IAGenWeb, dedicated to providing free genealogy.

Iowa History

       An IAGenWeb Special Project


Join the IAGenWeb Team





By Thomas Teakle
Published at Iowa City, Iowa in 1918
By The State Historical Society of Iowa

The massacre of the white settlers in the region of Lake Okoboji and Spirit Lake in 1857 by a band of Indians under the leadership of Inkpadnta has come to be known as "The Spirit Lake Massacre", although the tragedy was for the most part enacted on the borders of Lake Okoboji. There seems, however, to be no substantial reason for renaming the episode in the interest of geographical accuracy; and so in this volume the familiar designation of "The Spirit Lake Massacre" has been retained.
Benj. F. Shambaugh
  Office of the Superintendent and Editor
  The State Historical Society of Iowa
   Iowa City,Iowa
It is probable that no event in the history of northwestern Iowa has aroused more popular interest than that of the Spirit Lake Massacre of March, 1857. Not alone in northwestern Iowa but also in the adjacent sections of Minnesota and South Dakota is the story of its events and associated incidents well known.

The Spirit Lake Massacre came as the culminating episode in a long series of incidents intimately connected with the settlement of northern and western Iowa. For years previous to 1857 the Indians of the Sioux tribes had obstinately resisted white settlement and had succeeded in a marked degree in retarding the movement. It may be said with a reasonable degree of certainty that if the events of March, 1857, had not occurred, the settlement of this region would have been postponed for some years.

The Massacre not only aroused the authorities of the State of Iowa to the necessity of exerting the force of military pressure upon the Indians to discourage or end their forays, but it also enlisted the efforts of the Federal authorities in the same direction.  This joint interest and protection could have only one result, the retirement of the Sioux to the region of the Missouri and the rapid influx of white settlers.

The Massacre definitely settled the Indian question for Iowa: henceforth the red man ceased to play an important part in the history of this Commonwealth. While the following pages are, as far as practicable, based upon primary materials, the writer acknowledges his obligation to many other sources in the notes and references which follow the text.  Since no adequate history of the Spirit Lake Massacre can be written wholly from primary materials, considerable reliance upon secondary sources has been found necessary in this work. Furthermore, the writer is well aware that he has taken a number of new positions concerning causes and incidents of the Massacre, but in this he feels well sustained by the preponderance of authority.

Without the unflagging interest and the tireless enthusiasm and encouragement of Dr. Benj. F. Shambaugh the more than four years of research involved in this work would never have been undertaken or carried through to its close.

To many others the author also feels himself obligated for invaluable assistance. Among these may be noted Curator E. R. Harlan, Librarian Alice Marple, Assistant Editor Ida M. Huntington, and Superintendent of Archives C. C. Stiles, all of the Historical Department of Iowa. Dr. Dan E. Clark, Associate Editor in The State Historical Society of Iowa, assisted in editing and verifying the manuscript; and to him the author is indebted for the index.
Thomas Teakle
The North High School
Des Moines, Iowa

  back to Spirit Lake Massacre index
  back to County index
  back to History Project index

(contributed to Iowa History Project by Kris Meyer, Dickinson CC)