Skip to content Breakdown of Negotiations

On August 4, 1862, representatives of the northern Sissetowan and Wahpeton Dakota bands met at the Upper Sioux Agency in the northwestern part of the reservation and successfully negotiated to obtain food. When two other bands of the Dakota, the southern Mdewakanton and the Wahpekute, turned to the Lower Sioux Agency for supplies on August 15, 1862, they were rejected. Indian Agent (and Minnesota State Senator) Thomas Galbraith managed the area and would not distribute food without payment to these bands.

According to legend, at a meeting of the Dakota, the U.S. government and local traders, the Dakota representatives asked the representative of the government traders, Andrew Jackson Myrick, to sell them food on credit. His response was said to be, “[S]o far as I am concerned, let them eat grass.” Accounts of his words have varied. According to an essay by Dr. Gary Clayton Anderson, a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma and respected scholar of the Dakota War of 1862, Myrick’s comment has been elevated to a level of importance far above its original effect during early August 1862.