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The first white man to come among the Dakotas was a French missionary, Father Louis Hennepin, at their primary village near Mille Lacs Lake in July of 1679. A census of the Sioux, taken by voyageurs in 1736, numbered the Sioux at 10,000. About 1750, the Santee Dakotas were expelled by the Chippewa from their traditional homes around Mille Lacs Lake. In 1766, English explorer Captain Jonathan Carver recorded and distinguished the organization of the Sioux between River Bands and Prairie Bands. (Meyer, 1993, p. 15)

Official relations with the Dakota began with the expedition of Lt. Zebulon Pike into the upper Missouri River region in 1805–1806. Early in 1805, Zebulon Pike was sent by the government to survey the upper Mississippi River for the United States. During this time, Pike recorded 21,675 Dakotas living in the region. Pike’s mission was to obtain cessions of land from the Indians to establish military posts and government-owned trading posts to protect the Indians from unscrupulous traders. His first contact was with the Dakota, with whom he held a council on September 23, 1805, at a village nine miles north of the Minnesota River. This council meeting was significant because it was the first treaty between the United States and the Dakota. Of the seven Dakota chiefs present at this council, only two signed the treaty—Little Crow and Wanyagyainajin (Sees Standing). (Meyer, 1993, p. 25) The Dakota ceded 100,000 acres of land to the United States in the region where the St. Croix and Minnesota Rivers join the Mississippi River. For this exchange of land worth $200,000, the Dakota immediately received $200 in presents and later received $2,000 from the United States.

By the late 17th century, the Dakota Sioux were heavily influenced by the French and were caught between the French and English in a struggle for power and the fur trade. Forts were established among the Sioux. The French attempted to civilize and make the Dakota dependent upon French goods. By inducing the Dakota to farm it would serve as a deterrent to continued intertribal warfare among the Dakota, Cree, and Chippewa. Further, settlers continued to move into the area because of the 1805 Treaty. Many Dakotas were allied with the English in the War of 1812. Another treaty was negotiated on June 1, 1816 with eight bands of the Sioux.

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