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Column: A column that goes to the dogs -- and back in time

Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared April 21, 2007

WORTHINGTON — There is a story of what may be the first parade in our area. It was not planned as a parade, but it was that.

In 1863, the U.S. Army set out to arrest all the Santee Sioux people who remained in Minnesota and to ship them away. On a Saturday night, at about midnight, Company E of the Sixth Minnesota Infantry surrounded 150 Sioux people, all asleep in a camp across the Dakota Territory border.

The next day — Oct. 18 — the parade set out for St. Paul. It was a balmy Sunday with a robin egg blue sky arching in all directions. Capt. Charles Stees, who described the event, was on a ridge watching the procession go by. He called it “romantic and picturesque.”

Unit 1. Warriors. Thirty-four “Indian warriors with their mounted guard were in the advance…”

Unit 2. Soldiers. “…then the infantry with their arms and bayonets shining brightly.”

Unit 3. Horsemen. “The mounted men with their Sharps rifles…”

Unit 4. The Big Gun. “…then comes the ‘little barker,’ (the mountain howitzer on wheels, in a wagon), the gunners riding alongside…”

Unit 5. Teams and Wagons. “…our teams laden with camp equipage…”

Unit 6. The Santee People. “…the Indian camp following in true Indian style. Ponies loaded almost to the ground: cows, oxen, wagons the same; and squaws loaded as if their backs would break…”

Unit 7. The Princess. “…A pretty squaw with a snow-white blanket around her is perched high on top of a big load on a little pony…”

Unit 8. Dogs and Horses. “…then there are other ponies with papooses on their backs, followed by any quantity of dogs…”

I think there never was a Turkey Day parade so fascinating, nor so sad. Minnesota people were being torn from Minnesota.

One thing that would have been especially fascinating to see — those dogs. There were dogs in Minnesota from the earliest accounts. The dogs in the October procession were trained and obedient. It was not for them to run up and down the length of the “parade route,” sometimes in the lead or sometimes running out in every direction. The dogs followed, at the end.

The Santee dogs had alerted the people the night before that the soldiers were coming, although there was nothing the people could do. Capt. Stees wrote, “The baying of their dogs was the first intimation they had of the presence of the troops …”

The Indian people lived with their dogs, side by side, through every hour. The people and the dogs were as one.

There is another dog story from that time, from Garden City, in Blue Earth County (Mankato). A halfbreed who had been an interpreter during the Sioux War organized a gang of six nomadic warriors who were eluding capture. The gang of six killed a homesteading family two miles from Garden City and took all their possessions.

The Blue Earth County board authorized spending $1,000 to buy bloodhounds to sniff out the gang. The board contacted a Minnesota soldier serving in Tennessee. Could the soldier find bloodhounds among the Rebels? He found six of them. The dogs were transported to Minnesota.

A strange thing: The soldier wrote later, “It was found that, although these hounds had been trained to follow the scent of a Negro to his death, as soon as they were placed on the trail of an Indian, they stuck their tails between their legs and made a cowardly sneak in the opposite direction …” So close were the ties, a hound would not betray native Americans.

One of the most memorable early-day dog stories is that told by Lavina Eastlake, wounded and lying in tall grass at Lake Shetek, hiding from the Indians who were attacking settlers in 1862. Mrs. Eastlake wrote:

“We heard something coming through the brush toward us. I held my breath and could hear my own heartbeat. Soon the dogs came within a few yards of us, and stood and looked at us. I feared they would bark … but they soon went off …

“The dogs came back a second time; the largest one approached me and lay down, and looked very wistfully at me.”