Kegg’s Message Helped Preserve Reservation


Brett Larson Staff Writer

Note: Research on Anishinaabe people can be complicated due to variations in name spellings. We have chosen to use the spelling “Kegg” to follow the spelling used by descendants of the tribal leader described in the story, but in direct quotes we used the spelling from the original source. Among the spellings of Kegg in newspapers of the day were Kagadocio, Kegodocia, Kay-guay-do- say, Cag-a-do-say, Ca- qua-dosh, Gegwedaash, Gegwedosh, Kegwaydosh, Kay- gwaydosay, Keg-way-do-sa, Keg-wi-do-shi and Kegwedosay.

The Mille Lacs Reservation was established in the 1855 Treaty, when Ojibwe bands from the region ceded a huge amount of land to the U.S. in what would become the State of Minnesota in 1858.

In 1863, already attempting to renege on its promises, the U.S. attempted to negotiate the removal of Mille Lacs and other bands to White Earth.

One thing got in the way: The decision of the Mille Lacs Band not to join in the Dakota Conflict in 1862. Because of their “good conduct” during the conflict, Mille Lacs Band members could stay on their reservation. In the words of the treaty, “That, owing to the heretofore good conduct of the Mille Lacs Indians, they shall not be compelled to remove so long as they shall not in any way interfere with or in any manner molest the property or persons of the whites.”

In 1889, when the government attempted to break up the reservations by giving individual Band members allotments through the Nelson Act, the Mille Lacs Band’s “good conduct” in 1862 once again played a role. Mille Lacs Band members were promised allotments on the Mille Lacs Reservation.

(That fact that most of those allotments were never grant- ed, and most of the reservation sold off to whites, is a story for another time.)

One account of the Band’s “good conduct” was published in the Princeton Union on June 17, 1909. Charles Lindeke, a settler from rural Princeton, recalled that in the fall of 1862, he and his neighbors heard news of the Dakota uprising near New Ulm and “a rumor gained circulation that the Chippewas at Mille Lacs were preparing to come down and annihilate us.”

Many settlers went to Princeton for protection and started digging trenches and building a circular fort out of poplar logs. The story continues:

“[W]hen the fort was almost completed and we were discussing how best to put on a roof, Kag-a-do-shie appeared on the scene from Mille Lacs. Old ‘Kag’ was an Indian subchief whose mission was to dispel the fears of the settlers who were building the fort. Chief Mo-som-o-nie had received news that the work was in progress and had dispatched Kag-a-do- shie to Princeton.

“’Kag,’ expanding his chest in Indian style, exclaimed: ‘No good, no good; all starve in there; no water, no roof. Go home, go home; no Chippewa harm white man.’ And that settled the fort building and closed ‘impending hostilities.’ We all returned to our homes and tried to be happy.”

According to research by historian Bruce White, another settler, John Goulding, also recalled that Kegg came to tell the people of Princeton that the Mille Lacs leaders were not joining a planned uprising by Ojibwe chief Hole-in-the-Day. Goulding also said “old Kaig” had served on the U.S. side in the Dakota Conflict.
White says Kegg was married to Nodin, the daughter of Chief Manoominikeshiinh (Rice Maker), a powerful leader who opposed going to war against the U.S. Mazomanie, a son of Manoominikeshiinh, was Kegg’s brother-in-law. Among Kegg’s children was Wadena, who would lead a Band that resided on the south shore of Mille Lacs.

In March of 1880, Kegg was in the news again. He accompanied several Mille Lacs chiefs to Little Falls to get help from white friends there in fighting the timber companies that were claiming reservation lands. Along with several chiefs, Kegg signed a letter written to the President by Little Falls friends. He is listed as a brave rather than a chief, but in other records he is named as a chief or sub-chief.

t the Little Falls meeting, Kegg spoke through a translator:
“I happened to be in St. Paul last fall, and the Governor sent for me to come and see him. I went, and he asked me if I knew what was going on, and stated that we were about to be robbed of what little we had. I then returned home and called a council. It was determined to try and ascertain all about the trouble and what had become of the timber that had been cut on our reservation. I was accordingly sent to St. Paul again to see the Governor, and I then learned that some person had entered the best part of our reservation. I then determined to do all in my power to get the entries cancelled. I am afraid that the chiefs cannot control all the young men in case we are robbed of the pine land on our reservation. The desire of the chiefs and Indians is to remain where they are, and they would be well pleased to have the white people come among them and reside with them, if the whites so desire. The braves wished me to come here to this meeting to hear what our chiefs would say, and they will support the acts of the chiefs.”

Later newspaper articles also refer to Kegg’s participation in the Dakota Conflict on the side of the U.S. An 1889 article refers to a letter written by Gov. Marshall acknowledging his service as a scout.

An 1897 article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press includes a pho- to of Kegg, referring to him as “one of Sibley’s scouts.” The ar- ticle says he was 80 years old in 1897 and had earned the right to wear the skunk skin due to his distinction on the battle eld.

On Aug. 20, 1914, a monument at Fort Ridgely was dedicated to those Mille Lacs Band members, including Mo-som-o-nie, who chose not to engage in the con ict.
More significant than any monument was the continued presence at Mille Lacs of the “nonremovable” Anishinaabe people — due in part to the actions of people like Kegg.