Pike Island

Coordinates: 44°53′32″N 93°09′55″W / 44.89222°N 93.16528°W / 44.89222; -93.16528
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Pike Island
Wita Tanka
Pike Island, 2018
LocationSaint Paul, Minnesota, United States
Coordinates44°53′32″N 93°09′55″W / 44.89222°N 93.16528°W / 44.89222; -93.16528
Area210 acres (85 ha)[1]
Elevation699 ft (213 m)[2]
DesignationFort Snelling State Park
Named forZebulon Pike
Governing bodyMinnesota Department of Natural Resources
WebsiteFort Snelling State Park

Pike Island (Dakota: Wita Tanka) is an island at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers in the southwestern-most part of Saint Paul in the U.S. state of Minnesota. The island is managed as part of Fort Snelling State Park and is within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. For centuries, Dakota people have considered the area of the island to be a sacred place known as Bdóte, where they moved with the seasons to find food and resources.[3] The island is named after Zebulon Pike, who negotiated the United States government purchase of the area from Mdewakanton Sioux in 1805.


For centuries, Dakota people have considered the confluence area of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers to be a sacred place, Bdóte, which means “where two waters come together.” The two bluffs area was considered their place of creation, where the Earth gave rise to the first Dakota man and woman.[3][4]

In September 1805, the island was part of a 100,000-acre (400 km2) land purchased from the Mdewakanton Sioux by Zebulon Pike.[5] Pike's Purchase was later to become Fort Snelling, Minneapolis, and Saint Paul.[6] The U.S. government wanted to build a fort to protect American interests in the fur trade in the region, and Pike negotiated the treaty. Pike valued the land at $200,000, but the U.S. Senate later agreed to pay only $2,000.[6]

In 1819 Colonel Henry Leavenworth invited Jean-Baptiste Faribault, a French Canadian, and his family to settle on Pike Island near the new fort to help promote the fur trade.[7] An 1820 treaty gave ownership of Pike Island to Elizabeth Pelagie Ferribault, a Dakota, and wife of Jean-Baptiste Faribault.[8][9][10]

The six-week Dakota War of 1862 resulted in the deaths of hundreds of settlers and Native Americans. After the conflict, more than 400 Dakotas were tried, and 302 men condemned to be executed at Mankato, Minnesota. President Lincoln eventually commuted the sentences of all but 38 Dakota, who were hanged in a mass execution on December 26, 1862.

During this time more than 1600 Dakota women, children, and old men were held in an internment camp on Pike Island under the cannons of Fort Snelling. Winter living conditions were harsh, with little food and no shelter. Cholera struck the camp, killing more than three hundred.[11] In May 1863, the survivors were forced aboard steamboats and relocated to Crow Creek in the southeastern Dakota Territory, a place stricken by drought at the time. The survivors of Crow Creek were moved three years later to the Santee Sioux Reservation in Nebraska.[12][13]


Pike Island is part of Fort Snelling State Park and is within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. The Pike Island hiking trail is a 3.7-mile (6.0 km), natural surface loop that follows the exterior of the island to the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers and reaches a sandy beachhead.[14] In winter, snow pack on the trail is groomed for classic cross-country skiing.[15] Several dirt trails from the main trail reach the banks of the two rivers allowing access for fishing.[16]



  1. ^ Carmichael, Suzanne (1995-06-18). "Twin Cities' Islands of the Mississippi (Published 1995)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-12-05.
  2. ^ "Fort Snelling State Park". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 1993-06-01. Retrieved 2011-02-24.
  3. ^ a b Phillips, Katrina (2020-08-25). "Where Two Waters Come Together: The Confluence of Black and Indigenous History at Bdote". National Museum of American History. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  4. ^ "Special Places: Confluences where great rivers merge". Friends of the Mississippi River. 2018-11-09. Retrieved 2020-11-30.
  5. ^ Upham, Warren (1920). Minnesota Geographic Names: Their Origin and Historic Significance. Minnesota Historical Society. p. 441.
  6. ^ a b "The Treaty Story". Minnesota Territory. Minnesota Historical Society. Archived from the original on 2010-01-30. Retrieved 2006-12-12.
  7. ^ "Alexander Faribault". City of Faribault Heritage Preservation Commission. 2003. Archived from the original on 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2006-12-12.
  8. ^ "Settlement of Pike Island Claim Asked by Pierz Heir". The St. Cloud Daily Times. May 3, 1930. p. 11. Retrieved October 23, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  9. ^ Krahn, Lisa A. "Was Jean-Baptiste A Spy?". Upper Mississippi Brigade Articles. Upper Mississippi Brigade. Retrieved 2006-12-12.
  10. ^ Ska, Kunsi. "A Family Outing". Archived from the original on 2006-11-01. Retrieved 2006-12-12.
  11. ^ Monjeau-Marz, Corinne L. (October 10, 2005). Dakota Indian Internment at Fort Snelling, 1862–1864. Prairie Smoke Press. ISBN 0-9772718-1-1.
  12. ^ "Where the Water Reflects the Past". The Saint Paul Foundation. 2005-10-31. Retrieved 2006-12-12.[dead link]
  13. ^ "Family History". Census of Dakota Indians Interned at Fort Snelling After the Dakota War in 1862. Minnesota Historical Society. 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-02-20. Retrieved 2006-12-12.
  14. ^ "Pike Island Loop". AllTrails.com. Retrieved 2020-12-05.
  15. ^ Brodin, Sharon (2019-03-02). "Cross Country Ski in Fort Snelling State Park • Twin Cities Outdoors". Twin Cities Outdoors. Retrieved 2020-12-05.
  16. ^ "Pike Island, Mississippi River". Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 2020-12-05.

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