Mystery benefactor returns sacred pipe tied to U.S.-Dakota war

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The sacred pipe returned to the Dakota people
The sacred pipe linked to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 returned to its native home in Minnesota the Prairie Island tribal council president said Monday.
Courtesy Skinner, Inc.

Updated 4:45 p.m. | Posted 2:56 p.m.

A sacred pipe linked to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and sold at auction in Boston Saturday has been returned to its native home in Minnesota by the person who paid $40,000 for it, the Prairie Island tribal council president said Monday.

Execution
Artist W. H. Childs' portrayal of the public execution of 38 Dakota Indians at Mankato in 1862.
Library of Congress

The catlinite pipe was a peace offering given to a soldier by Mdewakanton Dakota Chief White Dog, one of 38 Dakota hanged in Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862, for crimes allegedly committed in the war. It was the largest mass execution in American history and a still-painful memory in Minnesota.

Hundreds of people on both sides of the conflict died. The Dakota went to war over a long list of grievances, including the slow delivery of promised government payments and food supplies.

An old paper label reads 'Indian pipe, Made by a Sioux Chief White Dog.'
An old paper label reads 'Indian pipe, Made by a Sioux Chief White Dog.'
Courtesy Skinner, Inc.

Last week, the Lower Sioux Indian Community near Redwood Falls, Minn., said it was working to stop the sale.

On Saturday, though, auction company Skinner Inc. said the winning bid came in at $39,975, nearly twice its estimated value. The buyer has not been identified.

On Monday afternoon, however, Prairie Island Tribal Council President Shelley Buck said that shortly after the auction, the tribe learned that the buyer had bought the pipe "for the sole purpose of returning it to the Dakota Oyate (people)."

The donor of the pipe wishes to remain anonymous, Buck said in a statement, adding, "We are humbled by and grateful for this honorable act. Pidamayaye to the donor for your respect and generosity."

Prairie Island's Tribal Historic Preservation Office and spiritual leaders, together with other Dakota tribal representatives, will work with the auction house to take receipt of the pipe, according to the tribal statement.

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