Review – I Could not Afford Essay

 “I Could not Afford to Hang Men for Votes. Lincoln the Lawyer, Humanitarian Concerns, and the Dakota Pardons,”
By Paul Finkelman
http://www.wmitchell.edu/lawreview/volume39/documents/3.finkelman.pdf
Reviewed November 21, 2014

 Items of Interest

This essay is a good read for anyone who wants to know more about the various factors and people that influenced President Lincoln’s decision to hang 38 men following the Dakota War of 1862.

The author dispels some common beliefs on the meeting between Bishop Whipple and President Lincoln in September 1862. It is possible this meeting never took place.

I will review only the part of the essay directly related to the Dakota War of 1862.

 General Comments

  • Unbalanced – Several times, the author discredits reports of atrocities committed by the hostile Dakota during the war; but does not provide examples of atrocities that did occur. See Michno, Dakota Dawn: The Decisive First Week of the Sioux Uprising, August 17-24, 1862.
  • Unbalanced – The author devotes much text in defining what we should call the Dakota War of 1862. However, he does not examine this from the perspective of the Dakota majority who did not go to war.
  • Incorrect – At least one white and several Dakota/White mixed bloods were among the hostile Dakota who went to war, who were tried, who were hanged at Mankato and who died after the war. They were not all Dakota.  Continue reading

Review – Reconciling Memory Essay

 “Reconciling Memory: Landscapes, Commemorations, and Enduring Conflicts of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862″ (2011).
History Dissertations. Paper 28.
By Julie A. Anderson
http://digitalarchive.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1027&context=history_diss
Reviewed November 17, 2014

 Items of Interest

 The white settlers did nothing wrong. They were innocent victims of the brutality of traditional Dakota warfare. 

I need to repeat this. The white settlers did nothing wrong. They were innocent victims of the brutality of traditional Dakota warfare.

General Comments

  • Unbalanced – The title suggests that this essay is balanced. It is not balanced, as shown below.
  • Incorrect – The “rift” between the Dakota and white communities is not as great as suggested in this essay. A few Dakota activists and some whites are benefiting from this supposed “rift.”
  • Incorrect – Reconciliation has different meanings to different people. For this reason, reconciliation is not possible unless all sides can agree on what it means. In almost all cases, it has been whites who have initiated reconciliation.
  • Incorrect – At the time of the internment camp at Fort Snelling, “Soldiers at the fort raped women and those who resisted were often killed…” This quote is credited to Monjeau-Marz, The Dakota Indian Internment at Fort Snelling, 1862-64. It cannot be found on the page cited by the author. This is incorrect.
  • Unbalanced – If it is said that the U.S. committed genocide against the Dakota, then it must be said that the Dakota committed genocide against the white settlers.
  • Unbalanced – How did the Dakota mark historic places before the whites came. Is marking historic places a “white thing”?
  • Unbalanced – The Dakota communities have land and money. Did they erect signs and monuments to remember the Dakota War? Have they had ceremonies to remember the Dakota War and if they did, did they invite whites to these ceremonies?
  • Unbalanced – The author does not mention the atrocities committed by the hostile Dakota during the war. Number killed is important but it is also important to discuss the brutality of traditional Dakota warfare.
  • Disrespectful – The “fur traders” are criticized a number of times. I ask the author to name those fur traders who cheated the Indians and show proof.  Continue reading

Review – DNR Lake Shetek Signs

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Lake Shetek State Park Signs
Reviewed November 6, 2014

Items of Interest

 These signs are located throughout the park including the interpretive center which is a building separate from the park office. Stop in the park office to obtain the locations of these signs.

The signs provide maps, photos, information on the attack and information on the settlers before, during and after the attack.

A tall monument marks the mass-grave of the Shetek victims.

General Comments

  • Unbalanced – This is one of a few sites where more needs to be said about the Dakota involved:
    • The map in the interpretive center shows a site titled “Old Pawn” across the lake west of the Duley cabin site. Little is said of Old Pawn, a Dakota neighbor. Was this a Dakota village site? When the settlers were attacked, whose side was he on? What happened to him after the attack? Why isn’t his site shown on the maps on the trail signs?
    • Lean Bear and White Lodge are mentioned. Who were they? Where were their villages? What happened to White Lodge after the attack?
    • Who were the other Dakota involved in the attack?
    • During the attack, settlers gathered at the Wright cabin for defense. One sign says 8 Dakota joined them. One sign says several Dakota joined them. A sign in the interpretive center says that about 9 Dakota lived on the lake in the summer. Other signs do not mention these Dakota. Who were they?
    • The Slaughter Slough site has a memorial on the site. But no mention is made of this in the park.
  • Incorrect – Text on the signs describing the gathering at the Wright cabin for defense differs from sign to sign. There are 6 different versions of this event.
  • Incorrect – Text on the signs describing the events just prior to Slaughter Slough differs from sign to sign.
  • An attempt is made to explain why the Dakota attacked the whites. No mention is made that this was part of a larger series of attacks on the settlers across the frontier. Why did these Indians attack the settlers at this time?
  • Incorrect – The word “battle” is used twice. This was hardly a battle. It was a massacre.

Continue reading

Review – MHS FR Trail Signs

 Minnesota Historical Society
Fort Ridgely Trail Signs
Revised – October 20, 2014

 Items of Interest

 When these signs were installed, it was rumored, that MHS intended to make this a self-guided tour and close the Fort Ridgely interpretive center. If not for the Friends of Fort Ridgely and later Nicollet County Historical Society, the Fort Ridgely interpretive center would have closed.

 General Comments

  • U.S.-Dakota Conflict is used here while US-Dakota War is used in other exhibits.
  • The diagram of the Battles of Fort Ridgely is very incorrect.
  • Subjects that should be mentioned here, but are not:
    • Estimates of defenders, refugees and attackers
    • Specifications about the weapons especially the cannons
    • Lt. Sheehan’s forced-march back to Fort Ridgely
    • The return of the Renville Rangers to Fort Ridgely
    • Later in the 2nd battle, the Indians withdrew from the northeast and moved to the southwest to stage one final assault
    • Firing 2 red-hot cannonballs through the hallway of the commander and surgeon’s house into the barn to set it on fire
    • Battle of Birch Coulee

Continue reading