Little Crow was born in 1810, in the Dakota Indian settlement of Kaposia, which is near the present day city of St. Paul, Minnesota. His father was chief of the Santee or Mdewakanton Sioux. He would die in 1841 setting off a struggle for succession between Little Crow and his brother. During the ensuing gun battle between the brothers Little Crow would suffer gun shot wounds to both wrists. He would spend most of his life wearing long sleeve shirts in an attempt to hide the wounds.
Little Crow's people signed a peace treaty in 1851 and moved on to a reservation. However, the promised supplies and annuity payments either arrived late or not at all. Most of the buffalo and wild game had vanished, and Little Crow and his people became so hungry that they began to eat their horses. Then when they had eaten all of their horses they began eating the bark of the trees. Finally, Little Crow and the people from the northern part of the reservation couldn't take it any longer. He and 500 of his starving people broke into a government warehouse. They took pork and flour for their families. At the same time, the people that lived on the southern part of the reservation requested emergency rations. By now they were dying by the hundreds from starvation. However, the Indian Agent named Thomas Galbraith refused to supply the Santee/Sioux with food. Instead, a representative of the fur traders named Andrew Myrick told them to eat their own dung and grass.
At this time, Little Crow was sixty years old. He didn't want war, but his people were starving. In the early hours of August 18, 1862 they broke out of the reservation and began a systemic assault on the surrounding settlers. In a short time hundreds of white settlers were dead, including Andrew Myrick. He was with grass stuffed in his mouth. After three days of raiding and pillaging the surrounding countryside reinforcement troops arrived. They were under the direct orders of President Abraham Lincoln who told the military to quell the uprising at any cost. The troops were led by Colonel Henry Hopkins Sibley who commanded 1,400 troops from the Third Minnesota Volunteer Regiment. He told his men, “Destroy everything that they own and drive them out into the Plains. They are to be treated as maniacs or wild beasts.” Over 700 settlers and 100 soldiers died before the Third Regiment drove Little Crow and the Santee/Sioux into the Great Plains.
As soon as the uprising was quelled, a military court sentenced 303 of the 392 incarcerated Santee/Sioux to be hung. President Lincoln immediately intervened, and after reviewing the sentences he reduced the number of those that were to be hung to 38. Lincoln believed that all of those that were about to be hung had committed a rape or participated in the massacre. Then, on December 28, 1862, the 38 Santee/Sioux were hung at Fort Mankato in what is still today the largest mass hanging in United States history.
Many of the Santee/Sioux had remained free, and the Army aggressively chased them through the Badlands of South Dakota until they caught them. On, August 4,1864, Colonel Sibley and his forces killed 500 Santee/Sioux in one day. With their numbers dwindling they moved westward and joined the Cheyenne. Little Crow would die in 1863. He was shot by a farmer while foraging for berries.