Review – MHC Bdote Memory Map Website

Minnesota Humanities Center
Bdote Memory Map
Reviewed on June 3, 2013
Updated on March 17, 2016

Items of Interest

[From the Bdote Memory Map Homepage]
Enjoy this beginning resource for understanding more about the Dakota people’s relationship to Minnesota. Try traveling the directions in a traditional way – East (We Are Home), South (Dakota Greeting), West (Mnisota: A Dakota Place) and then North for the core of the site – the Memory Map.

I have resorted the statements to remove duplicates.

General Comments

  • Dakota history is sad and tragic enough. It does not need to be embellished as many of these speakers are doing. These few speakers do not represent all Dakota people.
  • Incorrect – No mention is made of the Indians who were in this area before the Dakota Indians. It is implied that the Dakota Indians have always been in this area.
  • Incorrect – No mention is made of the ongoing warfare between the Dakota and the Ojibwe and other neighboring tribes.
  • Unbalanced – People talk about the Dakota being marched, hanged and exiled, but no one is saying why. Hostile Dakota killed more than 650 innocent white men, women and children; some in the worst way imaginable.
  • The word Dakota is never defined. I define the Dakota as the Mdewakanton, Wahpekute, Sisseton and Wahpeton bands
  • For more information on the words Bdote and Bdewakanton see “Definitions” on the top bar.
  • Incorrect – Many incorrect statements are being made by interviewees. Minnesota Humanities needs to verify the accuracy of these statements before publishing them.
  • Many speakers are not identified.

Most Objectionable Statements

Dakota people have graciously shared their culture and knowledge about living in the Twin Cities so that reliable information can be incorporated into classrooms.
—Incorrect – Before using this information, see the comments below.


Minisota Makoce means “Land where the waters reflect the sky or heavens.” Mnisota (Minnesota in English) is a place of Dakota genesis stories and is the site of our genocide…
—Riggs’ Dakota-English Dictionary defines mi-ni as “water”; so-ta as “smoke”; and Mi-ni-so-ta as “whitish water.”
—Incorrect – If we say the U.S. committed genocide, we must also say the hostile Dakota committed genocide by killing more than 650 whites.

This is a place where the Dakota people started. We were here to greet the explorers and traders who arrived in the 1500′s. We were here to greet the pioneers who arrived when our land was taken in a series of treaties with the United States.
—Incorrect – Scientists believe the ancestors of the Dakota Indians migrated into Minnesota.
—Incorrect – The first explorers and traders arrived in this area in the 1600s.
—Incorrect – Dakota land was sold in a series of treaties. The last reservation land was taken by the U.S. because hostile Dakota violated treaties by going to war.

…The Dakota migratory pattern continued uninterrupted for thousands of years until white settlers started to arrive in Minnesota in the early 1800s.
—Incorrect – First, this implies that the Dakota have been in present Minnesota area for thousands of years. Second, in the 1600s, when the last of the Dakota were driven out of northern Minnesota by the Ojibwe, the Dakota migratory pattern definitely changed.

Changing place names takes away the original meaning of place.
—Unbalanced – When the Dakota migrated into Minnesota, they also changed place names.

Mendota – Pike Island

Bdote is a Dakota word that generally means “where two waters come together.” Bdote is also used to refer to the wider area (now Minneapolis-St. Paul)…
—Incorrect – This is relatively recent that the mdote area includes this wider area. Riggs’ dictionary defines mdote as “a name commonly applied to the country about Fort Snelling, or mouth of the Saint Peters [Minnesota River].”

For our people this [Bdote] is the center of everything. Everything began at Bdote the center of our earth…Here is the genesis of the Dakota people. The first Dakota were Bdewakanton. All of this area is a sacred area to the Dakota Oyate. For the Dakota Oyate, this was the center of the earth. The Dakota Oyate is Dakota, Nakota and Lakota.
—Incorrect – See Gideon Pond, “Gatherings from the Traditional History of the Mdewakantonwan Dakotas”, Dakota Tawaxitku Kin, September 1851. “…That the mouth of the Minnesota river (Watpa Minisota) lies immediately over the centre of the earth and under the centre of the heavens.” This statement from Gideon Pond does not say the mouth of the Minnesota River is a place of creation. In the same article, Pond wrote, “The Mdewakantonwan tradition…asserts that they sprang into existence about the lakes at the head of Rum river.” This is the Lake Mille lacs area.
—According to Riggs’ Dakota Dictionary, the mouth of the Minnesota River was called Ha-ha-mdo-te by the Dakota.
—Is this correct? – Do the Lakota and Nakota People believe that the Mdewakanton were the first people? Do the Lakota and Nakota People agree that they are part of the Dakota Oyate?

Prior to the signing of the 1805 Treaty, Minnesota was occupied by the Dakota tribe of Indians. The Treaty of 1805 guaranteed Dakota a place to live and payments. We were never paid for this land. We were guaranteed to do all things as we formerly done – fish, hunt, ceremonies…
—Incorrect – Prior to 1805, Minnesota was also occupied by other Indian tribes.
—Incorrect – One payment was guaranteed by the treaty.
—Incorrect – We were paid for this land.
—While the 1805 Treaty guaranteed “to permit the Sioux to pass, repass, hunt or make other uses of the said districts, as they have formerly done, without any other exception, but those specified in article first”, I believe later treaties took away this right.

Pike Island [Wita Tanka] is also the site of the beginning of the theft of Dakota lands. Zebulon Pike, came here in 1805…he purchased 100,000 acres of land on which to build a fort…an area that now includes much of the Twin Cities…The boundaries of the land cession were never specified…Only 2 of the 7 Dakota leaders present for the negotiations signed the treaty…The President never “proclaimed” the treaty…The purchase price is a mystery.
—Incorrect – The boundaries were specified. Article 1 of the treaty states: “That the Sioux Nation grants unto the United States for the purpose of the establishment of military posts, nine miles square at the mouth of the river St. Croix, also from below the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Peters, up the Mississippi, to include the falls of St. Anthony, extending nine miles on each side of the river.”
—Incorrect – The U.S. made an offer and the offer was accepted. Had the Dakota felt violated, they would have driven the soldiers off when they started work on Fort Snelling.
—I believe that later treaties voided any claim of illegality in the 1805 Treaty.
—Incorrect – The purchase price was stated. Article 2 of the treaty states: “That in consideration of the above grants the United States (shall, prior to taking possession thereof, pay to the Sioux two thousand dollars, or deliver the value thereof in such goods and merchandise as they shall choose).”

Down below the fort is the Dakota concentration camp site. According to our oral history, we have been living here since our creation. We have been here since the beginning of time according to Dakota people. There were 18 bands when the Treaty of 1805 was signed. If this happened today, it would be fraud.
—Incorrect – This was not a concentration camp.
—Incorrect – Calling this the Dakota creation site is a recent change to Dakota history. See above.
—Incorrect – When the treaty was signed, there were 4 Dakota bands.
—Incorrect – Trying to apply today’s legal standards to 1805 does not work.

Coldwater Spring

Mni Owe Sni [Coldwater Spring] has been a place of healing and peace for centuries…
—Incorrect – Mni Owe Sni is a recent name given to Coldwater Spring. What did the Dakota call this site in the 1800s?
—Incorrect – It cannot be proven that this has been a place of healing and peace for centuries.

…the spring itself remains a site of peace and ceremony to this day.
—Incorrect – For a long period, there were no ceremonies at Coldwater Spring. A renewed interest began a few years ago when the adjacent Bureau of Mines property became available.

When traditional enemies met at Pipestone, they would put down their arms. This is the same at Coldwater Spring.
—Incorrect – Coldwater Spring was a short distance from Fort Snelling. If warfare ceased in this location, it is more likely as a result of the U.S. military distain of warfare between the Indians.

Mississippi River

Dakota people have lived along the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers for a very long time.
—What does this mean? How long is a very long time? Who were the Dakota people?

Nicollet Island was the birthing island. They birthed their children there away from the prying eyes of the Ojibwe.
—Incorrect – This cannot be proven.

St. Anthony Falls is a sacred place created by Mother Earth as a teaching place. For a Dakota person, the hardest thing is to lose your mother – your original mother. St. Anthony Falls is our mother.
—Is this correct? Both earth and St. Anthony Falls are called mother?

Minnehaha Falls has been important to the Dakota people as a spiritual place. The Dakota name, Mnigaga, is a compound word – Mni- means ‘water,’ and gaga means – ‘curling’ or together mnigaga – ‘waterfall.’
—Incorrect – Mnigaga is another recent change to the Dakota language. Riggs’ Dictionary defines ha-ha as “waterfalls, so called from the curling of the waters; especially the Falls of St. Anthony.” Ga-ga is defined as “On the surface.”

Mounds Park is Dakota sacred land. It is a very sacred place. Indian people have been coming here for at least 2000 years; 12,000-13,000 years easily. We came from mother earth. We go back to mother earth. We came from father sky. We go back to father sky.
—Incorrect – While this may be Dakota sacred land, this cannot be proven how long they have been coming here.
—What does this mean? The concepts of mother earth and father sky need more explanation.

Wakan Tipi [Carver’s Cave] is a genesis and genocide place. Wakan Tipi is below the mounds. The cave had drawings that tell who we were and where we came from. It was like a mother’s belly. There is water in the cave that flows like a birth mother. It was dynamited by the railroads. The diesel trains poisoned our mother there.
—Incorrect – What genocide happened here?
—Incorrect – It cannot be proven these drawings were made by Dakota people.
—What does this mean? Is this modern day interpretation that Wakan Tipi is like a mother’s belly and is also called mother?

Wakan Tipi is very spiritual. This was the place of the ancestors. Wakan tipi to the Dakota people was sacred. [The mounds were] the final resting place for Dakota when they died. The cave below the mounds was where pregnant women would go to give birth.
—Is this correct? Did pregnant women go here or to Nicollet Island as stated above?
—Incorrect – While the Dakota may have added to the mounds, the mounds were built by people here prior to the arrival of the Dakota.

Dakota War

When the intrusions of the whites came, there was communications between the Dakota and the Ojibwe about how to handle the whites.
—Is this correct? The Dakota and Ojibwe were at war much of this time.

By 1862, all Dakota people…were confined to a small strip of land on either side of the Minnesota River. In that year, the Dakota War took place up and down the Minnesota River, as Dakota people responded to treaty violations that left them without food.
—Incorrect – In 1862, the Dakota reservations, combined, were about 10 miles wide and about 150 miles long. This was hardly a narrow strip.
—Incorrect – The Dakota War was not confined to the Minnesota River area nor did it include the entire Minnesota River area.
—Incorrect – The causes of the Dakota War were many and complicated. Lack of food was only one cause.
—Incorrect – The majority of the Dakota leaders and Dakota people opposed war with the whites.

Later treaty payments were never paid on time or at all. Things promised were not delivered. The Dakota were confined to a small area of the Minnesota River. People were suffering and starving. Without payments, people could not buy supplies. They were unable to move away.
—Incorrect – I cannot find that any treaty payments were never made at all.
—Incorrect – The Dakota were not confined. They freely moved off and on their reservations.
—Incorrect – They were able to move away.

Throughout the late 1850s, treaty violations by the United States and late or unfair annuity payments by Indian agents caused increasing hunger and hardship among the Dakota. Traders with the Dakota previously had demanded that annuity payments be given to them directly (introducing the possibility of unfair dealing between the agents and the traders), but in mid-1862, the Dakota demanded the annuities directly from their agent, Thomas J. Galbraith.
—Incorrect – This is too general. What were these treaty violations? What does “unfair annuity payments” mean? Was hunger and hardship increasing among the Dakota?
—Cut-worms destroyed many crops in 1861. The 1862-63 winter was harsh; the hunters weren’t successful. This also contributed to the lack of food.
—Incorrect – In the 1861 annuity payment, the traders had to collect their debts from the Dakota after the Dakota were paid.
—Incorrect – In 1862, the Dakota planned to refuse to pay the traders after receiving their annuity money.

The traders refused to provide any more supplies on credit…Andrew Myrick, who suggested that the Sioux could eat grass or their own excrement if they were hungry.
—Incorrect – Fur trader Andrew Myrick learned that many Dakota planned to refuse to pay their debts after they received their annuities. He and other traders stopped giving credit.
—Incorrect – Not all fur traders stopped giving credits.

Some causes of the Dakota War of 1862:

It was the removal from a culture that was living in the southern half of Minnesota, on a large area of land and all the life that went with it and being restricted to a reservation that was 10 miles wide on each side of the Minnesota river. It was the humiliation of having this beautiful culture treated as savage; the humiliation of the women; the starvation; breaking promises and breaking treaties. Put people under this pressure for years and years and one day it is going to explode. It was a hand-full of eggs. You couldn’t feel the freedom to feed yourself when you were hungry.
—Incorrect – I cannot find any primary sources that say the war was caused by removal from a large area to a small area.
—Incorrect – The reservations, combined, were about 150 miles long.
—Incorrect – I cannot find any primary sources that say the war was caused by having this beautiful culture treated as savage.
—Incorrect – This person implies that all Dakota went to war. Causes must be stated in terms of why 100-150 young Mdewakanton men made the decision to go to war.
—Incorrect – The hand-full of eggs refers to the murder of 5 white settlers in Acton Township by 4 Dakota men. Nothing justifies the murder of these 5 innocent settlers and the murder of more than 650 whites during the Dakota War.

A dispute over eggs started the war. 4 warriors went to a white farm. They were starving. They asked for bread and were refused. They were angered. Their people were starving. The woman was occupying Dakota land. One warrior saw eggs in a pantry and started to put them in his pouch. The woman saw them and started screaming. Her husband came in from the field…
—Incorrect – This is only one of many stories of the murders in Acton Township. In Chief Big Eagle’s story, the eggs were found along a setter’s fence.

Our people saw pigmentally-challenged people resolving all their issues by killing each other. Whoever kills the most, wins. This was contrary to everything we learned. Dakota thought if they were going to have an impact on the Wasicun, they would have to be like them. We were down to our last little piece of earth when the fighting started. Wasicun means takes the fat.
—Disrespectful – “pigmentally-challenged” and “Wasicun” are racial and derogatory slurs. Why does Minnesota Humanities allow people to use these terms?
—Incorrect – The Dakota did not learn about war from the whites. At numerous times, they were at war with many of their neighboring tribes.
—Incorrect – The Dakota reservations, combined, were about 10 by 150 miles. I wouldn’t call this a little piece of earth.

When the [Dakota War] fighting started, the Bdewakanton had a 10-mile strip. Two other bands had about the same. We were never paid for this land. Nobody ever kept their word to us. The settlers began moving in our last 10 miles.
—Incorrect – The Mdewakanton and Wahpekute reservation was 10 wide by about 50 miles long. The Sisseton and Wahpeton reservation was 10 miles wide by about 100 miles long. I would not call these strips.
—Incorrect – We were paid for this land.
—Incorrect – To say that nobody ever kept their word to us would not be easy to prove.
—Incorrect – A few settlers mistakenly settled on the Lower Reservation. They were about to be removed when the Dakota War started.

There has never been an official report on the number of settlers killed, but estimates range from 400 to 800.
—According to Curt Dahlin, more than 650 whites were killed during the war. This includes nearly 70 military. Hundreds of whites died after the war from diseases and wounds received.

Fort Snelling Internment Camp

They took it [Fort Snelling] away from us by military force. Put your military force right there. How can we break their backs and their will?
—Incorrect – The Fort Snelling site was purchased in the 1805 Treaty. It was not taken by military force. To “break their backs and their will” was not a reason for the fort.

As a part of the Bdote area, the land on which Historic Fort Snelling sits is sacred land to the Dakota.
—Incorrect – If Fort Snelling sat on sacred land, the Dakota never would have permitted a fort to be built there.

After the war it was an immense outpouring of rage and hate toward Indian people. This was already there and it was unleashed…The treaties were abrogated. Women, children and elders were marched down to Fort Snelling and imprisoned in a concentration camp. It was a culmination of decades long efforts to remove Dakota people from their land. It provided the perfect pretext for doing that.
—Incorrect – The rage and hate resulted from the murder of more than 650 innocent whites during the Dakota War.
—Incorrect – Young Dakota men also were in the group taken to Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect – They were not imprisoned in a concentration camp. They were placed in an internment camp.
—Incorrect – It was not part of a decades-long plan to remove Dakota people. It was a result of the Dakota War.

The elders, women and children were forced-marched to Fort Snelling. A lot of them died along the way. They were put into a concentration camp. They were burying elders, women and children from dawn until dawn. The following spring, the Dakota were ethnically cleansed from Minnesota to the Crow Creek Reservation.
—Incorrect – Young Dakota men were also in this group taken to Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect – They were not forced-marched.
—Incorrect – At most, 2 or 3 died along the way.
—Incorrect – It was not a concentration camp.
—Incorrect – At first they were burying dead from dawn to dawn. Later they were not.
—Incorrect – Not all Dakota were removed from Minnesota.

This area [Fort Snelling] was the site of our genesis and our genocide. 1700 women, children and elders were here. Hundreds of our people were killed here during the cold winter.
—Incorrect – As stated above, the belief that Fort Snelling is a genesis site is relatively new.
—Incorrect – Genocide was not committed here. Dakota died here, they were not killed. It cannot be proven that hundreds died here.
—Incorrect – There were also young men in this camp.

My grandmother was imprisoned here [Fort Snelling]. My grandmother was forced marched in a death march from the Lower Sioux to a concentration camp at Fort Snelling – It was a very sad story. Conditions were extremely harsh and many died as a result of disease and violence.
—Incorrect – This was not a forced march or a death march.
—Incorrect – This was not a concentration camp.
—Incorrect – I cannot find that anyone died here of violence.

[At Fort Snelling] diseases were rampant. People suffered. They did not have adequate food, shelter and blankets. They did not have good food. Bodies were weakened because they did not have enough to eat. Some girls were raped. Their throats were slit. Some were found with their faces buried in the sand. About 300 were killed at this site. To this day we don’t know what happened to their bodies.
—Incorrect – Indications are that they had the same rations and the same food as the U.S. army.
—Incorrect – Their shelter and blankets were the same here as had they been left at Camp Release. They were provided with firewood at Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect – There was one rape committed on a Dakota woman who wandered too far from the camp.
—Unbalanced – Two Dakota men were hanged in Mankato for committing rape.
—Incorrect – I cannot find that any throats were slit.
—Incorrect – I cannot find that any were found with their faces buried in the sand.
—Incorrect – It cannot be proven that 300 died here.
—Unbalanced – To this day, we don’t know where many bodies of Dakota War white victims are buried.

Lincoln and Ramsey personally ordered that 40 were to be hung. They were walked to Mankato to be hung. This was the largest mass execution in history. [In the trials] You’re guilty – you’re guilty – you’re guilty. There was no due process, no representation and a language barrier.
—Incorrect – Ramsey had nothing to do with the order to hang Dakota.
—Incorrect – They were not walked to Mankato; they rode in wagons.
—Incorrect – This was not the largest mass execution in history. It was the largest simultaneous mass-execution in U.S. history.
—Unbalanced – If the white trial system is discussed, the Dakota trial system needs to be discussed. There wasn’t one. Whites were killed without being tried.

In December, they hung 38. There were 39. One used his medicine to get out of it. They had to wait until December 26, because they did not have enough rope. The men who were not hung were sent to Davenport.
—Incorrect – If one used his medicine, why didn’t all 38 use their medicine?
—Incorrect – While they may not have had enough rope, the hanging was delayed to wait for more soldiers to arrive for crowd control.
—Incorrect – Not all the men, who were not hanged, were taken to Davenport.

[United Nations genocide criteria] – to deliberately inflict conditions upon a group calculated to bring about the destruction of that group in whole or in part…That’s what happened here: warfare, bounties, forced-marches, forced removal, mass-execution. The U.S., Minnesota and citizenry perpetrated all of these on the Dakota people.
—Incorrect – If these actions can be classified as genocide, then actions by the hostile Dakota can also be classified as genocide. The Dakota offered bounties for white scalps. The Dakota force-marched their white and mixed-blood hostages. The Dakota killed more than 650 whites.

They started lying to us, stealing from us, and killing us. They are still doing this today.
—Is this correct? Are the whites still doing this today?

Maybe there should be some respect paid by the non-Dakota folks visiting the area. There should be respect given to the Dakota People for the sacrifices we made so they could live in Minnesota. Without our sacrifices, the State would not exist.
—Unbalanced – Where is Dakota respect shown for the white victims of the Dakota War?
—Incorrect – The Dakota did not make sacrifices to allow the State to exist.

Many see Fort Snelling as a symbol of American imperialism. Some want it changed into a genocide museum. Fort Snelling should be torn down. It should be given back to the land. I would like to see it crumble down. It would give me a sense of feeling that this state is holding nothing over me any more.
—Incorrect – If genocide was committed, it was committed by both the Dakota and the whites.
—Fort Snelling should remain standing. There is more to its history than Dakota history.

Historic Fort Snelling, at this time, reconstructs life at the fort in 1828…No mention is made of the Dakota War or the concentration camp.
—Incorrect – Fort Snelling did not participate in the Dakota war. The Dakota internment camp was not a concentration camp. This is being interpreted at Fort Snelling today.

Today at Fort Snelling, no mention is made of attempted cultural genocide. Who wants to say we came here by genocide…Ramsey called for extermination of Dakota people. There is a history of not telling the history. This is a place where they have fun, picnics, and birthday parties. They can’t celebrate birthday parties and over here say genocide was bad.
—Incorrect – No mention is made because genocide was not committed here.
—Incorrect – While Ramsey called for extermination, the U.S. made the decisions affecting the Indians. They were not exterminated.
—Incorrect – This was not a place of genocide.

[1st Dakota Commemorative March]
After 7 days of walking, we came across the Mendota Bridge. [In 1862]… [They were] forced to give up their medicine bundles. I hope as Dakota People we will reach the point where one day we will be able to carry this history a little lighter; to have some reconciliation for the amount of grief that remains with us.
—Incorrect – The original march did not cross the Minnesota river here. They crossed the river either at Lower Sioux Agency or at Fort Ridgely. They did not cross the river again.
—Incorrect – They were not forced to give up their medicine bundles.
—Incorrect – This person does not speak for all Dakota people.

Horror, anger, guilt fear surrounds the word concentration camp, the fort and the photos. It was a sick, twisted way of doing this; to break a people; to turn the place of their Eden into their torture; their psychological trauma. We have never recovered and probably never will as long as this colonial institution is in place. You walk every day with this emptiness inside and never quite be able to fill it.
—Incorrect – If the Mendota area was sacred, the Dakota would never have permitted Fort Snelling to be built there.
—Incorrect – Does it occur to anyone that the Dakota were brought here in order to provide food, supplies and medical treatment? Most of all protection was provided from the angry white citizens.

This has to be the place where we reconnect with Mother Earth. We have to take away the place of fighting and killing and military presence. We have to come back and have access to our center.
—I believe this is the goal of some Dakota people. They want the fort torn down and this site returned to the Indians.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s