Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
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Chaska

 

(? - August 2, 1863)

 

His name was Wakinyatawa which means His Thunder. There were a number of Native Americans in the Minnesota area named Chaska and it is difficult to separate conflicting information.

 

During the Sioux uprising in Minnesota, a Chaska was Little Crow's Lieutenant. As the Sioux force swept the area, Chaska rescued George Spencer, a Minnesota trader, from certain death. Chaska had risked his own life in this save. When the wounded Spencer was being transferred by some women to Chaska's home, a roving band cut them off. This raiding party was told Spencer was under the protection of Chaska. Spencer survived unharmed.

 

When Chaska was arrested and about to be hanged, Spencer told of the harrowing tale. Chaska was released.

 

This Chaska was a scout for Sibley during the chase through North Dakota for those who had escaped the Minnesota capture. During a hunt two white scouts encountered a small Sioux band. One scout was killed. Chaska saw the conflict and helped the remaining scout hide in the tall grass. This intuitive action by Chaska saved one life.

 

Sibley's militia was heading back to Minnesota after failing to meet with Sully along the Missouri River. It was hot, dry, the terrain was hilly and the ground contained odd shaped stones making travel difficult.

 

At camp Chaska went to see the hospital steward for some liniment to relieve his back pain. The steward and Chaska shared a small quantity of alcohol and Chaska returned to his tent. About 10:00 PM an officer was notified that Chaska was having "a fit". The officer ran to Chaska's tent and saw he was having a seizure. Rushing to the hospital tent, the officer saw the steward was in a similar though less severe situation. He prepared a tonic of sorts which helped the stewart. The return to Chaska's tent was too late. Chaska was dead.

 

Investigation of the alcohol bottle determined it once stored strychnine and was not properly washed when alcohol was transferred to it. Rumors abound that Chaska's death was the result of foul play, but it was probably just a stupid mistake.

 

Chaska's was buried at the camp site and a stone monument was erected (though it probably does not mark the actual spot). This state historic site is neglected with tall weeds, a crumbling monument and evidence of a stolen plaque.

 

Chaska's isolated grave is north of Dirscoll, North Dakota.

 

 

Gravesite Map

 

Information compiled by Steve Grimm

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© Wild West History Association - a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation

http://www.WildWestHistory.org