1862 Trial 35: Shoon-ka-ska

For an overview of this series publishing the trial records of the 38 Dakota men executed at Mankato Minnesota on December 26, 1862, see the first post.

Sunkaska’s is the thirteenth of forty-one trials in this series. 

Transcript: Trial 35 Shoon-ka-ska

Page Images: #35 Shoon-ka-ska


Whiting-Ruggles Summary December 5, 1862

No. 35. SHOON-KA-SKA, (White Dog.)—Was the leader of the party that attacked Captain Marsh’s company, and was the man who detained Captain Marsh in conversation until the Indians crossed the river and surrounded the command, and then gave them the signal to fire.[1]


Trial Record October 16, 1862

[Trial #35 – Shoon-ka-ska]

            Proceedings of a Military Commission convened at Camp Release opposite the Mouth of Chippewa River by virtue of the following order

Order No. 55                           viz:

Head Quarters Camp Release

September 28th 1862

A Military Commission composed of Colonel Wm Crooks of the 6th Reg., Lieut. Col. Marshall of the 7th Regiment, Captains Grant & Bailey of the 6th Reg. And Lieut. Olin of the 3rd Reg. Will convene at some convenient point in camp at 10 o’clock this morning to try summarily the Mulatto, and Indians, or mixed bloods, now prisoners, or who may be brought before them, by direction of the Col. Commanding and pass judgment upon them, if found guilty of murder or other outrages upon the Whites, during the present State of hostilities of the Indians, the proceedings of the Commission to be returned to these Head Quarters immediately after their conclusion, for the consideration of the Col. Commanding.

The Commission will be governed in their proceedings, by Military Law and usage.

            By order of the Colonel Commanding Military Expedition.

                                                                        Signed S.H. Fowler


Head Qtrs. Camp Release Min. Oct. 15 1862

Order No. 65

I. The Military Commission of which Col. Wm Crooks 6th Regt Minn Vols is President will reconvene tomorrow at 10 Oclock AM or as soon thereafter as practicable and proceed with the business before it.

II. Lieut. Col. Wm R Marshall 7th Minn Vols being absent on duty Maj. Gen Bradley of the seventh is hereby detailed to fill the vacancy thus occasioned.

By order of Gen.l H.H. Sibley

S.W. Fowler Lieut Col. A.A.A. Gl

Camp Release opposite the mouth of the Chippewa River

October 16 1862

The Military Commission met pursuant to the above order-


Col. Crooks – 6th Reg. M. V.

Maj. Bradley, 7th Regt. M.V.     Members

Capt. Grant, 6th Regt. M.V.

Capt. Bailey, 6th Regt. M. V.

Lt. Olin – 3rd Regt. M. V., Judge Advocate

Adjutant Heard – McPhail’s Mounted Rangers – Recorder

[Frame 279]

The Military Commission was then duly sworn and Shoon-ka-ska, a Sioux Indian, was arraigned on the following charge and specification, viz

Charges and Specifications against Shoon-ka-ska, a Sioux Indian (White Dog)

Charges – Participation in the murders robberies and outrages committed by the Sioux tribe of Indians on the Minnesota Frontier.

Specification – In this that the said Shoon-ha-ska, a Sioux Indian, did between the 18th day of August 1862 and the 28th day of September 1862, join with and participate in the murders robberies, and outrages committed by the Sioux Indians on the Minnesota Frontier and did give the command to fire at Capt. Marsh’s command at the river near the Lower Agency on the 18th day of August 1862.


Magner (of the Renville Rangers)

David Faribault

Thomas Robinson

Godfrey (Negro)

[Frame 275]

John Magner

When Capt. Marsh and his company got to the ferry, the prisoner was there with a big tomahawk and was all painted over –red –

Mr. Quin was interpreter for Capt. Marsh.  He asked him what he was doing with that weapon.  He said he had it for a pipe and he wanted to smoke with it.

Capt. Marsh asked me to go down the bank & see if I could ascertain how many Indians were across the way. I did so.

On my return to Capt. Marsh he asked me how many I had seen.  Deft. was then talking to Capt. Marsh to detain him while the Indians crossed the river to surround them. I heard the interpreter say so.

I told him it was impossible for me to count them as the place was red with their heads through the weeds on the opposite side.

Marsh ordered his men to about face and then the deft. waved his hand to the Indians & gave the order to fire.

[Frame 276]

[Speaker not identified]

I went down after they were all killed at Red Wood to find Prescott.  I then heard the firing at the ferry.

I went down and wanted to speak to the white soldiers and waved my hand to the Indian white soldiers to stand back.  They said if I ordered them to stand back they would kill me. I then did nothing. I then told Marsh to come over on the ferry.

Marsh told me to bring over the ferry boat.  It was in the middle of the river and I told Marsh to send over the flat boat.  Quin was just getting on the flat boat when the Indians fired.   Was not at Birch Coolie – I went to the Ferry Fort because I was afraid and was compelled to go.  I never fired a gun.  I was at New Ulm but lost my shot pouch with all the bullets in it.

[Frame 277]

[Speaker not identified]

I so understood it from Quinn.  I was so excited at the time that I don’t recollect about it exactly.

David Faribault –

I saw deft. about the agency houses at Red Wood. Saw him at the stores and saw him at FortRidgely.  I heard his wife say he talked with Quinn so as to give the Indians time to get around them. The woman said he gave the command to fire.  I saw deft. fire once at the Fort.

He was with a lot of Indians and they fired.  He shot once.  There were 20 in the party.

Godfred  – I saw deft. at New Ulm. I saw him again at Wood Lake.  I saw him there smoking with a tomahawk.  Didn’t see him shoot.  Didn’t hear him induce other to go into the fight.

I heard at Red Wood on the day Marsh was killed that White Dog had a council with the Indians Capt. Marsh – that he told him to cross the river.

Capt. Marsh through Quinn asked White Dog why they were killing the whites

[Frame 278]

& White Dog told him to come over.  That while they were talking the Indians crossed over.  I heard the Indians say that White Dog was the leader & had more influence than anyone there and that it was through them (sic) that the whites were killed.

And thereupon after due deliberation on the foregoing, the evidence being closed and Commission was cleared and proceeded with the finding and sentence.

The Military Commission find the prisoner, the said Shoon-ka-ska, a Sioux Indian, as follows –

Guilty of the specification

Guilty of the charge,

And sentence him to be hung by the neck until he is dead.

                                    [signatures of Mil. Com.][2]


Riggs Synopsis December 1862

13. Shoon-ka-ska (White Dog) says that when the outbreak took place he ran away, and did not get any of the stolen property. At the ferry he talked with Quinn; first called them to come over, but when he saw that the Indians were in ambush he beckoned to Captain Marsh to stay back. He says his position and conduct at the ferry were misunderstood and misrepresented; that he wanted peace, and did not command the Indians to fire on Captain Marsh’s men; that another man should be put to death for that. He complains bitterly that he did not have a chance to tell the things as they were; that he could not have an opportunity of refuting the false testimony brought against him. He says that they all expected to have another trial –that they were promised it; that they have done great wrong to the white people, and do not refuse to die, but they think it hard that they did not have a fairer trial; that they want the President to know this.[3]

[1]Whiting-Ruggles Report to Abraham Lincoln December 5, 1862.

[2] Dakota Trials Records. Microfilm and holograph records in Center for Legislative Archives, U.S. Senate Records, National Archives. Transcription by Walt Bachman. See corresponding digitations of microfilm by John Isch.

[3] Mankato Independent December 26, 1862, “Confessions of the Condemned” p. 2. Editorial introduction reads: “Rev. S. R. Riggs has kindly prepared for us the following synopsis of conversations held with each one of the condemned prisoners, wherein is contained much interesting information.”

Transcriptions by Walt Bachman and Carrie Reber Zeman. Page images provided by John Isch.

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