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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (D)
Dickson, Robert

His Sioux tribesmen called him Mescotopah, “the red-haired man.” He was a Scottish-Canadian who became an adopted leader within the Sioux nation. While a young man, Dickson established himself as a merchant in the fur trade in the Niagara region. His extensive connections brought him to the Spanish territories west of the Mississippi for a time, but he eventually entered the community of the Sioux tribes who lived in various parts of the Upper Great Lakes region.

No other white man, and only a handful of Natives, commanded the respect and love of his people as Dickson did. Dickson endured a winter of starvation with his people in Michigan “I am heartily sick of this place. There is no situation more miserable than to see objects around you dying of hunger and to be unable to give them but little assistance. I have done what I could for them, and in consequence, will starve myself.”

His concern for his peoples’ welfare led him to help the British when the conflict with America deepened in 1812. He was sought out by Isaac Brock to secure native assistance in the strike against Fort Mackinac, and the four hundred warriors led in that action were in largely responsible for its success. Later, George Prevost convinced him to give up the fur trade and become part of the Indian department as a superintendent for the western nations. Unlike many others in the department, he was sober, literate, humane, and faithful to his Sioux wife.

Having no interest in military pursuits, Dickson gave up his position of lieutenant colonel when the war ended, and resigned from the Indian department. He eventually moved his family west, in order to aid Lord Selkirk in the establishment of his colony on the Red River. Dickson died in 1823.

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