A Step into Bloomington’s Past
Chief Cloud Man, Gideon Pond and Samuel Pond. To individuals familiar with the history of Bloomington, these names are synonymous with the city’s past. Bloomington’s early days represent the convergence of Native American and European settlers, tribal religions and Christianity, and converts and missionaries. Minnesota’s early Native American inhabitants and the missionaries they attracted laid the foundation of Bloomington and are inextricably tied to the city’s heritage.
The primary Native Americans that inhabited present-day Bloomington were the Dakota, a branch of the Great Sioux Nation. Seeking to prevent the neighboring Ojibwe from infiltrating their territory and desiring more direct access to trade with Europeans, the Dakota began to settle in the Minnesota River Valley during the 1600s. The principal bands of Dakota living in the area were led by Chief Cloud Man and Chief Black Dog. Supplied with natural springs for water, animals for food, fertile soil for crops, and trees for timber, the Dakota established a comfortable lifestyle in the Minnesota area.
In the midst of the Second Great Awakening, a flood of missionaries intent on ministering to, converting and educating the Native Americans migrated west to Minnesota. These missionaries were sponsored by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, an 1812 venture of the General Association of Congregational Churches of Massachusetts. The Minnesota missionaries began to establish missions near Dakota lands in the 1830s and 1840s.
Two of the most influential of these missionaries were brothers Samuel and Gideon Pond, who worked and lived in present-day Bloomington. Samuel and Gideon, natives of Washington, Connecticut, moved to Minnesota in 1834. The same year, the brothers founded Lake Calhoun mission in Minneapolis. They worked with Chief Cloud Man’s tribe, learning the Dakota language, developing a written equivalent and translating the Bible. Wanting to continue their work with Chief Cloud Man and his people, Samuel and Gideon followed the tribe when it moved to the Minnesota River and into present-day Bloomington.
In 1843, the brothers founded Oak Grove mission in Bloomington. They built a single log house, which functioned as a school, church, and home for the Pond brothers and their families. Among the most influential contributions made here was the publication of The Dakota Friend, a Dakota-English, religious newspaper, of which Samuel served as editor. Their work continued until 1853, when the majority of the Dakota were removed from the area under the Treaty of Mendota.
The interaction between the Native Americans and missionaries on the Minnesota frontier is an integral aspect of the history of Bloomington and has helped define our diverse, unique city.