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Cansa'yapi / Lower Sioux Indian Community

The Lower Sioux Indian Community is located on the south side of the Minnesota River at the site of the U.S. Indian Agency and the Bishop Whipple Mission, a part of the original reservation established in the 1851 Treaty. It is in Redwood County, two miles south of Morton and six miles east of Redwood Falls. Across the river is the Birch Coulee battle site of the 1862 Sioux War. The Community, for purposes of determining membership and qualifying for some services, has a service area 10 miles beyond the actual trust lands.
Prior to 1862, the Minnesota Dakota, also known by the French term, “Sioux,” consisted of four bands known as the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute (together comprising the “lower bands”), and the Sisseton and the Wahpeton (known as the “upper bands” or “Dakota Sioux”), all of whom lived along the Minnesota River.
In August of 1862, young traditionalists in these four bands waged war against the United States following two years of unfulfilled treaty obligations, including the failure to make payment on lands and provide health care or food. Although, some 500 settlers and hundreds of Mdewakanton lost their lives, hundreds of Mdewakanton came to the aid of both non-Indians and Indians during the war.
After defeating the bands, the United States punished the Dakota by nullifying its treaties with them, voiding annuities that had been granted as part of the terms of the treaties, and removing all Dakota from what is now the State of Minnesota.
Many families returned to their homeland in spite of this government imposed exile, and because some had been loyal to the United States during the “Outbreak,” those loyalists were permitted to stay on the Minnesota lands provided for the Dakota under the treaties.
In 1863, while Congress stripped the Sioux of their Minnesota lands, it authorized the Department of the Interior to allocate up to 80 acres of that land to each loyalist. Despite this recent history of war, exile and colonization, the Dakota continue to survive and prosper in the land of their origin.
In the 1883 census, six families were reported in Redwood. Good Thunder came from Flandreau, South Dakota and in 1884 purchased 80 acres at the Lower Sioux community. Charles Lawrence bought the adjacent 80 acres. Within a few years a little colony joining them including a few other Dakotas who had been able to survive in Minnesota, protected by Alexander Fairbault. A 1936 census report 20 Mdewakanton families, 18 families from Flandreau, South Dakota, and one Sisseton, South Dakota, family.
The land is primarily rich agricultural land in the river flood plain and the wooded bluffs behind. The community was built on the hillside and uplands. It centers around the tribal offices, a new community center, Tipi Maka Duta (the Lower Sioux Trading Post), and St. Cornelia Episcopal Church built in 1889 and now on the National Register of Historic sites. St. Cornelia's is built on land donated by Good Thunder. It has been the recent site of reburials of Kaota people whose remains had been held by museums and universities. The Minnesota Historical society has an interpretive center in the area, explaining the 1862 battles.
The Lower Sioux Community Council is elected and operates under an IRA constitution. The State exercises criminal and some civil jurisdiction on the reservation. The tribal court was organized in 1993. It deals with civil cases including contract law and workers' compensation cases as well as tribal governance matters. Social programs and community health services are administered by the Tribe, funded by various governmental programs and the Tribe. Tribally funded health insurance policies cover the medical costs for resident members as well as tribal and casino employees. Redwood Falls and Wilmar hospitals are used.
Redwood Falls is the public school for the community Indian children. In response to parental concern about their children's education, an Indian-focused charter school was formed at Morton. The Tribe provides financial help to any member wishing to get further education beyond high school.
Until the mid-1980's the Tribe had very limited funds and there were hardly any opportunities for employment on the reservation. Government programs, operated by the Tribe, were the major source of employment. Since 1972 the Tribe has been manufacturing hand thrown, hand painted, traditional Dakota pottery. This still continues and is sold at Tipi Maka Duta, the Lower Sioux Trading Post along with other gift items. The Tribe generates additional revenue from leasing a gravel pit.
A major bingo facility, Jackpot Junction opened in 1984. Building on this, it was expanded to a casino on the signing of the State compact in 1989. The Tribe then went to court to force another state compact allowing blackjack. A management firm and later a consulting firm were used to start operations and then the Tribe took over. Jackpot Junction casino has 57 blackjack tables, 1,200 slots and other video games, offers a variety of food services and has nightly entertainment. A gas station and convenience store built in 1991 are adjacent to the casino. The Tribe owns the nearby Dakota Inn Motel with 122 rooms and swimming pool, an RV park, and a six-story hotel with convention center was built in 1996.
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