Lower Sioux 2

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Establishing shot: Ruben H. St. Clair sitting in his kitchen on the Lower Sioux Indian Community reservation.

Named locations: Lower Sioux Indian Community, Morton MN, Pipestone MN, Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota, St. Cornelia’s Church, Leipzig Germany, Paris France

Major themes covered:   Ruben St. Clair talks in depth about Bishop Whipple’s work in the Lower Sioux Indian Community. Bishop Whipple was the first Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota, and he established a church on the land for the people and was a great advocate for them in the time preceding the Battle of the Lower Sioux Agency (1862) and the Dakota War (1862).  Bishop Whipple fought against the Federal Government's corrupt and abusive policies and their continuance of non-payment of annuities to the Kotas of the Lower Sioux community. Even after the battle in 1862, he publicly opposed extermination, wholesale execution and the option of deportation of the Sioux people.

Ruben St. Clair expounds on the “Bishop Whipple Mission People’s” (as the Lower Sioux sometimes refer to themselves) commitment to his legacy and values. Ruben is a somewhat unwilling participant in the telling of the happenings that led up to, during and after the Dakota War of 1862. One story he does recount, though, is the story of trading post owner Andrew Myrick. Myrick was unwilling to issue food for credit until the annuity payments arrived, leaving the Dakota people starving. Myrick is said to have stated in front of BIA agents, Dakota peoples, and other government officials that if the NDNs were hungry he could care less and they could eat grass or their own excrement.  He was killed the first day of the Battle of the Lower Sioux Agency; his body found days later with grass stuffed in his mouth. 

Ruben discusses his art and art studies.  He considers himself a natural artist with talents and gifts from his mother.  He also traveled during WWII and studied art in Germany and France.

Individuals Named: Henry Benjamin Whipple, Ruben St. Clair, Reverend Henry Whipple St. Clair, Silvia Spencer, Andrew Myrick is discussed as an infamous historical figures, but Ruben does not speak his name.

Native language spoken: Ruben speaks the Siouan language in a message to his people after the interview, more research will need to be done to identify the language as either Eastern; Santee or Sisseton or Western; Yankton, Yanktonia, upper Yankton Dakota

Other notes: The Lower Sioux Indian Community was established and named in 1851. After its establishment throughout the 1850s the United States violated treaties and made unfair or late annuity payments causing extreme hardships and starvation. Not the only reason, but surely a main factor in the Battle of the Lower Sioux Agency, which led to the Dakota War of 1862.  Research on these tragedies will help to contextualize the political talks in this interview.  The history of the Lower Sioux in Minnesota informs the community’s present and how the community sees its future.

Although Myrick's name isn't mentioned, he is the unnamed trade post owner in Ruben St. Claire's story as he accounts the history of the Lower Sioux.  For those not familiar with the Lower Sioux, this historical name provides context and validation, and bridges the gap between oral and written history in the telling of Ruben's story.

Myrick is a crucial figure in the Sioux Uprising and the Dakota War, and Ruben St. Clair's telling of the story shows that this history is not lost in the Lower Sioux community and continues to be told and remembered.

The Minnesota Public Radio Show transcript link below supports Myrick being mentioned (not mentioned). Giving historical context to Ruben's oral account supports orality as a valid source of information in the NDN tradition.


See also:

Lower Sioux 1 http://aifg.arizona.edu/film/lower-sioux-1

Lower Sioux 3 http://aifg.arizona.edu/film/lower-sioux-3

Lower Sioux 4 http://aifg.arizona.edu/film/lower-sioux-4

Lower Sioux 5 http://aifg.arizona.edu/film/lower-sioux-5


--Kari Quiballo, 2013