The four-barrel revolving rifle which belonged to early 19th century Mdewakanton Dakota leader Chief Sakpe II is seen on display at Hocokata Ti. The rifle was recently donated to the SMSC by the Scott County Historical Society.

After more than a century of changing hands, the rifle of Mdewakanton Dakota leader Chief Sakpe II has found its final home.

On Nov. 16. the Scott County Historical Society donated Sakpe’s rifle to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

The four-barrel revolving rifle belonged to Sakpe II who lived in the Shakopee area in the early 19th century.

The name Sakpe means six in the Dakota language, as the first Sakpe leader had sextuplet boys. Sakpe, pronounced Shock-pay, is also how the city of Shakopee got its name. Sakpe II was known for signing several treaties with the United States government, according to the SMSC.

Rifle’s history

For Sakpe II, the rifle was a tool used for hunting and defending his people, explained SMSC Vice Chairman Cole Miller. Though somewhat unclear, it is believed the rifle was seized from Sakpe during the mass hanging of 38 Dakota men in 1862, he said.

After seizure, the rifle was in the possession of United States Army officer and Indian agent Lawrence Taliaferro until 1922 when it was purchased by Osborne Klavestad. How much the rifle was purchased for is unknown. The weapon then went on to be on display at the Shakopee Stagecoach Museum and was eventually donated to the Scott County Courthouse in the summer of 1980. When the courthouse was renovated in 1999, the rifle was relocated to its most recent home at the historical society.

“The rifle, it’s taken quite a while to make it back full circle to the community here, to our tribe,” Miller said.

Permanent home

Executive Director of the Scott County Historical Society Heather Hoagland said the rifle was actually loaned to the SMSC last year before the society staff and board discussed making the transfer permanent.

“We wanted to take this opportunity to do what we felt was right a wrong that had been done generations ago,” Hoagland said.

After decades of being passed through the hands of European Americans, the SCHS is happy to have the opportunity to return the rifle to its rightful owners, she said.

“This is part of the rifle’s story, so I’m glad to be some small part of writing the next chapter and hopefully the final chapter of this rifle’s history,” Hoagland said. “I’m glad that this feels like the right ending for the journey this rifle has been on.”

Sharing history

The rifle has found its permanent home on display at Hocokata Ti, the tribe’s cultural center, where it will be used to further educate others on the Dakota people, Miller said.

“It’s something we can show our kids as well as the general public. To come in and hear and see that and we can tell our story with that rifle and not somebody else telling our story — to me, that’s the important piece as it’s a piece of our history and we’re going to tell the story of it,” he said.

The rifle is now a part of the center’s permanent collection titled Mdewakanton: Dwellers of the Spirit Lake. The center provides an interactive, walk through experience for its visitors on the history and culture of the Dakota people.

“In Shakopee, Minnesota if you grow up in the school system there like I did you just kind of barely graze the surface of the Dakota history or any other Native American history,” Miller said. “Our entire story is (at Hocokata Ti) from creation all the way to present day.”

And the rifle will help in telling that story.

“We’re happy that it’s finally, in my eyes, home,” Miller said.

Hocokata Ti is open to the public by reservation due to COVID-19. Tickets can be purchased in advance by visiting https://tickets.hocokatati.org/ or by calling 952-233-9151. For more information on the center visit shakopeedakota.org/culture/hocokatati.