Review – MHS Northern Lights Book – 2nd Edition

Northern Lights:The Stories of Minnesota’s Past.
Second Edition
By Dave Kenney
St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2003.
Reviewed on January 6, 2012

 Items of Interest

 This is a Minnesota History textbook designed to be used in 5th grade classes in Minnesota schools. It is marketed by the Minnesota Historical Society.

 General Comments

  •  The Dakota are defined to be the seven council fires: Mdewakanton, Wahpeton, Wahpekute, Sisseton, Yanktonai, Yankton, and Teton.
  • Incorrect – There are many generalities that do not apply to all “Dakota.”
  • Who, where and when is often not defined.
  • This textbook contains a mixture of fictional stories, Dakota legends and facts. Can the 5th grade student distinguish what is fact and what is fiction?
  • Disrespectful – This book implies at least 3 times that the fur traders were dishonest.  Name the dishonest fur traders and show the proof.
  • Unbalanced – Much more information is given about Dakota culture than is given about other ethnic groups.
  • The intensive warfare between the Ojibwe and Dakota is down-played.
  • Unbalanced – The role of the Indians who opposed the 1862 war is ignored.
  • Unbalanced – The Dakota War aftermath discusses the Dakota but not the whites.

 Most Objectionable Statements

 Page 25

 “Of all the people who live in Minnesota, the Dakota have lived here the longest.”
—Incorrect – This would be difficult if not impossible to prove.

“For centuries the Dakota have kept their history alive through…oral tradition…”
—Incorrect – Maybe many have but many have not.

Timeline at the bottom of pages 24 and 25
—Where did the Dakota come from? When did they arrive in present day Minnesota?

Page 26

“Born to a Dakota woman… [Charles Eastman] spent his childhood among the Dakota.”
—Charles Eastman was also part white.

Page 27 

Dakota activities in spring, summer and autumn
—Incorrect – Who, where, when? These activities did not apply to all Dakota.

Page 28

 “Each council fire was named for the place where its people lived.”
—Incorrect – When did they live in these places?

Page 30

“Each family packed up… and headed to the hunting grounds that the chief had chosen.”
—Incorrect – Villages did not always hunt together.

Page 32

“The Circle of History” – Dakota philosophy of “history.
—What does this mean? – Do young readers understand this?

Page 34 

Quote from Ella Deloria, Speaking of Indians, 1944
—Ella Deloria wrote about the Yankton and Teton. Does this apply to all Dakota?

A summary of Dakota seasonal activities is repeated here.
—Incorrect – Who, where and when are not given. This did not apply to all Dakota.

Page 35

 Photo of the inside of a Dakota tipi

—Incorrect – Who, where and when are not given. This size tipi was not used by all Dakota.

Page 36

Painting of an Indian using a travois
Quote by Samuel Pond about moving and setting up a tipi
—Incorrect – Who, where and when are not given.

Page 37

Quote by Charles Eastman about bison hunts
—Incorrect – Who, where and when are not given

Page 38

Dakota containers are discussed
—Incorrect – Who, where and when are not given.

Page 48

 “…eventually, Dakota and the Ojibwe got tired of war.”
—Incorrect – They may have signed a peace treaty in 1679, but there continued to be frequent warfare between them.

Page 56

The Fur Trade
—Unbalanced – This discussion focuses on the trade in northern Minnesota

Page 58

 “The traders began organizing themselves into businesses, and some of them became extremely wealthy.”
—Incorrect – Who became extremely rich?  Rhoda Gilman said Henry Sibley at best broke even in the fur trade.

 “His wildly embellished accounts made him famous…”
—How do we know Hennepin’s accounts were “wildly embellished?”

Page 60

“Trader – a wealthy man in charge of a trading post”
—Incorrect – Sibley, head of the fur trade in Minnesota, at best broke even.

 “Going to the Source” – Discussion of the early fur trade
—Incorrect – Where and when did this activity occur?

Page 61

Map – Main Routes and Trading Centers of the Fur Trade
—Incorrect – What is the date of this map?

Page 65

“By 1804 the fur trade was entering its final decades.”
—Incorrect – The fur trade would continue for many decades.

Page 74

“On July 23, 1851, the U.S….and the Dakota signed a land treaty at Traverse des Sioux…”
—Incorrect – The treaty was with the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands.

Page 75

“1851 – U.S…. and the Dakota sign land treaties at Traverse des Sioux and at Mendota.”
—Incorrect – All of the Dakota bands were not involved in these treaties.

Page 76

Regarding the Treaty of 1805 – “There, the Dakota bands met for a council with him.”
—Incorrect – Only a very few villages and leaders met with Pike.

 “The U.S. believed that the fort…would help keep peace among the Indians”
—Previous text states that there was peace between the Sioux and Ojibwe.

Page 77

“The Dakota lived in five communities near Fort Snelling”
—Incorrect – The Dakota lived in more than 5 communities not just 5 near Fort Snelling.

“They gathered there [below Fort Snelling] as they had for centuries. They [Ojibwe] and the Dakota usually met in peace, but now and then old conflicts flared up.”
—Incorrect – To say they gathered there for centuries cannot be proven.
—Incorrect – They rarely met in peace.

“As the Indian agent at Fort Snelling, Lawrence Taliaferro helped the Dakota and Ojibwe avoid dealing with dishonest traders”
—Incorrect – This was only one of many of his functions.
—Disrespectful – Name the traders who were dishonest and prove this.

Page 78

“To the Indians, Minnesota was…home…No one could own it and no one could sell it.”
—Incorrect – If no one could sell it, why did they sell it?

“The Dakota, the Ojibwe, and the U.S. signed the first major Minnesota land treaty in 1837.”
—Incorrect – The U.S. signed a treaty with the Ojibwe and a treaty with the Mdewakanton Dakota Band.

“The Dakota had seen other Indians pushed from their lands. Soon, the Dakota feared they would be forced to leave too.”
—Incorrect – Who did the Dakota see pushed from their lands?
—The Ojibwe pushed the Dakota from northern Minnesota.
—The Dakota pushed other tribes when they migrated.
—Incorrect – To say what “the Dakota” feared is not possible.

Page 79

“Although many Indians believed it was no more possible to sell their land than the air they breathed, others felt the time was right.”
—Incorrect – Then why did they sell their land?

“The Dakota believed that through treaties they could keep at least some of their land and control their own future.”
—Incorrect – To say what “the Dakota” believed is not possible.

Page 80

—Ramsey is mentioned as the 2nd State Governor, but Sibley is not mentioned as the 1st State Governor.

“They [missionaries] pushed for the treaties to include plans for manual-labor schools, where children would be separated from their families and taught to farm like the white newcomers.”
—Incorrect – The children were not “separated” without their parents’ consent.
—Incorrect – The children were taught more than just farming.

Page 82

At the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, “Stephen Riggs and the other missionaries move among the Dakota camps, translating the document.”
—Incorrect – There were other translators besides the missionaries.

“Upiyahideya says he suspects the Dakota will never see much of the money promised them under the treaty.”
—Incorrect – Upiyahideya spoke these words after Ramsey and Lea signed.

Page 83

“On the second day of negotiations…Star Face told Alexander Ramsey that he wanted to wait for a group of young men from his band to arrive…Ramsey insisted that the Dakota elders who were participating in the negotiations were perfectly capable of making decisions on their own”
—The commissioners had waited almost 3 weeks for all of the Indians to arrive before they opened negotiations.

The U.S. Senate changed the terms of the treaty so that the “permanent” reservation became “temporary.”
—This is not totally correct – According to terms of the treaties, the U.S. could not force the Dakota to leave the reservations without their consent.

“And as the Dakota had suspected, some of the cash that they thought they were going to receive actually went to the fur traders.  Some also went to the missionaries who claimed that the Indians had damaged some of their property.”
—Money that went to the traders was for debts owed. Money that went to the missionaries was for livestock killed by Dakota.
—Disrespectful – “the missionaries claimed” suggest the missionary claims were not valid.

Page 86

“Taoyateduta…described…what he had seen happening to tribes in the eastern U.S.”
—Incorrect – The book jumps from 1851 to Little Crow’s speech in 1862 and then back to Inyangmani’s speech in 1851 without indication to reader.
—Incorrect – How can it be determined that he was talking about tribes in the eastern U.S.?

“Inyangmani…described the starvation of his people.  Both Indian and white people overhunted game in Dakota lands.”
—Incorrect – Where were whites hunting on Dakota lands?

Page 87

Wabasha says that he doesn’t think the treaty benefits them
Upiyahideya says the land is worth more and he doesn’t trust the whites
Taoyateduta says the money isn’t enough
—Unbalanced – Wasn’t there anything good about these treaties?

Page 95

“Where were Indians supposed to go when white settlement pushed them off their land?”
—Incorrect – The Dakota were not pushed off their land.
—Unbalanced – Both the Ojibwe and Dakota pushed others off their land.

“The Dakota reservation ran for 10 miles along the Minnesota River.”
—Incorrect – The 1851 treaties created 2 reservations which were a total of 20 miles wide by about 150 miles long.

“The government wanted them to learn how to farm like white settlers, but they preferred to hunt, fish, and plant their traditional foods as they always had…”
—Incorrect – The farmer Indians continued to hunt, fish and plant their traditional foods.

Page 120

Photo of a bayonet – The student is asked, “How close would you need to be to the enemy to use a bayonet?”
—This seems to be an odd question to ask a 5th-grader.

Page 123

“1851- Land treaties at Traverse des Sioux and Mendota are signed between the Dakota and the U.S.”
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota were involved in these treaties.

“1858 – Treaty between Dakota and U.S. turns over the northern part of the Dakota reservation on the Minnesota River to the United States.”
—Incorrect – There were 2 treaties in 1858.
—Incorrect – There were 2 reservations.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota were involved in these treaties.

“Dec. 1862 – Thirty-eight Dakota are hanged for their role in the Dakota War.
—Unbalanced – What about white deaths after the war?

“The 1851 treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota – and another treaty in 1858 – had left the Dakota just a 10-mile-wide strip of land along the southern side of the Minnesota River and a promise of an annual payment…”
—Incorrect – There were 2 treaties in 1858
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota were involved in these treaties.
—Incorrect – The reservations combined were about 150 miles long.
—Incorrect – They received much more than annual payments.

“White settlers were taking over land where the Dakota still hunted game and gathered food.”
—Incorrect – This land was the land ceded by the treaties.

—Incorrect – The Indians agreed in their treaties to stay on the reservations.

Page 124

“…the Dakota were limited to their reservations on a strip of land…”
“The Dakota’s narrow strip of land along the Minnesota River…”
—Incorrect – At 10 miles by 150 miles total, these reservations were hardly narrow strips.

“The Lower Sioux Agency was near the junction of the Minnesota and Redwood Rivers”
—Incorrect – As first it was.  Later it was some 5 miles from the junction.

“He [Galbraith] was the person responsible for carrying out the U.S. government policy… which was designed to make the Dakota reject their culture and accept white culture.”
—Incorrect – The U.S. wanted them to become farmers, cut their hair and wear white clothes.  By becoming farmers, they weren’t rejecting their culture. Culture is more than this.

Page 125

“The agent also oversaw a host of government workers, including…a doctor.”
—Incorrect – There were 2 doctors.

“The government allowed a small group of traders – including the unpopular Andrew Myrick…”
—Disrespectful – If Myrick was unpopular, he would have gone out of business. 

 “The traders usually worked on a credit system. They provided goods to the Dakota with the understanding that the Dakota would pay their debts when they received their annuities.”
—Incorrect – The traders also took in furs. The Indians were still bringing in furs in 1862. The traders traded with agency employees and settlers on the frontier.

“The traders kept written records of every business deal they made.  The Dakota did not.  As a result, dishonest traders were able to cheat the Dakota by claiming debts that the Dakota did not actually owe.”
—Extremely Disrespectful – Name these dishonest traders and show proof.

“So far as I am concerned, if they are hungry, let them eat grass.”
—Incorrect – Why did Myrick say this?
—Incorrect – It was the responsibility of the U.S. to feed the Indians.

“At this time, most white Americans felt that assimilation was the best thing for Indians.”
—Incorrect – Can anyone say what most white Americans felt?

 Page 126

 “…abandoned traditional Dakota customs and adapted to the white people’s way of life”
—Incorrect – The farmer Indians never completely abandoned traditional Dakota customs. They also continued to hunt and gather.

“A main source of tension on the reservation was the combined effort of the government and the missionaries to remake Dakota culture.”
—Incorrect – They were not trying to remake Dakota culture
—Incorrect – The tension came from the traditional Indians who did not want their people making these changes.

Page 127

“But often those annuities were late and smaller than the Dakota expected.”
—How often were the annuities late? How late were they?
—Were the annuities actually less or were the Dakota wrong?

“In a short time, the Dakota became dependent on the distributions.”
—Were the bison hunters dependent on the distributions?

“The credit system – with its many opportunities for trader cheating.”
—Disrespectful – Name the traders who cheated the Indians and show the proof.

“But in the summer of 1862, traders shut down the entire credit system. They refused to extend any more credit because annuity payments were late.”
—Incorrect – Not all of the traders shut down.
—Incorrect – One of the reasons that most of the traders stopped giving credits was because they learned Dakota planned to drive up their debts and then refuse to pay.

Page 129

“Taopi and many of the other farm Dakota tried their best to stay away from the fighting”
—Incorrect – The farmers and Christians were forced by the traditional Indians to join them against the whites.
—Unbalanced – The opposition of the Indians who opposed the war is not discussed. This was a civil war between the Indians not between the Indians and the whites.

Page 130

“…Colonel Henry Sibley…led 1,600 well-armed soldiers…”
—Unbalanced – Except for cannons, the Dakota were also well-armed.

Page 131

“Henry Sibley held the trials of the accused Dakota in this trader’s cabin…”
—Incorrect – Most of the trials were held in this cabin.

“That fall…Colonel Sibley set up what he called a “court” to judge the hundreds of Dakota that his men had taken prisoner.  But it was a court in name only…”
—Unbalanced – Compare this to the Dakota trial system. If the Indians had broken through the barricades at New Ulm and Fort Ridgely, they would have killed everyone.
—Disrespectful – That this was “a court in name only” is a matter of opinion.

“[Sibley] ordered that the remaining prisoners be sent to a military prison camp in Iowa.”
—Incorrect – Sibley was not the one who ordered them taken to Iowa.
—Incorrect – During the trials, some were found innocent and released.  Some were found guilty and sentenced to prison only.

Page 132

“It was the largest mass execution in U.S. history.”
—Incorrect – It was the largest simultaneous mass execution in U.S. history.
—Unbalanced – The mass-murder of more than 650 white civilians by Indians was the largest mass-murder of civilians by Indians in U.S. history.

“The government ordered the rest of the Dakota…to an outdoor prison camp…”
—Incorrect – This was not a prison camp.
—Incorrect – The Indians had their tipis, firewood, food and medical attention.

“The missionary John P. Williamson…went to visit [at Crow Creek].”
—Incorrect – He went with them and stayed with them.

Page 139

“In August of 1862, Lorenzo Lawrence…living with his family near Lac qui Parle…”
—Incorrect – He was living just west of Hazelwood Mission.

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