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Waanatan's pipe and tobacco bag.

Historians of the Midwest region all know of the famous Yanktonai Chief Waneta (sic) (1795-1840) and his son of the same name Waanatan II (1828-1897) [1]. Their names are in almost every history book dealing with Minnesota and the two Dakota States.


Waanatan II was born in 1828 on the Elm River (Pecan Wakpa) north of what is now Aberdeen, South Dakota. When his father was assassinated in 1840, the Pabaksa (Cut Head) band of Yanktonai split into three groups, each led by a son. Waanatan II moved to Lake Traverse (Bde Hdakinyan = Cross-Wise Lake) associating himself with his mother's people, the Sisitunwan Dakota. Here he enters the history books by forbidding Little Crow from crossing his lands to escape Federal troops during the Minnesota Uprising in 1862. Suffering many hardships during the war which followed, he finally surrendered his band some five years later and resided on the Spirit Lake Reservation (Miniwakan Oyanke) in north central North Dakota, passing away in 1897 and is buried in the St. Michael Cemetery, St. Michael, ND.

The tobacco bag, presented here, was given by Chief Waanatan II to Major Israel McCreight in the fall of 1886. McCreight, born in 1865, was the "manager in charge of accounting, cash, and crews" for a firm [unmentioned but possibly Durfee and Peck?] who had a post at Ft. Totten, Dakota Territory. He was stationed there for one year (McCreight 1943).

McCreight traveled all over Lakota country after he left Ft. Totten, collecting artifacts that had belonged to leading chiefs such as Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Iron Tail, Hollow Horn Bear, Rain-in-the-Face, Crazy Horse, and Flying Hawk. Chief Iron Tail, in 1908, gave McCreight the Indian name of Tacanta Tanka (His Big Heart). He wrote three books about his experiences before his death in 1958.

Waneta then some 95 years old, was no longer tall, but walked with elastic step, a little stooped, hair turning grey, teeth worn to the gums, eyes stricken with trachoma and so hard of hearing as to require sign language to be understood in conversation. This former noted chieftain's regalia now was supplanted by white man's ill-fitting clothes, but still retained his beaded moccasins for footwear, carried his beautiful old beaded tobacco pouch and his red-stone pipe--and around his shoulders he wore over all, his green--striped agency blanket (McCreight 1943:8)". An English ranchman of the Souris River country by the name of Coutts Marjoribanks wanted to buy the tobacco pouch and pipe, offering a high price. McCreight interposed to aid in the negotiations but as soon as Waanatan understood the significance of the offer, waved him away. Months later in the fall of 1886, when McCreight was leaving his post Waanatan sealed their last good-bye with a handshake and a gift of the pouch and pipe (McCreight 1943: 9).

After Mr. McCreight's death at Dubois, Pennsylvania his extensive collection was sold (Parker 1977) to Ted Cole and Bernard Braverman. Later Mr. Braverman purchased the entire collection. Again the collection changed hands; seventy five percent was sold to Arnold M. Chernoff. The remaining items were sold to others (Chernoff 1977). The pipe and tobacco bag was acquired by Dan Burne Jones of Oak Park, Illinois (Jones 1978).

Mr. Jones kindly sent me slides of the artifacts along with a description of the card attached:
   On the inside in black ink beneath the beaded drawstring top is
   WAN-A-TA 1885. The show card [an original] canvas tag tied to the
   inside sewing reads Grand Chief Waneta'spipe and tobacco--a century
   old--presented by the chief himself in 1886. Was a very noted
   chief--born 1798 visited by Col. Long--who said he was the man with
   the most power than any other in the U.S.A. was my close friend. He
   was then located at Fort Totten. I kept him supplied with good
   tobacco. Always sat on the floor to smoke--while in my office. Very
   valuable historically, as well as a fine piece ofworkmanship, M. I.

Unfortunately McCreight thought he was talking to Waanatan I instead of his son Waanatan II. This slight mix-up does not diminish the item's value. While the pipe and its stem are of exquisite craftsmanship, the main focus of this article is the tobacco bag. There are many examples of this style of pipe and stem in museums and collections throughout the world. There is only one tobacco bag that is attributed to Waanatan the younger.

I don't have the dimensions of this bag, but from others of the same style I can say that the overall height of the bag is approximately 26 inches, and 7 inches in width. The leather top is 7X11 inches, the beaded section is 7X5 inches, and the bottom fringe is 8 inches long. One side of the bag has a beaded stylized flower design, while the other side has the four pointed Whirlwind (Yumniyan) - The Little Brother of the Four Winds design. Often a feather is beaded at each of the four points creating a whirling effect of the Yumni [2] (Cowdrey 2010b).

The Pipe and Stem

Waanatan's catlinite pipe bowl is of the typical 'T' shape, in the Plains Indian style, carved with raised rings at the three ends and surrounding the junction of bowl and shaft. The four figures are a buffalo head, elk head, bighorn sheep head and a snapping turtle. This style of effigy pipe stem seems to have come from one artist's hand, possibly a Northern Teton tribe, Hunkpapa or Miniconju, Lakota as there are a few duplicates known to exist (Cowdrey 2110a). This craftsman may have been the Hunkpapa Crazy Bear [Mato Gnaskinyan] (Ewers 1986:112).




I first became aware of this historic artifact's existence when I discovered McCreight's book The Wigwam jn the Devils Lake Pubic Library. This essay could not have been accomplished without the help of my long time friend and fellow Indian Hobbyist, Henry (Hank) Houghtalling of Mercer, PA. He was the one who contacted the Dubois, PA Chamber of Commerce which set the ball rolling to eventually locate the owner of the Waanatan II Tobacco Bag, Dan Burne Jones. I wish to also thank my editor in chief Mr. David Sager of Mississauga, Ontario for assistance in editing this article. Last but not least is my friend Mike Cowdrey, author, artist, and historian.


Chernoff, Arnold Marcus. Letter to the author. December 3, 1977.

Cowdrey, Michael. Emails to the author. January 22, and February 8, 2010.

Diedrich, Mark. (1999). Famous Dakota Chiefs Volume I. Rochester, MN: Coyote Books.

--(2007).Mni Wakan Oyate (Spirit Lake Nation): A History of the Sisitunwan, Wahpetun, Pabaksa, and other Dakota that settled at Spirit Lake, North Dakota. Fort Totten, ND.: Cankdeska Cikana Community College Publishing.

Ewers, John C. (1986). Plains Indian Sculpture: Traditional Art from America's Heartland. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Jones, Dan Burne. Letters to the author. January 3 and March 31, 1978.

Kane, Lucile M., Holmquist, June D.,Gilman, Carolyn (ed). (1978). The Northern Expeditions of Stephen H. Long: The Journals of 1817 and 1823 and Related Documents._St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press.

McCreight, M. I. (1943). The Wigwam-Puffs from the Peace Pipe. Sykesville, PA.: Nupp Printing Company.

--(1947). Firewater and Forked Tongues: A Sioux Chief Interprets U.S. History. Pasadena, CA: Trails End Publishing.

--(n.d.) Papers RG1204.AM. Lincoln, NE.: Nebraska State Historical Society Archives.

Parker, Earl M. Sr. Letter to the author. December 6, 1977.

Parks, Cameron, Thompson, Ben W. (1972, pp 204-205). Who's Who in Indian Relic's Volume 3. St. Louis, MO.: Parks and Thompson.


[1] Waanatan--The Charger (Wa = noun marker, Anatan = to rush forward).

[2] Yumni, abbreviation of Tateiyumni (Turning of the wind i.e. a Whirlwind) Also Wamniomni (something that turns or spins within itself). The Dakota spirit of fun, dance, and games.

Note from the author: In 1977 while initially researching this period of Waanatan's life, I was accepted as a community college carpentry instructor. These duties were sufficiently heavy to interfere with my usual correspondence with friends, and I lost contact with Dan Burne Jones. Mr. Jones was however, well aware of my intent to publish the Waanatan material. As he was born in 1908, I am sure he has passed on to the Happy Hunting Grounds and enjoying visits with Chief Waanatan.

By Louis Garcia [c] Photographs by the Author
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Author:Garcia, Louis
Publication:Whispering Wind
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2010
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