Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 4, Fall 2009, pp. 320


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


Inkpaduta, the renowned Dakota leader, has for years been viewed by history in a negative light, a savage who wantonly perpetuated the infamous Spirit Lake Massacre in 1857. Following the Dakota War in Minnesota in 1862, Inkpaduta made his way west among Nakota and finally Lakota brethren and in so doing became the scourge of the Plains, gaining a dark reputation wherever he went. Inkpaduta ended his career of resistance at the Battle of the Little Bighorn at either the age of sixty-one or seventy-six, depending on which disputed birth date one chooses.

Paul Beck has written the most complete biography of Inkpaduta to date, taking issue with the idea that the Dakota leader was an embodiment of evil. Beck casts blame on Victorian-era historian Doane Robinson of South Dakota for stereotyping Inkpaduta as an "outlaw" and all around demon of the Great Plains, an image perpetuated in secondary histories to the present day. This reviewer has likewise found unsubstantiated claims in Robinson's work. Beck contends that until 1857 Inkpaduta committed no violence against white settlers and that he lived in peace with whites for most of his life. If one accepts his date of birth, as some do, as being in 1800, then this claim is certainly true. Occasionally even during times of war Inkpaduta befriended white traders when it was to his advantage. The current generation of historians is pointing out that this trend was actually quite common among large Indian nations throughout the Plains.