Book - Inkpaduta: Dakota Leader

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Leader of the Santee Sioux, Inkpaduta (1815-79) participated in some of the most decisive battles of the northern Great Plains, including Custer's defeat at the Little Bighorn. But the attack in 1857 on forty white settlers known as the Spirit Lake Massacre gave Inkpaduta the reputation of being the most brutal of all the Sioux leaders.

Paul N. Beck now challenges a century and a half of bias to reassess the life and legacy of this important Dakota leader. In the most complete biography of Inkpaduta ever written, Beck draws on Indian agents correspondence, journals and other sources to paint a broader picture of the whole person, showing him to have been not only a courageous warrior but also a dedicated family man and tribal leader who got along reasonably well with whites for most of his life.

Beck sheds new light on many poorly understood aspects of Inkpaduta's life, including his journeys in the American West after the Spirit Lake Massacre. Beck reexamines Euro-American attitudes toward Indians and the stereo types that shaped nineteenth-century writing, showing how they persisted in portrayals of Inkpaduta well into the twentieth century, even after more generous appreciations of American Indian cultures had become commonplace.

Long considered a villain whose passion was murdering white settlers, Inkpaduta is here restored to more human dimensions. INKPADUTA: DAKOTA LEADER shatters the myths that surrounded his life for too long and provides the most extensive reassessment of this leader's life to date.

Review by Brittany: Inkpaduta: Dakota Leader by Paul N. Beck is truly an interesting book on a note-worthy man during a tumultuous, changing time. Inkpaduta had the reputation as the most malevolent and brutal of all the Sioux leaders. However, this view came only from what the white men had written about him. In this book, the author challenges a century and a half of bias and sheds new light onto a misunderstood man. For instance, in March of 1857, a small band of hungry, cold, and persecuted Wahpekute Dakotas killed thirty-nine men, women, and children at Spirit Lake and the Little Hamlet of Springfield Minnesota. The extremely harsh winter coupled with actions by other settlers lead Inkpaduta to seek revenge. So as a result, the notoriety of his reputation began. In actuality, he was a remarkably intelligent leader who refused to sell tribal lands as well as fought hard to protect the very lands that his people have lived on for centuries. He was not an evil man. In fact, Inkpaduta was well respected and loved. Not only was he a fierce warrior who participated in all of the major battles of his people including the Battle of the Greasy Grass or more commonly known as the Battle of the Little Big Horn, he was a husband and a father. Moreover, this book allows for the reader to embrace a new approach in evaluating Inkpaduta’s role in history where it doesn’t deny the events of the Spirit Lake massacre, but moves to redeem the man behind the so-called “villain” people claimed him to be.


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Additional Info

Additional Info

Paul N. Beck
Publication Details:
University of Oklahoma Press
Book Details:
Hardcover, 176 pages