By Frank Gilbertson, Maplewood Heritage Preservation Commissioner
Maplewood today is the sum of its profound and varied history. Many local sites are named after famous people, events, or conflicts. Battle Creek Park is one such location. Between 1805 and 1858, treaties made between the United States government and the Dakota nation reduced Dakota lands and altered Maplewood’s physical, cultural, and political landscape.
These treaties had a significant impact on the lives of the Dakota people and the European-Americans moving into Minnesota during the first half of the 1800’s. Given the changes to the land occupied by the First Nations people it is understandable, there would be a conflict between the Chippewa and Dakota people who lived in proximity to what is now Maplewood and St. Paul.
One of the earliest accounts of conflict documents the summer of 1842 when the Chippewa of the St. Croix planned a sharp blow against the Sioux village of Kaposia on the west bank of the Mississippi. According to the account, a band of approximately 100 warriors marched to the bluff near Pig’s Eye. The attackers hid in the deep ravine near the mouth of what is now called Battle Creek, east of the Mississippi, to await a proper moment for the attack. Two Dakota woman were hoeing corn in a field in front of their position at Pig's Eye Lake. The warriors fired upon the women killing one and mortally wounding the other.
The Dakota warriors of Kaposia heard the sound of guns and they rallied to a fight the Chippewa. Parties circled and fought. Hand-to-hand encounters and gunfire were exchanged for approximately two hours. Finally, the Chippewa withdrew, defeated. The Dakota chased them several miles toward the town of Stillwater. The Chippewa left nine or ten dead. The Dakota loss was heavier despite their victory. Different accounts place their loss at twenty warriors including the mortally wounded. Troops from Fort Snelling, acting on the policy to prevent and punish such exchanges, traveled in boats and by horse but did not arrive until after the fight was over.
The sandstone ravine and caves where the conflict occurred is part of Battle Creek Park.
For an interesting historical account of the battle – also called the Battle of Kaposia or the Battle of Pine Coolie -- click here and go to page 122. Alternatively, view this short video.