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Renville, Gabriel (1825–1892)

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Black and white photograph of Gabriel Renville, ca. 1880–1881.

Gabriel Renville, ca. 1880–1881.

Gabriel Renville was a fur trader, a farmer, and the leader of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota from 1867 until 1892. Related by blood to multiple Dakota bands and mixed-ancestry families, he opposed Ta Oyate Duta (His Red Nation, also known as Little Crow) and other Dakota who fought against whites in the 1862 U.S. Dakota War. His choice angered some of his relatives, who saw him as serving the interests of whites. After the war, he was one of many who worked to reacquire land for the Sisseton-Wahpeton people.

Gabriel Renville, also known as Ti Wakan (Sacred Lodge), was born in about 1825, at a village west of Big Stone Lake (Bde Inyan Takinyanyan). His father was Victor Renville, of Dakota and French ancestry. His mother, Winona Crawford, was both Dakota and British. Through them, Gabriel’s family ties extended into the Mdewakanton band of Dakota. After Gabriel's father died, Winona married Joseph Akipa Renville, a Wahpeton Dakota man.

In 1835, Gabriel Renville met Joseph R. Brown, a fur trader. In 1840, Brown became his legal guardian as well as his brother-in-law (through marriage to Susan Frenier, Renville’s half-sister). When he was a teenager, Brown sent him to school in Chicago, but Renville quit after about a month. Along with Brown, Renville involved himself in various occupations, including fur trading. He did not, however, convert to Christianity. Instead, he continued to perform traditional ceremonies and spoke, and wrote, only the Dakota language.

The 1851 Treaty of Traverse de Sioux and 1858 land cession treaties confined the Dakota to reservations and disrupted their traditional lifeways. Renville supported himself by farming, and by 1859 he had established a large farm near the Upper Sioux Agency. By then he had also married three Sisseton Dakota sisters (which Dakota custom allowed): Tunkan Mani (Walking Stone, also known as Mary); Tunkan Tiyo Mani Win (Walking Stone in Her Home, also known as Anna) and Hu Teca Win (New Bone Woman, also known as Sophie). Fifteen of the family’s children survived to adulthood.

After the U.S.–Dakota War began at the Lower Sioux Agency in August 1862, Renville helped family, relatives, and friends, including Susan Frenier Brown, escape from potential danger. By September, Ta Oyate Duta and the Mdewakanton soldiers’ lodge that began the war had captured many white and mixed-ancestry women and children. Renville joined a peace party that worked for their release.

The warring Dakota failed to defeat the army raised against them, and in late September, the war ended. Renville was at Camp Release on September 26 when the Dakota surrendered themselves and their captives to Colonel Henry Sibley.

Although they had not fought in the war, roughly 1,600 Dakota were forced to move from the Lower Sioux Agency to Fort Snelling. Renville was among those who passed through the town of Henderson on the way to the fort. Renville described the Henderson experience as life threatening, noting that the route was filled with whites seeking to harm the Dakota as they passed.

In late December 1862, U.S. military authorities confined the roughly 1,600 Dakota women, children, and old men at Fort Snelling. While there, Renville witnessed the deaths by disease of many of the children. News of the December 26 hanging of thirty-eight Dakota men in Mankato reached him and those held at the fort.

In February 1863, Renville and other Dakota volunteered to serve as U.S. Army scouts under Sibley. They hunted those Dakota they labeled as "hostiles" who had fled west, including Ta Oyate Duta. After participating in Sibley’s “punitive expedition” into Dakota Territory later that year, Renville become Chief of Scouts in 1864 and, later, Superintendent of Scouts.

In 1864, Renville and other Sisseton and Wahpeton men who had scouted for Sibley formed a community at Lake Traverse. Joseph Brown then recommended him as one of twenty-six delegates to travel to Washington, D.C. There, Renville and others signed the 1867 Lake Traverse Reservation treaty, which formally established and federally recognized a new home for the Sisseton-Wahpeton.

In part to recognize his service and leadership, the U.S. government established Renville as chief, bypassing the hereditary chieftain process. In 1884, the Sisseton-Wahpeton chose him as chief for life. He died on August 26, 1892, at the home of Samuel Brown.

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Alan R. Woolworth Papers, 1774–2008 (bulk 1830–2000)
Manuscript Collection. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Includes the document, ”Gabriel Renville, Prominent Metis Leader of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Indians (1862–1892).”
http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00339.xml

Anderson, Gary C., and Woolworth, Alan. Through Dakota Eyes: Narrative Accounts of the Minnesota Indian War of 1862. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1988.

Gilman, Rhoda R. Henry Hastings Sibley: Divided Heart. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2004.

Hughes, Thomas. Indian Chiefs of Southern Minnesota: Containing Sketches of the Prominent Chieftains of the Dakota and Winnebago Tribes from 1825–1865. 2nd ed. Hudson, WI: Ross and Haines, 1969.

Meyer, Roy W. History of the Santee Sioux: United States Policy on Trial. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1968.

Red Owl, Ed. "Traditional Man: Gabriel 'Ti Wakan' Renville.” Ikce Wicasta: The Common People 1, no. 3 (Fall 1998): 7–12.

——— . "Traditional Man: Gabriel 'Ti Wakan' Renville”. Ikce Wicasta: The Common People 1, no. 4 (Winter 1999): 7–14.

——— . "Traditional Man: Gabriel 'Ti Wakan' Renville.” Ikce Wicasta: The Common People 2, no. 5 (Spring 1999): 6–16.

——— . "Traditional Man: Gabriel 'Ti Wakan' Renville.” Ikce Wicasta: The Common People 2, no. 6 (Summer 1999): 4–10.

Renville, Gabriel. "A Sioux Narrative of the Outbreak of 1862, and of Sibley's Expedition of 1863." Minnesota Collections 10 (1905): 595–618.
https://archive.org/details/siouxnarrativeof00renvrich

Renville German, Florence. "Gabriel Ti Wakan" Renville—Controversial Man.” Ikce Wicasta: The Common People 1, no. 3 (Fall 1998): 5–6.

The U.S. Dakota War of 1862. Education Needs to Tell the Truth about What Happened.
http://usdakotawar.org/stories/contributors/john-labatte/1068

The U.S. Dakota War of 1862. Forced Marches and Imprisonment.
http://usdakotawar.org/history/aftermath/forced-marches-imprisonment

Related Images

Black and white photograph of Gabriel Renville, ca. 1880–1881.
Black and white photograph of Gabriel Renville, ca. 1880–1881.
Black and white photograph of Gabriel Renville in Washington, D.C., at about forty-two years old, 1867.
Black and white photograph of Gabriel Renville in Washington, D.C., at about forty-two years old, 1867.
Black and white photograph of Gabriel Renville at Carlisle School, 1879.
Black and white photograph of Gabriel Renville at Carlisle School, 1879.
Black and white photograph of Gabriel Renville in Washington D.C., ca. 1880–1881.
Black and white photograph of Gabriel Renville in Washington D.C., ca. 1880–1881.
Black and white photograph of Gabriel Renville in South Dakota, ca. 1890. Photograph by Steinhauer.
Black and white photograph of Gabriel Renville in South Dakota, ca. 1890. Photograph by Steinhauer.

Turning Point

As the U.S.–Dakota War begins in late August of 1862, Gabriel Renville helps organize a group of Dakota to oppose the fighting and work for the release of white and mixed-ancestry captives.

Chronology

April 1825

Gabriel Renville (Ti Wakan) is born to Victor Renville and Winona Crawford at Sweet Corn's Sisseton Dakota village at Big Stone Lake (Bde Inyan Takinyanyan).

ca. 1838

Joseph J. Brown takes on responsibility for Renville’s education. Renville attends school in Chicago but quits after only a short while, returning on foot to his home in Minnesota.

1840

Brown marries Susan Frenier, Renville’s half-sister, and becomes Renville’s legal guardian.

1847

Renville marries Tunkan Mani (Walking Stone, also known as Mary), a daughter of the Sisseton leader Wambdiupi Duta (Red Eagle Feather / Scarlet Plume).

1851

The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux cedes several million acres of land from the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of Dakota to the United States in exchange for annual annuities, goods, and services.

1858

Renville marries a second wife: his first wife’s sister, Tunkan Tiyo Mani Win (Walking Stone in Her Home, also known as Anna).

1859

Renville marries Hu Teca Win (New Bone Woman, also known as Sophie); it is his third and final marriage.

August 18, 1862

After late and missed payments of treaty annuities, the 1862 U.S. Dakota War erupts. Renville and many others are caught off guard by the violence and concentrate on saving those they can.

September 1862

In late September 1862, Ta Oyate Duta relinquishes white and mixed-ancestry captives to a peace party led by Renville and others.

November 1862

Renville is among the roughly 1,600 Dakota who endure violent attacks by whites in the town of Henderson while en route to Fort Snelling.

1863

Renville begins his service as a scout. In the spring, he leaves Camp Pope with Joseph Brown and General Sibley's army to track down Little Crow and other “hostiles.” In July, Ta Oyate Duta's son informs Sibley that his father has been killed.

1864

Renville and Joseph Brown accompany Major John Clowny's Wisconsin volunteers on a mission to build Fort Wadsworth. Renville and other scouts camp near the James River.

1867

Renville acts on his earlier desire to re-acquire land for the Sisseton-Wahpeton. With the help of Joseph Brown, he plays a major part in acquiring the Lake Traverse Reservation. The U.S. government establishes him as chief of the Sisseton-Wahpeton.

1884

Renville is chosen by the Sisseton-Wahpeton as chief for life.

August 1892

Renville dies on August 26, at Samuel Brown’s house. He is buried on a bluff on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Reservation, in present-day Old Agency Village.