[seal of the Minnesota Historical Society]
CHIEF SLEEPY EYES
Sleepy Eyes, or Drooping Eyelids, was born about 1780 in a Sisseton Sioux Indian village at Swan Lake in Nicollet County. The Bureau of Indian Affairs commissioned him a chief in 1824. His fame was achieved not as a warrior or hunter but as a friend to explorers, traders, missionaries, and government officials.
Chief Sleepy Eyes signed several treaties - Prairie du Chien in 1825 and 1830, St. Peters (Mendota) in 1836, and finally, reluctantly, Traverse des Sioux in 1851.
Traditionally his band, often called the Swan Lake or Little Rock band, hunted over a broad area between Swan Lake and Coteau des Prairies in southwestern Minnesota and southeastern Dakota. After the Spirit Lake massacre in 1857, frightened settlers demanded that Sleepy Eyes' wandering band remain on reservation land along the Minnesota River. From 1857 to 1859 his chief village was at Sleepy Eye Lake, near this plaque.
Sleepy Eyes died about 1860 while hunting in Roberts County, South Dakota, and is not to be confused with a nephew of the same name who was implicated in the uprising in 1862. In 1898 the old chief's grave was located, and in 1902 he was re-buried on this site near his last home.
Sponsored by Brown County Historical Society