Inkpaduta, the leader of the band, was a Wahpekuta Sioux of a villainous and unsavory reputation even among his own tribesmen, who feared or hated him. Due to his misdeeds he had been expelled from membership in his own gens division of the Wahpekuta xxxxxxx Sioux.But this did not serve as a lesson in proper conduct; instead it seemed only to enrage him to the point of committing other and worse deeds‐if such were possible. Owing to his lawless disposition a serious quarrel arose among the Wahpekutas. Originally this division seems to have arisen out of a very marked difference in opinion as to the proper attitude to assume toward their hereditary enemies, the Sac and Fox Indians. One section advised a cessation of hostilities which seemed to have resulted in the accomplishment of no purpose. Moreover, in several of the encounters the Wahpekutas had sutfered severe losses which they had not been able to successfully recoup.
A second division of the tribe led by Wamdisapa, or "Black Eagle", was so quarrelsome and revengeful that it stoutly opposed any consideration looking toward peace. Black Eagle is characterized as "a reckless, lawless fellow, always at war" with other tribes. After the treaties of Prairie du Chien in 1825 and 1830, he was "one of the first" of the Sioux to violate their provisions by making war upon the neighboring tribes. His conduct in this respect grew especially bad after the treaty of 1830, when his attitude won for him the "ill will of all his people", who claimed that his conduct provoked their enemies to make many reprisals upon them. Refusing to alter his conduct, Wamdisapa and a small group of kindred spirits were virtually driven away from the tribe and no longer considered as its members.
Striking out boldly across the prairies of Minnesota, the outlaws took a course which led them south and west: they were evidently headed for the lower James, the place of their future rendezvous. Their course led them to the present site of Algona, where they tarried for some time. Resuming their flight, they traveHed westward, crossing the Big Sioux. Finally, they established themselves on the Jacques or James River in the vicinity of Spirit Lake, South Dakota. After removing to this region they were not infrequently known as the "Santies" of the James. They seemed to have lost their identity with the Wahpekutas.
As this party of defection grew in numbers, differences of opinion arose among them. After suffering disruption the band reorganized under two leaders or chieftans—Wamdisapa and Tasagi ("His Cane") Under this dual leadership, they seemed for a time to prosper as never before. But their misdeeds became so numerous that the neighboring Sioux requested them to leave the country. The dual chieftanship was not continued beyond the lives of the original holders, since internal jealousies and ambitions rendered it not only undesirable but impossible. The quarrels were largely due to temperamental differences in the leaders. Tasagi was of a mild disposition; while Wamdisapa was noted for his quarrelsome, ferocious, and revengeful nature. After signing the treaty of 1836, Wamdisapa shifted his band to the Blue Earth region. From here he conducted raids into the Iowa country against the Sacs and Foxes, who, in retaliating, made no distinction between the Indians of Wamdisapa and those of Tasagi on the Cannon River. This caused much suffering among the Cannon River people; but Wamdisapa could not be prevailed upon to discontinue his raids.
In the meantime Wamdisapa's son, Inkpaduta, had grown to manhood and leadership. He seems to have inherited to the full the relentless cruelty of his father. More ambitious for leadership than his father, he planned to unite as speedily as possible the leadership which his father had been content to share with Tasagi. When the consolidation of the leadership did not progress as rapidly as Inkpaduta wished, it is said that he hastened the event by securing the murder of Tasagi. This occurred probably in 1839. As Inkpaduta had planned so it came to pass that upon Wamdisapa's early death the two divisions accepted in the main Inkpaduta's leadership. At the same time a strong faction refused his leadership. Becoming alarmed for his safety Inkpaduta fled further into the Blue Earth country, hoping thereby to gain time for the firmer union of his loyal following. Even so he could not tarry long since the Cannon River Wahpekutas were on his trail. With a still smaller number of followers he again fled— this time to northern Iowa 7dash;preferring to brave the hatred of the Sacs and Foxes to that of his fellow Wahpekutas.
It is thought that the incident of Tasagi's murder and the later flights nearly broke up the band of Wamdisapa, so that it could scarcely be said to exist. In a few years, however, through a prolonged series of intertribal quarrels conditions had become such that Inkpaduta was recognized as the undisputed master of the greater and more turbulent sections of both of the original bands. By the time of the successful realization of his plans‐about 1848 ‐Inkpaduta had made a reputation for relentless savagery that had spread throughout northwestern Iowa, Dakota, and Minnesota. Upon him rests the stigma of having planned the murder not only of Tasagi but also of his own father. His band seemed to thrive upon its evil reputation: thus it is said that "from time to time some villainous Sioux committed a murder, or other gross crime upon some other member of the tribe, and fled for fear of vengeance to the outlawed band of Wahpakootas for protection. '""
The Inkpaduta band of Indians became, as it were, accursed. It could call no place its home‐excepting perhaps the temporary winter rendezvous with the Spirit Lake Yanktons. Thus the members of this band became as "Ishmaelites whose hands were against all other men". The character of its members was that of its leader, who acted as a magnet to draw to him the worst types from the surrounding tribes. Even according to the Indian moral code they would be classed as toughs and criminals. Inkpaduta was universally reputed as the most blood-thirsty Indian leader in the Northwest. Whites and Indians upon whom his displeasure might fall feared him as death itself. The members of his band became widely known as the renegades and outlaws of the frontier. Spending their lives as wanderers and marauders, they never remained long in any locality. "They went as far west as the Missouri, as far north as the Cheyenne, as far south and east as the Upper Des Moines, in Iowa." Their life of necessity was but an outgrowth of their villainous disposition. It has been said that their actions grew so unbearably bad that even Sidominadota—by many regarded as an arch fiend left the band and went far down the course of the Des Moines the better to escape the wrath of its leader. It was soon after this act that Sidominadota and Lott crossed paths with the result that the Indian's life paid the forfeit.
Many of the unpleasant incidents in frontier life from 1836 to 1857 in Minnesota and Iowa were directly chargeable to these Bedouins of the prairies who tarried at a "trading house but a few minutes and in seeming fear and dread hurried away." The first exploit officially credited to the band was the massacre of Wamundiyakapi, a Wahpekuta chief, along with seventeen warriors on the headwaters of the Des Moines in Murray County, Minnesota, in 1849. Prior to 1850 they had broken up, plundered, and driven away two parties of United States surveyors. The cabins of numerous settlers in the upper Des Moines country had also been wantonly destroyed and they had been driven from the country—in face of the fact that it was well known what band was at work and where its usual rendezvous was located. Settlers along the Boyer River had also suffered outrages at its hands as late as 1852. Major William Williams stated it as his opinion that a general attack upon the frontier was planned to occur about 1855; but the plans failed for some unknown reason. Inkpaduta seems to have been much displeased thereat and attempted to take upon himself the execution of the original plan.
The unusually strenuous life which had been led by the band was having a telling effect upon its membership: by 1852 there were evidences of a near dispersion. It seems that even to a criminal Indian compulsory exile from his race was distasteful, and one by one the followers of Inkpaduta were slipping away. To stimulate an interest in his band, Inkpaduta appears to have settled upon a plan of making concerted attacks upon the northwestern frontier of settlements; and he was successful in creating in the minds of some the belief that he had general control of no less than five or six hundred warriors operating along the frontier in isolated bands of fifteen or twenty Indians each. It is now positively known that such was not the case and that at the time of its greatest prosperity the Inkpaduta band did not number more than fifty or sixty souls.
By the autumn of 1856 the group had become so diminished in numbers that it was upon the eve of dispersion. This rapid disintegration of the band could be accounted for by the character of its leader. His arrogance was rapidly rendering followers impossible. Inkpaduta, in 1856, was evidently between fifty and sixty years of age. He was born, probably in 1800, on the Watonwan River in Minnesota. For a Wahpekuta Sioux he was large, being probably more than six feet tall and very strongly built. He was not a person of pleasing appearance; for, coupled with the immoral character of his life, smallpox had badly marked him. Indeed, he presented an unusually repulsive appearance. His features were coarse; his countenance was of brutal cast; and he was very near‐sighted. His near-sightedness became total blindness in old age, so that at the time of the battle of the Little Big Horn he was carefully piloted about by his small grandsons who, managing to save him from the general slaughter, succeeded in having him safely carried into Canada in the party of Sitting Bull.
Although his band as a whole was of bad repute, Inkpaduta stood out above his followers on account of his hatred for the whites, his revengeful disposition, and his nearly matchless success in war. Mrs. Sharp speaks of him as "a savage monster in human shape, fitted only for the darkest corner in Hades." "Of all the base characters among his fellow outlaws, his nature seems to have been the vilest, and his heart the blackest." It was only as a war chief that he won a place in the admiration of the Indians. In civil life they would have none of him. Except where bloodshedding was the business in hand, they knew by sore experience he was not to be trusted ....It is scarcely probable from all of his conduct that he was other than he seemed, a terrible monster.
His unusual disposition was coupled with an ambition to see his people and tribe restored once again to their wide and extensive hunting ranges. As he witnessed the frontier expanding westward he saw his great ambition vanish, and he was irritated beyond control. Unspeakably immoral himself, he nevertheless hated the vices of the whites that were slowly taking hold upon the members of his band and race.
He yearned to be a party to the treaties of the Wahpekutas as a chief and to share in the annuities which resulted therefrom. The annuities, with the exception of those of 1854 and 1856, he was permitted to enjoy. Upon the death of Wamdisapa it appears that Inkpaduta was definitely dropped from membership in the Wahpekutas; and so he was not consulted regarding the disposal of the Minnesota and northwestern Iowa lands. It was thought that he had forfeited his council rights; but when the first payment was made he was on hand and demanded his share‐was denied him by the agent. He then turned his attention to the treatymaking Indians and compelled them to pay him the share which he claimed in the annuities. Thereafter he appeared annually, and only twice was he definitely refused. This denial was an affront extremely hard for him to bear, for it was to him a denial of his rights in the name and birthright of the Wahpekuta Sioux.Claiming the Yankton and Santee tribal rights he appears to have gained an acknowledgment of them by the year 1865.