A Clash of Cultures: Understanding the Dakota War of 1862
By Milt and Jamie Lee, Lee Productions
Reviewed on March 12, 2013
- Many opinions are given that are not correct.
- Disrespectful – Statements are made about “the fur traders” that are disrespectful. Who were “the fur traders?” Name those who cheated the Dakota and show proof.
- Unbalanced – While a few incidents of whites being killed by Dakota are discussed, one does not get a feel for the brutality and totality of traditional Dakota warfare.
Most Objectionable Statements
Four young Dakota hunters killed 5 settlers who lived along the Minnesota River.
—Incorrect – They were killed in Acton Township.
This was the largest public mass execution in U.S. history.
—Incorrect – This was the largest simultaneous public mass execution.
There weren’t any hostile Indians in the 1600s.
—Incorrect – The Dakota and Ojibwe were at war.
The French fur traders needed the Indians more than the Indians needed the French.
—Incorrect – This was a mutually beneficial relationship.
In the early fur trade, the French fur traders gave gifts of factory goods to the Dakota in the fall. In the spring, gifts of furs were reciprocated to the fur traders.
—Incorrect – Maybe gifts were given at first contact. The Dakota knew about trading before the fur traders arrived. The fur trade was an exchange of value for value.
We never looked at the kinship with the traders that they would do what they did to us.
—Disrespectful – What did “the traders” do to the Dakota?
The traders wanted the Indians to become dependent and go into debt.
—Incorrect – The traders were happy to have all of their debts paid in the spring.
The Indians lived a migrant life style. Only so many pots could be carried. So, the traders turned to dealing alcohol. They wrote about their desire to addict Indians to alcohol. If the Indians became addicted to alcohol, they would hunt more.
—Incorrect – The Indians had base villages, went out from their villages and then returned to their villages.
—Is this correct? – The traders wrote about their desire to addict the Dakota to alcohol. This is a general statement about “the traders” that needs proof.
The fur trade died out.
—Incorrect – Furs were being traded beyond 1862.
The Dakota once had all of Minnesota.
—Incorrect – Show proof that at any time in history, the Dakota occupied all of Minnesota.
The Dakota ended up with a narrow strip.
—Incorrect – I would not call 10 x 150 miles a narrow strip. The Dakota continued to leave their reservations.
It is how the treaties were carried out, the broken promises that caused the war.
—Incorrect – The causes of the Dakota War were much more complicated than this.
In the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, the Mdewakanton sold 21 million acres.
—Incorrect – The 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux was with the Sisseton and Wahpeton.
—Incorrect – The actual number of acres sold was never accurately calculated.
The 1858 Treaty took the northern strip away from the Dakota.
—Incorrect – There were 2 treaties in 1858.
—Incorrect – According to the 1851 Treaties, the Dakota did not own their reservations. In 1858, the Dakota were given ownership of their reservations on the south side of the Minnesota River.
U.S. manifest destiny – it is our right to take
—Unbalanced – The Dakota felt it was their right to kill other people and take their land. The U.S. wrote treaties, the Dakota did not.
In the Treaty negotiations of 1851, the Dakota said you haven’t paid us what you promised in the Treaty of 1838. Where is the money you promised in 1838?
—Incorrect – This should be 1837.
—Incorrect – The U.S. had been making the 1837 Treaty payments. The Dakota wanted to be paid the balance remaining in 1851.
The Dakota were goaded into signing the treaties of 1851.
—Incorrect – The Sisseton and Wahpeton wanted the treaties. They were starving.
Sibley was the foundation of the illegal treaty process.
—Disrespectful – If Sibley cheated the Dakota, show proof.
The 1851 Treaties gave away all of the Dakota land in Minnesota. The Dakota didn’t give it away; it was stolen.
—Incorrect – The land was not given away. It was purchased.
—Disrespectful – The land was not stolen. There needs to be more said on this subject.
There was so much that was wrong with the treaties. Even the people involved were ashamed afterwards.
—Disrespectful – Is this correct? – Who was ashamed?
The immigrants to Minnesota came under false pretenses.
—Disrespectful – What does this mean?
Our Swedish people came here illegally. Our ancestors were coming here taking land from the people who were here. It was a big takeover.
—Incorrect – Why does this person think their ancestors came here illegally?
From the minute the treaty was signed, people flooded in by thousands to homestead land. Townships were being platted before treaties were ratified.
—Is this correct? Which townships were being platted?
One sad irony was many Europeans had been evicted from their land. They came here and in most cases unwittingly evicted Dakota off their land.
—Disrespectful – Why does it matter if some of the immigrants had been evicted from their land?
—Incorrect – How did the settlers evict Dakota off their land?
—Unbalanced – The Dakota killed members of other tribes and took their land.
Gabriel Renville was an influential leader of the Sisseton band.
—Incorrect – Gabriel Renville was a Wahpeton leader.
It was a clash of values. To one group, family mattered. To another group, it was wealth. To another it was tradition or religion. To another it was a need to change and adapt.
—What does this mean?
—Incorrect – Family mattered to all groups.
Heritage and values determine that you are really an Indian. Historians have almost to a person neglected the role of the Dakota Christians and farmers. About 200 Dakota families were on farms. The Dakota farmers were successful. They were making the adjustment slowly. They weren’t becoming white. They were still Indians. This is one of the injustices history does to the Dakota people. History neglects the Christians and the farmers. The Dakota Christians and farmers tried to live peaceably with the whites and the traditional Dakota.
—Excellent statement by Dr. Elden Lawrence
One of the traders said if you are hungry eat grass.
—Incorrect – This was said because Andrew Myrick learned that the soldiers’ lodge members planned to refuse to pay their debts when the annuities arrived.
A cold winter was coming. The money was late. This started the unrest.
—Incorrect – This was August. It was still about 2 months before winter.
—Incorrect – The causes of the Dakota War were much more complicated.
Special government agent George Day came in the fall of 1861. He talked to the Dakota people. They told Day their story. The Dakota wanted this so there would be no war. Day found fraud and violations of law by all connections up to Washington. Had U.S. acted on this report, things might have been different.
—There needs to be more research done on who Day interviewed, what he reported and why it was not acted upon.
Young Dakota men were sent out to hunt for food. They came upon a farm near Acton. They took some eggs that did not belong to them. The farmer caught them. The Dakota challenged each other – are you going to stand up to this man?
—Incorrect – This is one of many versions of the story. We will never know what led up to the murders in Acton Township.
The Battle of Redwood Ferry was August 19-21.
—Incorrect – The Battle of Redwood Ferry was August 18.
The Battle of Birch Coulee was the only battle that the Dakota warriors won.
—Incorrect – They also won the Battle of Redwood Ferry.
During the Dakota War, a war between the Mdewakanton and the Sisseton and Wahpeton was developing.
—This was more a war of words. A large majority of the Sisseton and Wahpeton opposed war with the whites.
400-800 settlers were killed. 150-180 Dakota were killed. This increased dramatically after the war, including 38 tried and hung in Mankato.
—Incorrect – More than 650 whites were killed.
—Incorrect – About 145 Dakota were killed.
—Unbalanced – Hundreds of whites also died after the war from wounds received and from epidemics that swept the crowded refugee towns.
2000 Dakota surrendered because of a promise from Sibley that they would be treated humanely – another promise broken. The government decided to remove the Dakota from the State.
—Incorrect – All 2000 did not surrender. Most of them waited for Sibley to arrive.
—Disrespectful – How many more whites and Dakota would have been killed if Sibley had not made this promise?
—Incorrect – All of the Dakota were not removed from the State.
2000 people surrendered thinking they would be treated humanely as prisoners of war. They waited for Sibley to show up thinking they would be treated humanely as prisoners of war.
—Disrespectful – How many more whites and Dakota would have been killed if Sibley had not made this promise?
They were forced-marched 150 miles – 150 miles that took 7 days – Women, children and old people.
—Incorrect – They were not forced-marched.
—Incorrect – No one marched 150 miles in 1862. The distance from the Lower Sioux Agency via Fort Ridgely and Henderson to Fort Snelling was about 100 miles.
—Incorrect – There were also young Dakota men on the march to Fort Snelling. See Gabriel Renville’s account in Through Dakota Eyes.
A graphic account is given of a Dakota woman who fell while being chased by U.S. soldiers. The soldiers surrounded her and probably killed her.
—Unbalanced – Where is the graphic and heart-wrenching account of white women being killed by hostile Dakota?
The hurt and the anger stay present for generations.
—Incorrect – Not for all descendants of Dakota War victims.
How can they be tried for murder when it was one nation against another?
—In today’s terms, the killings of innocent civilians are war crimes.
Women and children on both sides of the war were killed.
—Incorrect – It cannot be proven that Dakota women and children were killed.
Take a group of people, subjugate them; don’t give them any opportunities; tell them their lives are worthless and sooner or later some of them do not value human life.
—Incorrect – How were they subjugated? They continued to leave the reservations.
—Incorrect – They were given opportunities to learn how to farm. Those who wanted to hunt freely moved off the reservations to hunt. What opportunities should have been given them?
—Incorrect – Who was telling them their lives were worthless?
—Unbalanced – The majority of the Dakota people opposed war with the whites. 100-150 young Dakota men made the decision to go to war. Friendly Dakota allied with the U.S. Army brought an early end to this war. Does this justify killing more than 650 innocent people?
The process of being disenfranchised does things to people. You want to be in control. The Inquisition was genocide.
—Refer to my comments on the previous paragraph.
—Incorrect – Is this an indication that what happened to the Dakota was genocide?
At Fort Snelling, there is a photograph of Bishop Whipple presiding over a huge bonfire where Dakota people were burning their idols. This was conditional conversion. Do you want to live, do you want to survive?
—Incorrect – There is not a photo of Bishop Whipple presiding over a bonfire at Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect – For most who converted to Christianity at Fort Snelling, this was not conditional. In their defeat, they believed that the God of the whites was superior to their own gods.
—Incorrect – They did not convert to survive. Look forward into the future, when they reached the Santee Reservation. Most of them remained true to their conversion.
I can understand. How can you give up your way of life and lose the place where your ancestors lived and lose your way of life and go someplace else and feel like a complete human being?
—Incorrect – Most did not give up their way of life. They continued to hunt and gather.
—Incorrect – Most did not have to move.
—Unbalanced – Every immigrant who came to Minnesota gave up the place where their ancestors lived and their way of life in their homeland.
—Disrespectful – The Dakota Indians as well as the immigrants adapted. Lost of way of life and homeland did not diminish them as humans.
We can’t look at 1862 from our lens today. There was incredible amount of racism. The Dakota were not “Euro-American. The Indians would have to become like whites if they wanted to survive. Indigenous way of life was due for failure.
—If the speaker is not saying there was racism on both sides, then this statement is unbalanced.
—Incorrect – The Dakota would have to adapt to some of the ways of the whites such as farming. They were still Dakota.
You had a whole society that could not differentiate between hostile and friendly Dakota.
—Incorrect – If this were true, all of the Dakota would have been removed from the State.