Redwood Falls, Minnesota

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Redwood Falls is a city in Redwood and Renville Counties in the U.S. state of Minnesota. The population was 5,459 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Redwood County.[3]



As the immigrant and Euro-American population of the North American east coast region grew, population pressures affected people far inland. People moved west to find new homes as more and more land was used by farmers. The Minnesota area is the ancestral homeland of the Dakota people, which consisted of the Oceti sakowin (seven council fires). By 1700, Ojibwe) had come to what is now Minnesota and at times they had come into conflict with each other.

The traditional Dakota yearly cycle of farming, hunting, fishing, and gathering wild rice had been unalterably interrupted by cultural changes. Permanent farms were established by settlers. Forests were removed for timber and farmland in eastern Minnesota. Wild game like bison, elk, whitetail deer, and bear had been hunted so intensively that populations were tiny compared to the populations before Euro-American settlement. Dakota people relied on the sale of valuable furs to American traders to earn cash needed to buy necessities.

To encourage the Dakota to bring in more furs, traders offered merchandise on credit. It is not clear that the concept of credit was readily understood in the Dakota culture, but their dependence on trade goods was real.

Pressure from traders who wanted to be paid and concern from government officials about the ability of the Dakota to earn the money they wanted, led to the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux. In exchange for money and goods, the Dakota agreed to live on a twenty mile wide reservation centered on a 75-mile stretch of the upper Minnesota River. Much of the cash went directly to merchants. Much of the material goods were never delivered.

What is now Redwood Falls was within the reservation area. Corruption and malfeasance by the Bureau of Indian Affairs combined with the inability of many Dakota to adjust to change in functional ways created great hardships for the Dakota. In 1862, U.S. officials in Minnesota were distracted by the U.S. Civil War and the suffering of the Dakota was severe. Payments to the Dakota were not made and some young men took action to claim what they were owed, killing several people in the process. Thus began the Dakota War of 1862.

As a result of the war, the U.S. government abolished the reservation and attempted to expel the Dakota people from Minnesota. In 1864, Sam McPhail, a colonel who had commanded U.S. troops in the war and was a land speculator, claimed the land where Redwood Falls is now located. He hired men to use lumber from the Dakota reservation to build a fortified house and surrounded it with a sod stockade eight feet tall. McPhail published the Redwood Falls Patriot from 1866 to 1869. He was a probate judge and first Redwood County attorney. In 1872, he donated land for the county courthouse.

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