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Tatanka Mani (Walking Buffalo), "Red Wing" (ca. 1755–1829)

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Color lithograph of Red Wing's village in 1855.

Henry Lewis's 1855 lithograph shows Red Wing's village forty years after Tatanka Mani (Walking Buffalo, also known as Red Wing) brought his people there.

Tatanka Mani (Walking Buffalo) was a leader of the Mdewakanton Dakota in the upper Mississippi Valley. Euro-American immigrants who met him as they advanced into the region in the early nineteenth century came to know him and his village as Red Wing.

Tatanka Mani was born in the mid-1700s. It is likely his Mantanton family (a sub-group of the Mdewakanton) lived near the mouth of the Minnesota River. His father, also known as Red Wing, was leader of their group of Mdewakanton, and he followed in his footsteps.

As a young Dakota man, Tatanka Mani displayed great skill in hunting and warfare. Followers believed he possessed supernatural power and the ability to foretell the future through dreams—an advantage that led him to many victories over tribal enemies. By the end of the eighteenth century, he had expanded his leadership beyond the Mantanton to a larger group of Mdewakanton, earning a regional reputation in the process. He was known by French traders in the region due to his prominence.

In August 1805, twenty-six-year-old Lieutenant Zebulon Pike led the first United States expedition through the upper Mississippi region and met with seven Mdewakanton leaders. In a treaty they signed on September 23, the Dakota granted land in what became the future Minnesota to the United States for first time. According to Pike's account, le Boeuf qui Marche, (the French name for Tatanka Mani) was present.

War broke out between the United States and Great Britain in 1812, creating a problem for Tatanka Mani. The Mdewakanton fighter and his followers had earlier been British allies. To sort out matters, he sent his eldest son to join other Dakota leaders in the City of Washington (Washington D.C.), where they conferred with the U.S. Secretary of War. Red Wing, meanwhile, joined other leaders and met with Great Britain's representative, and the Mdewakanton agreed to fight for the British.

Tatanka Mani is believed to have led a unit of Dakota soldiers to Mackinac Island in Michigan, helping to gain a bloodless victory over the Americans there. Upon returning home, however, he listened to his son's stories of the United States' power. By February 1814, the Red Wing Mdewakanton had decided to offer support to the Americans. A letter from British trader Robert Dickson confirms the defection. At war's end, the victorious United States invited Red Wing to a meeting in St. Louis. On July 19, 1815, he agreed to a treaty as "Tatangamanee, Walking Buffalo," spokesman for the "Sioux (Dakota) of the Lakes."

During the war, Tatanka Mani had moved his village south, to the foot of He Mni Caŋ in present-day downtown Red Wing. The 300-foot-high riverside promontory was a well known landmark. Growing numbers of whites traveling up the Mississippi stopped at the village, meeting and talking with the aging Mdewakanton leader. In 1825, he took part in important discussions with Ojibwe and United States leaders downriver at Prairie du Chien.

Tatanka Mani died on March 4, 1829, and was succeeded by Wacouta (Wakute, Shooter), his nephew or stepson.

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  • Related Resources

Anderson, Gary Clayton. Kinsmen of Another Kind: Dakota-White Relations in the Upper Mississippi River Valley, 1650–1862. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Anderson, Thomas. "Captain T.G. Anderson's Journal." Wisconsin Historical Collections 9 (1882): 174–185.

Robert Dickson Papers, 1790–1831
Manuscript Collection. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: The British trader's correspondence concerning activities in the upper Mississippi Valley, early nineteenth century.

Diedrich, Mark. Famous Chiefs of the Eastern Sioux. Minneapolis: Coyote Books, 1987.

———. "Red Wing, War Chief of the Mdewakanton Dakota." Minnesota Archaeologist 40 (March 1981): 19–32.

Folwell, William Watts. A History of Minnesota, vol. 1. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1956 edition.

Thomas Forsyth Letters, 1819
Manuscript Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Three letters from Forsyth, U.S. Indian Agent in St. Louis, regarding delivery of goods to Dakota Indians living on the Upper Mississippi, including the Red Wing village.

Hancock, Joseph Woods. Goodhue County Minnesota, Past and Present. Red Wing, MN: Red Wing Printing, 1893.

History of Goodhue County. Red Wing: Wood, Alley, 1878.

Meyer, Roy W. "Who Was Red Wing?" Unpublished manuscript, Goodhue County Historical Society collection, 1964.

Upham, Warren. Minnesota in Three Centuries, 1655-1908, vol. 1. Mankato, MN: Publishing Society of Minnesota, 1908.

Woolworth, Alan R. "19th Century Minnesota Biographies, A to Z," Red Wing Dynasty, 1823–1925.
Found in Alan R. Woolworth Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul

Related Images

Color lithograph of Red Wing's village in 1855.
Color lithograph of Red Wing's village in 1855.
Black and white portrait of Zebulon M. Pike wearing the uniform of an U.S. Army captain, c.1810.
Black and white portrait of Zebulon M. Pike wearing the uniform of an U.S. Army captain, c.1810.

Turning Point

Originally allied with the British, in 1814 Tatanka Mani (Walking Buffalo) pledges his support, and that of the Mdewakanton Dakota under his leadership, to the United States.


ca. 1755

Tatanka Mani (Walking Buffalo, later known as Red Wing) is born in the Mantanton village near the mouth of the Minnesota River.


Tatanka Mani becomes a prominent Mdewakanton war leader, thanks, in part, to his reputation for envisioning the future through dreams.


A treaty between the United States and the Dakota, agreed to on September 23, includes the name "Le Boeuf qui marche," French for Walking Buffalo.


Tensions between the United States and Great Britain result in war. Tatanka Mani, also known as Red Wing, joins other Mdewakanton and Dakota in siding with the British.


A letter from a British trader dated February 4 confirms that Tatanka Mani and his followers have aligned themselves with the Americans.


Tatanka Mani leads the "Sioux of the Lakes" delegation to St. Louis. His name, on a treaty of friendship with the United States, is recorded as "Tatangamanee, Walking Buffalo."


The first treaty of Prairie du Chien, signed on August 19, includes the name Red Wing, indicating the long-serving chief still heads what is known as the the Red Wing band of Mdewakanton.


Tatanka Mani dies on March 4.