Review – MRVNSB Website

Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway
Reviewed April 9, 2013

 Items of Interest

The MRVNSB has been in operation since 1997. According to their website, the purpose of the MRVNSB is to “encourage aconomic [should be economic] development through the promotion, preservation, and protection of the intrinsic qualities of the Minnesota River Valley. Duties of the Alliance include: developing and distributing marketing materials for the byway (brochures, videos, website, etc.); seeking opportunities to work with other groups and organizations to preserve, promote, protect the river valley; to educate residents and visitors about the recreational, scenic, historical, environmental, cultural and archaeological characteristics of the river valley; seek funding to complete byway projects.”

 Funding for the creation of this website was provided by:
Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission
Minnesota Department of Transportation
Explore Minnesota Tourism
Federal Highway Administration
It is sad to see how poorly it has been maintained after these groups have given grants for it.

I am reviewing the website as it relates to the Dakota War of 1862 and as it relates to attracting tourists. 

General Comments

  • This website is not a good representative for the Minnesota River Valley. Information needs to be updated. Links need to be updated. More businesses and members need to be added. More events need to be added. Only 36 businesses and 19 members are listed.
  • Take a look at the website and judge for yourself.
  • In 2011, with $37,565 from the Minnesota Legacy Fund, 10 additional signs were installed in the river valley. I can find no mention of these signs on this website.
  • Rather than spending so much time and money on signs, the MRVNSB should spend more time and money attracting new members and tourists.

Most Objectionable Statements

Calendar of Events

—Very few people are posting their events.

To download our 2010 calendar…
—Incorrect – This wording has not been updated for 3 years.

Top Things to See and Do

—Only thumbnail photos are shown with no descriptions.

News and Events

—The last item posted is from 2007. How sad. What does a prospective tourist think upon viewing this page?

Photo Gallery

—Only 3 photos and titles are shown with no descriptions.

Video Clips

—Upon entry to this screen, I get the message, “An error occurred, please try again later.” I am told I have to download free software in order to play these videos. When I try to download this software, I get a warning that there is a risk in downloading this software, do I want to continue? I don’t like software that comes with these warnings, so I don’t download this software and cannot view these videos.

Byway Alliance

—Only 19 names are listed. This list has not been updated for at least 9 months.

Businesses – Lodging

—Only 1 business is listed.

Businesses – Food and Beverage

—Only 3 businesses are listed.

Businesses – Shopping

—Only 1 business is listed.

Businesses – Services

—23 businesses are listed.

Businesses – Other

—8 businesses are listed.

—The membership brochure is dated 2011.

Discovery Sites

Site 22: Lac qui Parle Lake (“lake that speaks”)

Lac qui Parle is a French translation of the name given to the lake by the Dakota Indians who called it the lake that speaks. If you visit in the spring or fall you’ll understand why. The lake is a stop over for thousands of migratory Canada geese and other waterfowl…
—Incorrect – There are at least 4 sources for the name. This is only one of them.

If you are looking for a quiet place away from the city, this is the perfect place…The nearest city, Minneapolis, is 120 miles away.
—Incorrect – There are other cities closer than Minneapolis.

Site 23: Lac qui Parle State Park

Shortly after 1826, an independent fur trader named Joseph Renville built a stockade overlooking the foot of Lac qui Parle. Within the stockade, Dr. Thomas Smith Williamson and Alexander Huggins founded the Lac qui Parle Sioux Mission in July, 1835. The missionaries translated the Gospel and several hymns into the Dakota language.
—Incorrect – Huggins did not participate in the translations. Other missionaries participated in these translations and they should be named.

Site 24: Fort Renville

—There are 3 sites that discuss Joseph Renville. Shouldn’t all this interpretation be here?

In 1822, he established Fort Renville as a trading post…
—Incorrect – For Site 23, it states Renville built a stockade in 1826.

Renville invited missionaries to establish the Lac qui Parle Mission near his post in 1835…
—Incorrect – The previous site states Williamson and Huggins were inside the stockade.

Site 25: Lac qui Parle Mission Site

—There are 3 sites that discuss the Lac qui Parle Mission. Shouldn’t all this interpretation be here?

Missionaries came to Lac Qui Parle many years before white people arrived.
—Incorrect – Joseph Renville and his children were part white.

A Wahpeton Dakota band established a village along a wide portion of the Minnesota River…They hunted the prairies and valleys, and cultivated corn, beans, and squash.
—Did they cultivate these crops or grow them? Were the Dakota growing these crops before the missionaries arrived?

Joseph Renville, an explorer and fur trader whose mother was Dakota and father was French, established a trading post nearby in 1826.
—Incorrect – Did he establish the post in 1822 or 1826?

Translating the bible: The missionaries had begun developing a Dakota alphabet before they arrived at Lac qui Parle. Because Renville was fluent in French and Dakota, together they began translating the Bible at Lac qui Parle. One missionary would read aloud in French, Renville would translate orally into Dakota, and other missionaries would write what they heard. Dr. Thomas Smith Williamson, who led the mission team, finished the project in 1879.
—Incorrect and disrespectful – The Pond Brothers should be given credit for developing the Dakota alphabet. Others added to it. The missionaries, who helped, should be named.

Renville also translated a dozen hymns into Dakota and even wrote one himself. A strong and noble hymn, it is undoubtedly the most widely known product of Lac qui Parle. “Dakota Hymn” is well known in English by its first line, “Many and Great, O God, Are Thy Things.” The traditional Dakota music in hymnals is named “Lac qui Parle”.
—What does this mean – The traditional Dakota music in hymnals is named “Lac qui Parle.”

Site 26: Camp Release State Monument

The Minnesota River Valley and Montevideo played an integral part in the Dakota War of 1862.
—Incorrect – Montevideo was not there in 1862.

The Camp Release Monument was dedicated on July 4, 1894, commemorating the release of 269 captives and the surrender of about 1200 Dakota people at the end of the conflict.
—Incorrect – The Scenic Byway sign on this site states 270 captives. Which is correct?
—Incorrect – Does the author think there were a total of 1200 Dakota here and they all surrendered or of the total Dakota here only 1200 surrendered?
—Incorrect – In the previous paragraph, it was called a war; here it is called a conflict.

Site 37: Wood Lake Battlefield/Monument

On September 19, 1862, Col. Henry Hastings Sibley set out from Fort Ridgely with 1,500 volunteers to put down the Santee uprising. As they neared Wood Lake on September 23, Sibley’s men escaped an ambush by 700 warriors under Chief Little Crow and engaged them in a battle. Sibley’s force won the day inflicting heavy casualties on the Sioux. For this action, Sibley received a promotion to brigadier general. Wood Lake was the first decisive defeat of the Sioux since the uprising began.
—Incorrect – There were more than 1,500 men.
—Incorrect – These were not all volunteers.
—What does Santee mean? Why not say Dakota?
—Incorrect – Here it is called an uprising. In other text it is called a conflict or a war.
—Incorrect – Wood Lake should be Lone Tree Lake.
—Incorrect – They did not escape an ambush as they neared Lone Tree Lake.
—Incorrect – The battle occurred in the morning after they made camp.
—Incorrect – The word Sioux is used. Were they Dakota, Santee or Sioux?
—Incorrect – There were previous battles that were decisive defeats of the Dakota.

Site 38: Upper Sioux Agency State Park

…The Upper Sioux Agency (or Yellow Medicine Agency) was established by the federal government in 1854 to be a center for instructing the Dakota People in farming methods.
—Incorrect – This was not the only purpose of the Upper Sioux Agency.

Site 44: Schwandt Memorial

The Schwandt Memorial Monument was erected on August 18, 1915, near the spot where the Johan Schwandt family was murdered in the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862. It was erected in memory of the 6 Schwandt family members and 2 of their friendds that were killed on August 18, 1862. Two of the Schwandt children survived the attack. The daughter, Mary, was taken captive, but was protected by a Dakota woman, Snana. The son, August, managed to crawl away.
—Incorrect – As stated below on this sign, the entire family was not murdered.
—Incorrect – It was the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
—Incorrect – friendds is misspelled.

Site 45: Birch Coulee Battlefield State Historic Site

…Visitors can walk a self-guided trail through recreated prairie and read about the battle from the perspectives of Joseph Anderson, a captain in the U.S. Army, and Wamditanka (Big Eagle), a Mdewakanton soldier…
—Unbalanced – While Anderson is identified as a captain, Big Eagle is not identified as a chief.

The Sioux held an uprising (also known as the Dakota Conflict) in 1862 against the United States Army. It began along the Minnesota River and hundreds were killed. It is said that between 300 and 800 settlers were killed, making it one of the largest death toll of civilians. One reason for the uprising of the Sioux tribe was that the Dakotas were not being paid the money promised to them for their land. They were cheated out of over three million dollars as well as not receiving the food promised them. Failing crops also helped add to the problems. The payment for land finally arrived two days after the conflict began, but it was too late.
—Incorrect – Sioux should be Dakota.
—Incorrect – A minority of the Dakota went to war.
—Incorrect – They did not hold an uprising. They went to war.
—Incorrect – Dakota Conflict should be U.S.-Dakota War.
—Incorrect – They went to war against the U.S.
—Incorrect – More than 650 whites were killed and about 145 Dakota were killed.
—Incorrect – It was the largest mass-murder of white civilians by Indians in U.S. history.
—Incorrect – It was a war, not an uprising.
—Incorrect – The Sioux tribe did not go to war.
—Incorrect – The Dakota were being paid. The payment was late.
—Incorrect – They were not cheated out of three million dollars.
—Incorrect – Food was issued to the Upper Dakota. Food was not issued to the Lower Dakota.
—Incorrect – The payment arrived on the day the war began.

Convicted of murder, thirty-eight men of the Dakota Sioux tribe were executed. The government also decided to close down the reservation and to cancel all previous treaties signed with the Sioux tribe.
—Unbalanced – This was the largest simultaneous mass-execution in U.S. history.
—Incorrect – The treaties were signed with the Dakota or eastern Sioux.

Site 54: Lower Sioux Agency State Historic Site

Explore the history and culture of the Dakota, learn how government employees and missionaries sought to change their traditional way of life at the agency, and discover the roots of the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862 in the visitor center exhibit.
—Incorrect – This should be U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

Site 55: Fort Ridgely State Park and Historic Site

Yielding to pressure from the U.S. government in 1851, the Eastern Dakota (Eastern Sioux) sold 35 million acres of their land across southern and western Minnesota. The Dakota moved onto a small reservation along the Minnesota River, stretching from just north of New Ulm to today’s South Dakota border.
—Incorrect – Other text on this website uses the word Dakota to represent the 4 eastern bands of the Sioux. “Eastern Dakota” is not consistent with this usage.
—Incorrect – It is not known exactly how many acres were sold.
—Incorrect – The land they sold included part of Iowa and Dakota Territory.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota moved.
—Incorrect – There were 2 reservations.
—Incorrect – At a combined total of 20 by 150 miles, these were not small reservations.
—Incorrect – The Lower Reservation was northwest and west of New Ulm.

In 1853, the U.S. military started construction on Fort Ridgely, near the southern border of the new reservation and northwest of the German settlement of New Ulm. The fort was designed as a police station to keep peace as settlers poured into the former Dakota lands.
—Incorrect – It was near the eastern border.
—Incorrect – It was not a police station.

Nine years later, unkept promises by the U.S. government, nefarious practices by fur traders and crop failure all helped create tensions that erupted into the U.S.-Dakota war in August 1862. Dakota forces attacked the fort twice-on Aug. 20 and Aug. 22. The fort that had been a training base and staging ground for Civil War volunteers suddenly became one of the few military forts west of the Mississippi to withstand a direct assault. Fort Ridgely’s 280 military and civilian defenders held out until Army reinforcements ended the siege.
—Incorrect – unkept is not a word.
—Disrespectful – If MRVNSB can prove that any fur traders were nefarious, name them and show the proof, otherwise remove this disrespectful statement.
—Incorrect – The causes of the war were many and complicated.
—Incorrect – There were about 180 defenders.

Site 57: Depot Museum and Sleepy Eye’s Monument

—Incorrect – This should be Sleepy Eyes’.

Site 58: Harkin Store

Eight miles NE of New Ulm on CSAH 21.
—Incorrect – It is northwest of New Ulm.

Site 65: Brown County Historical Museum

—Mention should be made of the new 3rd floor exhibit.

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