Pike Island

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Pike Island in 2018, seen from the bridge crossing the Minnesota River
Fort Snelling and Pike Island, 1850
Dakota Internment Camp, 1862

Pike Island, Dakota name Wita Tanka, is an island at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers in the southwestern part of Saint Paul in the Twin Cities metropolitan area of Minnesota, U.S.. The island is now part of Fort Snelling State Park. It is a portion of the 100,000 acres (400 km2) of land purchased from the Mdewakanton Sioux Indians by Zebulon Pike in September 1805.[1] Pike's Purchase was later to become Fort Snelling, Minneapolis, and Saint Paul.[2] 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 $2000.[2]

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.[3] An 1820 treaty gave ownership of Pike Island to Elizabeth Pelagie Ferribault, a Dakota Indian, and wife of Jean-Baptiste Faribault.[4][5][6]

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, and cholera struck the camp, killing more than three hundred.[7] 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.[8][9]


  1. ^ Upham, Warren (1920). Minnesota Geographic Names: Their Origin and Historic Significance. Minnesota Historical Society. p. 441.
  2. ^ a b "The Treaty Story". Minnesota Territory. Minnesota Historical Society. Archived from the original on 2010-01-30. Retrieved 2006-12-12.
  3. ^ "Alexander Faribault". City of Faribault Heritage Preservation Commission. 2003. Archived from the original on 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2006-12-12.
  4. ^ "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
  5. ^ Krahn, Lisa A. "Was Jean-Baptiste A Spy?". Upper Mississippi Brigade Articles. Upper Mississippi Brigade. Retrieved 2006-12-12.
  6. ^ Ska, Kunsi. "A Family Outing". Archived from the original on 2006-11-01. Retrieved 2006-12-12.
  7. ^ Monjeau-Marz, Corinne L. (October 10, 2005). Dakota Indian Internment at Fort Snelling, 1862–1864. Prairie Smoke Press. ISBN 0-9772718-1-1.
  8. ^ "Where the Water Reflects the Past". The Saint Paul Foundation. 2005-10-31. Retrieved 2006-12-12.[dead link]
  9. ^ "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.

Coordinates: 44°53′32″N 93°09′55″W / 44.89222°N 93.16528°W / 44.89222; -93.16528