Review – MHC Dakota and Ojibwe Perspectives Website

Minnesota Humanities Center
Dakota and Ojibwe Perspectives – Responses to Statehood
Reviewed on May 27, 2013
Updated on March 17, 2016

Items of Interest

[From the website]
In 2008, Minnesota recognized its sesquicentennial. Some many, even celebrated. Others did not. In the months leading up to the sesquicentennial, the Minnesota Humanities Center began working with Dakota and Ojibwe people to record stories of how statehood affected their homes, their families, their future. These stories are painfully absent from traditional histories of Minnesota textbooks, and other educational resources.

This website contains 41 short videos. I review only statements related to Dakota history.

General Comments

  • Unbalanced – Minnesota Humanities does not represent the white ethnic groups that were involved in the Dakota War of 1862.
  • There is very little mention of the warfare between the Dakota and Ojibwe.
  • More details are needed about complicated subjects.

Most Objectionable Statements

History, it is said, is often written by the victors, not the vanquished.
—Is this correct? I think, with some research, one can find considerable history written by and about the Dakota.

[Dakota Creation Story] – Wakan Tanka created many children. Bdote is the center of the earth. In English, this is Mendota. The story takes place here because it is marked on the landscape. Downriver is Barn Bluff and a 2nd bluff. These 2 bluffs were the first beings created by Wakan Tanka. They tie the Dakota Oyate to this land.
—Incorrect – For many years, Mille lacs Lake has been the Dakota place of creation. See Dahlheimer,
—For more information on the word Bdote see “Definitions” on the top bar.

Causes of the U. S. – Dakota War of 1862
     Encroachment on Dakota land by white settlers
     Depletion of game
     Pressure from missionaries, traders and Indian agents to confirm to white ways of being
—Incorrect – Indian agent Thomas Galbraith wrote that white settlement on Dakota land was not a cause of the war. I have not found any primary sources that say this was a cause.
—Incorrect – I have not found any primary sources that say depletion of game was a cause of the war.
—Incorrect – I have not found any primary sources that say pressure from missionaries and fur traders was a primary cause of the war.

Our ancestors declared war on the U.S. government and its citizens
—Incorrect – 100-150 young Dakota members of a Lower Dakota soldiers’ lodge declared war. The majority of the Dakota leaders were not involved. The majority of the Dakota opposed war with the whites.

Ramsey declared that the Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of this state. Everything that happened after Ramsey’s declaration was about fulfilling that call for extermination and forced removal. By today’s standards, this would be genocide and ethnic cleansing
—Incorrect – The U.S. decided what happened to the Dakota.
—Incorrect – More study is needed before saying anyone committed genocide and ethnic cleansing.
—Incorrect – Most of the Dakota were removed because hostile Dakota killed more than 650 innocent whites. By today’s standards, most of these murders would be called war crimes.

The U.S. has lied to us and stolen from us
—Unbalanced – While this may be true, we must understand why the majority of the Dakota opposed war with the whites.

When the war ended, the Dakota surrendered and hoped they would be treated as prisoners of war. Many fled…about 1700, mostly women and children, were forced-marched 150 miles to Fort Snelling. [Map of the route shows they went through Mankato.] November is cold. They had inadequate clothing, shelter and food.
—Incorrect – Not all Dakota surrendered. Friendly Dakota rescued the hostages held by the hostile Dakota and waited for the U.S. soldiers to arrive.
—Incorrect – Sibley said the guilty would be punished.
—Incorrect – They were not forced-marched. The total distance from the Lower Agency to Fort Snelling was about 100 miles.
—Incorrect – A map is shown of the route they took. They did not go through New Ulm, Mankato or St. Peter. See Bakeman and Richardson, Trails of Tears: Minnesota’s Dakota Indian Exile Begins.

They were paraded through white towns. Townspeople threw rocks, rotten food and sticks. They went down main street New Ulm. At the end of town, people poured boiling water on them from a 2nd floor building. Skin peeled off their arms and faces.
—Incorrect – They were not “paraded” through white towns.
—Disrespectful – More than 650 whites had been killed; some in the worst way imaginable. Didn’t the white have cause to be angry?
—Incorrect – They did not go down main street New Ulm. The closest they came to New Ulm was about 16-18 miles.

Elderly women couldn’t stop and relieve themselves in private. They were shot if they tried to do this. We lost a lot of people along the way. We still don’t know what happened to their bodies. Women and children ended up at Fort Snelling. About 300 died at Fort Snelling – These people were killed
—Incorrect – No primary sources state that women could not relieve themselves in private. With oxen in this train, they traveled about 2 miles an hour. They stopped maybe every 4 hours to rest and graze their livestock.
—Incorrect – If many people had died, this would have been reported. Perhaps 2 or 3 died on the way to Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect – Men were also taken to Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect – It can not be proven how many died at Fort Snelling. See Monjeau-Marz, Osman, “What You May Not Know about the Fort Snelling Indian Camps,” Minnesota Heritage Magazine, number 7.

Our people were confined in that difficult concentration camp where there was not adequate food and shelter and there was a lot of sickness and illness and cold and exposure to the elements. If we had not been confined, if we had been free people, we would not have suffered that many deaths.
—Incorrect – This was not a concentration camp.
—Incorrect – Prove that there was inadequate food.
—Incorrect – They had their tipis. Their shelter was the same here as elsewhere.
—Unbalanced – There was also a lot of sickness and illness among the whites.
—Incorrect – Had they been left at Camp Release, it is likely more would have died. The reservations had been shut down. There was no food remaining in the fields and gardens. Angry whites were moving back in. Hostile Dakota were to the west.
—See Monjeau-Marz, Osman, “What You May Not Know about the Fort Snelling Indian Camps,” Minnesota Heritage Magazine, number 7 for more information.

Immediately after their surrender, the men were separated from the women and children. They were shackled and tried by a military tribunal. On December 25, all the Christians celebrated the birth of Christ and then got up in the morning to cheer the mass execution of Dakota people. These 38 were heroes, martyrs and patriots. They were defending our land, our way of life and our people.
—Incorrect – Not all of the men were separated, shackled and tried.
—Unbalanced – Those who were hanged, were implicated in the murders of at least 99 civilians. By today’s standards, these were war crimes. 100-150 young Dakota men drew their people into a war that caused extreme consequences for their people.

The Dakota War was a result of incursion of settlers onto Dakota land. Dakota and Lakota warriors decided they had enough. The war started with raids on settlers.
—Incorrect – As stated above, white settlement on Dakota land did not cause the war.
—Incorrect – I cannot find that Lakota were involved in the decision to go to war.
—Incorrect – The war started with the attack on the Lower Sioux Agency.

Little Crow did not want war. His people needed his help. His people were fed up with the outright lies and theft of their property. They had enough and wanted to fight back.
—To clarify, Little Crow’s people were the Mdewakanton. He did not represent the Wahpekute, Sisseton or Wahpeton bands of Dakota.

Forced marches, imprisonment, mass execution were only a portion of Ramsey’s plan. Men, not hanged, but subject to prison sentences, were removed to Davenport where they were imprisoned for another 3 years. Women and children were removed to the Crow Creek Reservation. This was not enough to fulfill Ramsey’s plan. In 1863, punitive expeditions were sent into Dakota Territory to track down fleeing Dakota People.
—Incorrect – The Dakota taken to Mankato were force-marched. The Dakota taken to Fort Snelling were not.
—Incorrect – Ramsey did not make the decisions for removal, imprisonment, executions and punitive expeditions; the U.S. did.
—Incorrect – Not all of the men taken to Davenport stayed for 3 years.
—Incorrect – There were young men and elderly in the group taken to Crow Creek.

In the summer of 1863, $200 bounties were placed on Dakota scalps. Someone could kill a Dakota person, collect a bounty of $200 and buy a homestead.
—Unbalanced – During the war, the Dakota also offered bounties for white scalps.
—Bounties were offered for Dakota scalps because hostile Dakota were returning to the State and killing people. Only one $200 bounty was paid.

The assault on Indian people continues today.
—What does this mean?

Indian boarding schools were established in 1879. Indian children were taken to these schools to undergo a civilization process. They cut their hair, changed their language and taught them values of the dominant white society. It was required by the U.S. for Indian parents to send their children to these boarding schools. Children and parents were coerced, bribed, blackmailed and intimidated. Some children were kidnapped and sent to these schools. They practiced a military-like regimen. The children were forced to convert to Christianity.
—Incorrect – The author talks about boarding schools as if all Indian children had the same experience. There are more sides to this story. See and
—Unbalanced – Discussion is needed on the white boarding schools. Were the boarding schools of that era abusive to only Indian children?
—Incorrect – Not all Indian parents were forced to send their children to boarding schools.
—Unbalanced – Boarding schools helped families who could not take care of their children. In the boarding schools, children were fed, clothed and educated.

In boarding schools, the children were punished if they spoke their native language. Many were so traumatized they stopped speaking their language. There are only 10 fluent Dakota speakers left today in Minnesota. That’s how successful the schools were at eradicating our culture and our ways of being. This was a systematic attempt to perpetrate ethnocide.
—Incorrect – The boarding schools cannot be blamed for the lost of the Dakota language any more than the white boarding schools and public schools can be blamed for the loss of the European languages.

Social conditions in Indian communities today can be traced back to boarding schools. Family violence can be traced back to boarding schools. Indians never hit their children. Sexual violence was not permitted. Now we have family violence, domestic abuse, women beaten, and children beaten – all can be traced back to boarding schools.
—Unbalanced – The effects of boarding schools are complicated. There are favorable experiences that are not being presented.
—Incorrect – See missionary Stephen R. Riggs descriptions of life at Traverse des Sioux. When Dakota men were drunk they were extremely abusive to their families.

Diets of starchy food caused habits that lasted a lifetime. Many children were never taught parenting skills because they were removed from their family. There was a disconnect between how to act in communal environment because they were raised in an institution. In 1984, officials at a Phoenix boarding school used mace, shackles to discipline children.
—Incorrect – Dakota were becoming accustomed to flour products many years before the boarding schools.
—Unbalanced – Jim Thorpe attended Carlisle Indian School. He said his days at Carlisle were the best days of his life.

Congressman Dawes said Indians could not make any more progress unless they were allotted on land. Dawes said Indians needed to learn selfishness. The Sisseton Wahpeton Reservation was allotted in 1887. 160 acres went to each head of household. The surplus land was sold to whites. It was another land-grab.
—Incorrect – After the land was allotted on the Sisseton Wahpeton Reservation, the Dakota members voted to sell the remaining land to outsiders. They benefited from the sale.

Minnesota’s policies of ethnic cleansing were so successful that we hardly have any presence in the state today.
—Incorrect – The U.S. made the decision to remove most of the Dakota.

Mauthausen Concentration Camp was the last concentration camp liberated by US forces. Pictures show Mauthausen looked like Fort Snelling. Both sites today are tourist sites. At Mauthausen, people gather to mourn, remember, and acknowledge the suffering experience of thousands of people. Genocide, concentration camps and ethnic cleansing are not addressed at Fort Snelling. Children can have birthday parties at Fort Snelling. Can you imagine hosting a birthday party at Mauthausen? Why is it acceptable to host birthday parties at Fort Snelling which is also the site of a concentration camp?
—Incorrect – It is acceptable to host birthday parties at Fort Snelling because Fort Snelling was not a concentration camp. About 90,000 people died at Mauthausen. People were brought to Mauthausen to work and to die. People were brought to Fort Snelling to live.
—Disrespectful – To compare Fort Snelling to Mauthausen is disrespectful to the thousands who suffered and died at Mauthausen.

[In 2008,] Minnesota is celebrating 150 years of statehood…The Dakota paid the price of statehood. We lost our land. We lost our population. We had a system of colonization perpetrated against us. Justice continues to be denied to Dakota people. Genocide is accepted as long as you benefit. White ancestors are important; Dakota ancestors are not. Stealing is acceptable as long as you benefit. The message is conveyed to us:
     Might is right.
     White is right.
     Genocide is not a crime against humanity.
     This society does not have to be just.
We see this played out in the celebration of Minnesota statehood.
—Unbalanced – The last of the Dakota were driven out of northern Minnesota by the Ojibwe. As the Dakota migrated, they took land by warfare with other tribes. Rather than using warfare, the U.S. made treaties with the Dakota for their land. The Dakota lost what was left of their land because hostile Dakota went to war in 1862.
—The author is trying to lay a guilt-trip on present Minnesota residents.
—What does this mean? How is justice being denied to Dakota people?
—Incorrect – Had the U.S. committed genocide, all of the Dakota would have been killed.

We were here first. We have always been here since the beginning of time.
—Incorrect – This depends on the meaning of the words “we” and “here.” People have been in present-day Minnesota for about 12,000 years. As stated in numerous sources, the ancestors of the Dakota migrated into present day Minnesota.

All treaties were broken by the U.S. Settlers were squatting on our land. Fur traders were stealing our resources that were promised in the treaties. We never got the money that was owed to us for the land sales. We were starving to death prior to the war. We were pushed into the war. The State should acknowledge we were here first and they did things wrong. The federal government should acknowledge they did things wrong. Settlers played key role in the removal of our ancestors from their land. We were scattered to the four directions. This has caused a lot of problems, physical and mental, that we are still dealing with today. It may take a long time to get past this.
—Unbalanced – The Dakota also broke treaties.
—Incorrect – Some settlers were settling on reservation land, but Indian Agent Thomas Galbraith wrote that this was not a cause of the war.
—Disrespectful – Name the fur traders who cheated the Dakota and show proof.
—Incorrect – What money was never received for land sales?
—Incorrect – Not all Dakota were starving to death prior to the war. Chief Little Crow said that babies were dying.
—Incorrect – The Dakota were not pushed into the war. 100-150 young Dakota men made the decision for war. The majority of the Dakota leaders were not involved in this decision.
—Incorrect – The State was not responsible for what happened to the Dakota Indians. The U.S. was responsible.
—Incorrect – The settlers did not cause the removal of the Dakota from their land.
—Incorrect – The Dakota were scattered as a result of the Dakota War.
—Is this correct? Are there still mental and physical problems attributed to the Dakota War?

[What happened in Minnesota fits into the international criteria for genocide adopted by the United Nations in 1948. The author lists the criteria and gives an example.]

(a) killing members of the group
         Largest mass simultaneous hanging
—These 38 men were hanged for committing war crimes.
—Hostile Dakota killed more than 650 whites, including about 80 soldiers.

(b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
          $200 bounties were offered for Dakota scalps
—The Dakota also offered bounties for white scalps.

(c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
          At the Fort Snelling concentration camp, there wasn’t adequate food, shelter and there was a lot of sickness and illness.
—Incorrect – This was not a concentration camp.
—Incorrect – Prove there was not adequate food
—Incorrect – They had their tipis. Their shelter was the same here as elsewhere.
—Unbalanced – There was also a lot of sickness in the white refugee towns.

(d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
     Immediately, after the surrender, the men were separated from the women and children
—Incorrect – Not all the men were separated. They were not separated to prevent births.

(e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
     Children and parents were coerced, bribed, blackmailed, intimidated and in some cases kidnapped to get them into the boarding schools.
—Incorrect – This is a general statement that did not apply to all Indian families. Boarding schools also helped families who could not care for their children.
—White boarding schools of the same era need to be examined for similarities.

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