Culminating Project Title
Date of Award
Culminating Project Type
History: Public History: M.A.
College of Liberal Arts
Iyekiyapiwin Darlene St. Clair
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Keywords and Subject Headings
Ho-Chunk (Winnebago), U.S.-Dakota War, Mankato Minnesota, Ethnic Cleansing, Hate Groups, Knights of the Forest (Secret Society)
The Knights of the Forest was an 1863 secret society that formed in Mankato, MN, during the aftermath of the U.S.-Dakota War. They took an oath to advocate for the banishment of “all Indians” from the state of Minnesota. But newspaper articles written by and about four members show that the organization was only concerned with the exile of the Ho-Chunk people, who had not participated in the U.S.-Dakota War. In the winter of 1862-1863, settlers in the Mankato region pressured the federal government for Ho-Chunk removal under the threat of extermination of the Ho-Chunk people. Their reservation had comprised the majority of prime farmland in Blue Earth County just southeast of Mankato since 1855. The Knights of the Forest sent armed men to surround the Ho-Chunk land and shoot anyone who crossed the line. Once the Ho-Chunk were forced from the county in May of 1863, the secret society ceased to exist. Hundreds of Ho-Chunk people died because of their removal from Minnesota. Conditions at Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota were so desolate many left to Omaha or back to their Wisconsin homeland within months. Meanwhile, new settlers moved onto their former southwestern Minnesota reservation, and Blue Earth County experienced its earliest economic expansion at the expense of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
Coats, Catherine M., "“Extermination or Removal”: The Knights of the Forest and Ethnic Cleansing in Early Minnesota" (2017). Culminating Projects in History. 11.
Grand Lodge of the Knights of the Forest Ritual
Petition for Ho-Chunk Removal.pdf (6581 kB)
Petition for Ho-Chunk Removal
Maps.pdf (383 kB)