There is considerable information about Chief Inkpaduta, leader of the Wahpekute (Shoot Among the Leaves) band of the Dakota (Mdewakanton). Inkpaduta's name is translated as "Red Cap" or "Scarlet Point." He was born in 1797 in Dakota Territory. His father, Chief Black Eagle (Wamdisapa), originally used this calumet or treaty pipe. It was passed to him from previous chiefs to smoke whenever treaties were made, as early as the early 1700s, with French-Canadian traders and enemy tribes, such as the Ojibway. This calumet represented decisions of the Great Sioux Nation before branching into Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota groups.
Black Eagle was murdered in a tribal dispute and was succeeded as chief by Inkpaduta's older brother. In 1852 a drunken, white whiskey trader killed the new chief and nine of his family; Inkpaduta succeeded his brother as chief and inherited the calumet.
In the severe winter of 1857, Inkpaduta led his starving band to Iowa, where on March 8, he launched a series of raids on white settlers in the Spirit Lake area. A total of 38 people were killed and four women kidnapped. This is called the Spirit Lake Massacre.
By the time of the Dakota War of 1862, Inkpaduta and his band had been driven out of Minnesota by other Dakota Sioux who did not wish to put their annuity goods and money at risk. The Wahpekute band withdrew westward to join their Lakota cousins and various Dakota displaced by the Minnesota Massacre led by Chief Little Crow. Eventually Inkpaduta became friends with Sitting Bull's band. This calumet was smoked with Sitting Bull to join the two bands together in fellowship.
Inkpaduta was camped with Sitting Bull's group along the Little Bighorn River when General Custer attacked on June 25, 1876. Inkpaduta fought in this battle along with his son, Red Horn Bull, who led a charge on Reno's troops in the valley. Following the victory against Custer, Sitting Bull and Inkpaduta's bands fled to Canada. In 1881 Chief Inkpaduta died in Manitoba. His son, Red Horn Bull, was now given the pipe. He returned with Sitting Bull and many Lakota to be imprisoned at Fort Yates for several months. Red Horn Bull later served as a cavalry scout at Fort Meade before settling on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
His one daughter, Iron Toe Nail married James Leclair and their daughter, Mabel Leclair, inherited this calumet. It was transferred by Mabel because the historic meaning of treaty pipes was lost after the last big treaty with the Sioux negotiated at Fort Laramie Treaty in 1868.
This wide-bowl, ceremonial pipe is made of a soft, black stone from when the tribe lived near the Great Lakes. It has lead inlay from melted musket balls and small traded pieces of red pipestone. The characteristic comb or crest indicates it was reserved for when a chief acted on behalf of the tribe. The thirty-inch ash stem is covered with twelve inches of fine porcupine quillwork. It has large four-direction crosses with porcupine quills dyed blue using indigo, and a field of orange-plaited porcupine quills dyed with bloodroot. The blue ribbon and red horse hair is a sign for the Thunder Beings, blue representing Thunder; red as Lightning. The swallowtail cuts at the end of the ribbons are a sign for success in war.
Inkpaduta's name among the Lakota of Sitting Bull's band that he joined was changed to Inkpaluta. The Lakota use an "l" in place of any "d" sound in the Dakota language. The ending of "duta," meaning "red" would become "luta" among Lakota speakers.
Larry Belitz, Plains Indian Material Culture Consultant