to discuss recovery, reported that his band received no assistance other than some implements, seed, and education, but that there was little hope they would ever obtain American compensation.

In the last years of his life, Little Standing Buffalo went by the name Louis Philippe Abelard. He lost a grandson in the World War I, and was overcome with grief. In 1920–21, to strengthen his band’s economy, he and his son Julius asked Ottawa for the return of hay-lands being shared with the Cree, but no action was taken by the time of Little Standing Buffalo’s death in 1921. He had been chief for 50 years.

David Reed Miller

Mark Diedrich, The odyssey of Chief Standing Buffalo and the Northern Sisseton Sioux (Minneapolis, 1988). P. D. Elias, The Dakota of the Canadian northwest: lessons for survival (Regina, 2002). Gontran Laviolette, The Dakota Sioux in Canada (Winnipeg, 1991).

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Cite This Article

David Reed Miller, “MATOKINAJIN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 4, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/matokinajin_15E.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/matokinajin_15E.html
Author of Article:   David Reed Miller
Title of Article:   MATOKINAJIN
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   2005
Year of revision:   2005
Access Date:   March 4, 2024