Review – TPT Seth Eastman Video

 Seth Eastman – Painting the Dakota Video
2001, TPT (Twin Cities Public Television)
Afton Historical Society Press 

Items of Interest

I checked this video out at the public library.

Except as noted below, this video was well done. 

General Comments

  • Disrespectful – One of the themes deals with Seth Eastman abandoning his Dakota family. Eastman’s grandson, Dr. Charles Eastman wrote positively about his grandfather saying that he “maintained affection for his Dakota wife and provided for her.” Isn’t this statement of fact acceptable? Why are there at least 4 statements that disrespect Eastman for abandoning his Dakota family?

Most Objectionable Statements

 Seth Eastman arrived at Fort Snelling in 1830.
Why was he here? It means we have been subjugated.
—Incorrect – The Dakota had not been “subjugated” by 1830.

The Dakota say they have always been here. In a creation story, the place with the rivers meet is the center of the world where the first human being emerged.
—Incorrect – That Mendota was a Dakota place of creation is a relatively recent change to Dakota history.
—Incorrect – According to missionary Gideon Pond, the mouth of the Minnesota River “lies immediately over the centre of the earth and under the centre of the heavens.”

Eastman married the 3rd daughter of Chief Cloudman.
In 1832, when Eastman was transferred east, he left his Dakota wife and child behind. Eastman’s grandson, Dr. Charles Eastman wrote positively about his grandfather. Charles wrote that Seth maintained affection for his Dakota wife and provided for her.  There is not a lot of evidence he really did provide for her.
—Disrespectful – Because the author could not find a “lot of evidence” does not mean that Eastman did not provide for her.

Seth Eastman married Mary Henderson.
In 1841, Eastman was assigned back to Fort Snelling. There is no written record of his relationship with his Dakota daughter.
—Disrespectful – Because the author could not find any written record does not mean that Eastman did not have a relationship with his Dakota daughter.

Eastman’s depiction of sacred things offends a number of Dakota. The whites are saying, “In my European way these things are more important than the rules of the people I am invading.”
—Disrespectful – Had the Dakota felt invaded, they would have denied permission to Eastman.

At the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, the Dakota lost 24,000,000 acres of rich farm land.
—Incorrect – They sold their land. The total land ceded by both the 1851 Treaties was estimated to be 24,000,000 to 35,000,000 acres.

The U.S. moved their [Dakota] villages to a reservation – a 70-mile strip of land bordering the Minnesota River.
—Incorrect – Many of the Sisseton and Wahpeton villages already were on their new reservation. The U.S. did not move those that moved. They agreed to move.
—Incorrect – The Sisseton and Wahpeton reservation was about 20 miles wide by about 100 miles long.

[Dakota War]
Cheated of land and treaty payments, denied food by traders, Dakota killed more than 500 whites. Union troops end the war in 6 weeks. 303 Dakota men are condemned to death. 38 Dakota men were hanged in the largest mass execution in U.S. History. In a camp below the walls of Fort Snelling, there are imprisoned 1600 Dakota.
—Incorrect – Show proof they were cheated out of land.
—Incorrect – Many of the traders stopped giving credits when they learned many of the Dakota planned to refuse to pay their debts when the annuity money arrived.
—Incorrect – They killed more than 650 whites.
—Incorrect – Union troops, volunteers and friendly Dakota ended the war.
—Incorrect – The 303 and the 38 were not all Dakota.
—Incorrect – This was the largest simultaneous mass execution in U.S. history.
—Incorrect – This was not a prison camp at Fort Snelling.

Many Lightnings was Seth Eastman’s son-in-law.
Following the Dakota War of 1862, Many Lightnings and 2 of Eastman’s grandsons were sent to the Davenport prison camp. One of the grandsons wrote a letter to Eastman asking for help. There are no known responses from Eastman to this letter. The Eastmans remain publicly silent – No mention is made of tragic events in Minnesota or fate of Seth’s Dakota family.
—Disrespectful – Because the author could not find any responses from Eastman, does not mean there weren’t any.

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