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The History of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is comprised primarily of descendants of "Mdewakantonwan", a member of the Isanti division of the Great Sioux Nation, and refer to themselves as Dakota, which means friend or ally. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Indian Reservation is 2,500 acres of land located along and near the Big Sioux River in Moody County, South Dakota, in a region known as the Prairie Coteau, which consists primarily of undulating or gently rolling land.


Man riding a horse.
Indians being held captive.

At European contact, the Dakota lived in Minnesota and Wisconsin. After many years of semi-nomadic existence, and due to pressure from white settlers, the Santee ceded their land and entered a reservation in 1851.

In 1862, the Santee revolted against reservation life, when the government did not meet its treaty obligations and white traders refused to allow food and provisions to be distributed. This uprising, led by Little Crow, was quickly crushed. Twelve hundred Indians, many innocent of any involvement in the uprising surrendered.

Over 306 were sentenced to death by a military tribunal, and after President Lincoln granted some pardons, 38 were hung on December 26, 1862. The remaining survivors were shipped to concentration camps (prisons), in Davenport, Iowa and Ft. Thompson, South Dakota.

In 1866, the Ft. Thompson and Davenport groups were re-united at Santee Agency at the mouth of the Niobrara in Nebraska. One third were converted to Christianity. In 1869, twenty-five families gave up tribal rights and annuities to become citizens, and acquired homesteads along the Big Sioux River at an area that would become Flandreau, South Dakota.

They soon built their little Presbyterian Church in what was to become Flandreau and that fall, were joined by 15 additional families. This church, built in 1873, is one of the oldest continually used churches in South Dakota. The graveyard memorializes many of those early Christian names who shared in the journey from Mankato to Flandreau.

In 1934, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe was formally organized and recognized under the authority of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934