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TATANKA-NAJIN (known as Standing Buffalo), hereditary chief of the Sisseton-Santee Dakotas; b. c. 1820 at Otter Tail (Minn.); d. 1870 at Wolf Point, Montana.

Following the Traverse-des-Sioux treaty (1851) with the United States government, the Santee division of the Dakotas (also known as Sioux), comprising four bands, were allotted reservations along the upper Minnesota River in a rich land that settlers soon found attractive. Two of the bands, the Sisseton and Wahpeton, were in the 1860s living and hunting in the area around the Upper Agency (Granite Falls, Minn.); the Wakantonwan and Mdewakantonwan bands were largely in the area around the Lower Agency (near Redwood Falls, Minn.). The outbreak of the American Civil War interrupted the payment of treaty money; in 1862 no payment was received. In August of that year some of Standing Buffalo’s band seized supplies but then withdrew from the agency area. However, later that month the Lower Agency Santees, hungry and defiant, broke into government stores, and killed many settlers, taking food and supplies. Standing Buffalo refused to join forces with these bands, upbraiding their chiefs such as Taoyateduta (Little Crow); he forbade them access to his reservation and protected settlers against further attacks where possible.

General Henry Hastings Sibley, sent by the United States government to quell the Indians, for the next few years pursued both those who had fought and those who had remained neutral. Standing Buffalo narrowly rescued his band from a battle at Big Mound, Iowa, in 1863. The bands took refuge in the Dakota territory; in the years 1862–64 numbers appeared in British territory around Red River, often starving. Standing Buffalo, who had made a peace agreement with the Saulteaux on the Souris River (Man.), seems not to have been uneasy about crossing the boundary into British territory in the spring of 1864, leading some 500 refugees to Upper Fort Garry (Winnipeg). The hope of all the Sioux was that the British would honour a pledge of assistance made in 1778 at Montreal, when several Dakota chiefs, including Sissetons, were given King George III silver medals in recognition of assistance during the American revolution. The Dakotas claimed also to have favoured the British side in the War of 1812.

Governor William Mactavish of Assiniboia urged Standing Buffalo to return peacefully to the United States. His reluctance to render aid can be explained by caution because of lack of supplies, unwillingness to take sides in an American conflict, and also the long record of clashes between Dakotas and the Saulteaux of the Red River country. These Indians had been hereditary enemies from the days when the latter had driven the Dakotas south and west to the plains; in the mid 1840s this enmity had been given a temporary lull only in a peace arranged by the Métis leader, Cuthbert James Grant*; in 1851 and 1853 there were fierce battles between the Dakotas and Métis buffalo hunters.

Having wintered in the Dakota territory after his lack of success in Red River, Standing Buffalo and his band returned to Upper Fort Garry again in the spring of 1866. Again they were sent away without the food, guns, and ammunition they requested. Hunting the buffalo in Assiniboia, they were attacked by Saulteaux, and moved west to the Wood Mountain area (Sask.). While they were camping on the Souris River in 1869 most of Standing Buffalo’s family died of smallpox. In despair he joined a Dakota war party in Montana, where he was slain the next year by enemies.

Standing Buffalo’s son Matokinajin became leader of the band in 1878 and obtained a reserve near what is now Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask. Descendants of Santee refugees live today on several reserves in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The experience of these groups of dispossessed and wandering Dakotas was to be repeated when in the next decade Sitting Bull* fled to Canada.

Gontran Laviolette

PAC, RG 10, vol.766. Private archives, Gontran Laviolette (Winnipeg), letters from S. J. Brown, 16 April 1923; G. C. Allanson, 8 Feb. 1934; and W. G. Benson, 15 July 1938; testimonies of Julius Standing-Buffalo (grandson of Tatanka-najin), Louis Tawiyaka, Alfred Goodvoice, Harry Goodpipe, William Isnana, Wojahunta, Wacinhowaste, Padani et al., of Standing-Buffalo Indian Reserve, Fort Qu’Appelle Sask., 1935–44. Indian affairs; laws and treaties, ed. C. J. Kappler (2v., Washington, 1903). Nor’Wester, 1861–64. R. K. Andrist, The long death: the last days of the Plains Indian (New York, 1964), 27–68. Donald Gunn and C. R. Tuttle, History of Manitoba from the earliest settlement to 1835 . . . and from the admission of the province into the dominion (Ottawa, 1880). I. V. D. Heard, History of the Sioux war and massacres of 1862 and 1863 (New York, 1863), 159–65. M. A. Jamieson, Medals awarded to North American Indian chiefs, 1717–1922, and to loyal African and other chiefs in various territories within the British empire (London, 1936). Gontran Laviolette, The Sioux Indians in Canada (Regina, 1944), 60–68. M. A. MacLeod and W. L. Morton, Cuthbert Grant of Grantown: warden of the plains of Red River (Toronto, 1963). R. W. Meyer, History of the Santee Sioux; United States Indian policy on trial (Lincoln, Nebr., 1967). Doane Robinson, A history of the Dakota or Sioux Indians from their earliest traditions and first contact with white men . . . (Aberdeen, S.D., 1904; repr. Minneapolis, Minn., 1967), 253–337.

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Cite This Article

Gontran Laviolette, “TATANKA-NAJIN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 15, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/tatanka_najin_9E.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/tatanka_najin_9E.html
Author of Article:   Gontran Laviolette
Title of Article:   TATANKA-NAJIN
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1976
Year of revision:   1976
Access Date:   June 15, 2024