Mary Schwandt and her brother August were the only two of their extended family of nine who survived the terrible six week long war now usually named the United States - Dakota Conflict of 1862. During Mary's captivity with the Dakota Indians, she developed a lifelong friendship with her Dakota protector, Snasna'win. When the peaceful Dakota were confined at Fort Snelling the winter of 1862, Snasna'win lost her two remaining children, leaving only two in yet another family.The Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway
In the spring of 1862, the Schwandt family moved to this seemingly quiet place to build a new life for themselves and their growing family: father Johan, mother Christina, Karoline Schwandt Walz, Karoline's husband John Walz, Mary, August, Frederick, Christian and family friend John Frass. They built a rough, two room log cabin that became their home.
On August 18, 1862, Dakota Indians, frustrated over broken treaty promises and seeing their way of life threatened, decided to take back their treaty land. The Schwandts and others not involved in the treaties between the government and the Dakota suffered the consequences of the attacks that followed.
Mary wasn't at home on August 18 when her family was attacked and killed by Indians. She was working for the Reynolds family and instead, she and two other young women were taken captive by the Dakota and taken to Little Crow's village. A Dakota woman Snasna'win (Tinkling), who had just lost her seven year old daughter, traded a pony for Mary. Snasna'win and her husband Wakin'yanwas'te', (Andrew Good Thunder) had two other small children. They became Mary's new family.
Snasna'win kept Mary safe for the six long weeks to come. Mary was finally turned safely over to Sibley's troops at Camp Release late in September. Mary found out later that her entire family was gone except August. August, though injured, had wandered across the prairie to the safety of Fort Ridgely. Eventually, Mary and August were reunited and sent to live with an uncle in Wisconsin.
After General Sibley recovered the white and mixed-blood captives at Camp Release, the Dakota were interred at Fort Snelling for the winter. In this crowed space surrounded by a tall wooden fence, many became ill and died. Snasna'win and Wakin'yanwas'te' lost their remaing two children during that cruel winter. The following spring Snasna'win was allowed to stay at Alexander Faribault's farm while many Dakota were exiled from Minnesota.
Years later, through an article written by Mary about her experiences, Snasna'win found Mary. They continued to write and visit over their remaining years.
Spelling of the names were taken from "A Dakota-English Dictionary" by Stephen R. Riggs (1992 edition, written 1812-1833.)
Struggles for a Home
The Minnesota River Valley has a story to tell about indigenous people struggling to make a home amid a changing environment. The Minnesota River Valley also has a story to tell about the struggles of the pioneering immigrant families who eventually created one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world.
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