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Historic Diaries: James Doty, 1820

Aug. 3, 1820: Lake Pepin and Red Wing's Village

Editor's Note:

Schoolcraft noted that on this day they visited the village of Sioux chief Red Wing at the site of the modern Minnesota town of the same name:

"At twelve o'clock we arrived at the Sioux village of Talangamane, or the Red wing, which is handsomely situated on the west banks of the river, six miles above Lake Pepin. It consists of four large, and several small lodges, build of logs in the manner of the little Raven's village. Talangamane is now considered the first chief of his nation, which honour it is said he enjoys both on account of his superior age and sagacity. He appears to be about sixty, and bears all the marks of that age. ..."

Like Doty, Schoolcraft also heard the story of the unhappy maiden: "In passing through Lake Pepin, our interpreter pointed out to us a high precipice, on the east shore of the lake, from which an Indian girl, of the Sioux nation, had many years ago, precipitated herself in a fit of disappointed love." The party traveled 67 miles downriver this day and camped "on a gravelly beach on the east shore of Lake Pepin, at six o'clock in the evening, the weather threatening a storm."

Location: Lake Pepin, Wisconsin

View Schoolcraft's complete description in his 1821 Narrative

View Doty's handwritten manuscript of this page

View page in the 1895 printed edition

Embarked at 5. Having descended 3 miles we came to the mouth of the St. Croix river, off which is an island. This river is very wide for 12 miles from the Mississippi, and is sometimes called a Lake. Six miles farther we came to an Indian village of 4 fixed lodges, immediately below which rises a very high promontory where rattlesnakes were found in abundance.

At the head of Lake Pepin, 3 miles, are a great number of Islands, forming different channels some of which are very circuitous & and almost impassable. It is therefore very difficult to ascertain which are the correct ones. This Lake is 21 miles long and its average breadth is about 2 miles. Its waters are very shallow. We landed on a point, 3 miles, while an Indian was endeavoring to spear a fish of a singular kind which is found here, called the shovel nose Sturgeon, but he obtained none. Found large pieces of cornelian and agate.

Two miles farther is a high promontory which projects into the lake. It is told that many years since a young and beautiful Sioux girl was much attached to a young Indian of the same band, and who would have married her but for the interference of her relatives. They insisted upon her marrying another one whom she dispised, and she contrived to avoid the connexion for near a year. At length her relations, having sent away the young man she loved, on this point they compelled her to marry the one they wished. It was evening, and she had not been united more than an hour, before they missed her from the lodge. Nothing could be found of her until morning, when they discovered her at the foot of this precipice, down which she had probably precipitated herself.

Sandy point, which is eight miles from the promontory, is very long, and extends farther into the lake than any other point. It is low & in its middle is a pond of considerable size. A short distance below a stream empties into the lake. We went 4 miles farther and encamped on a gravelly point on the north shore. Clear and very warm during the day. In the night a severe thunder storm arose, and it rained very hard all night.

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