Review – Healing the Trauma Essay

“Healing the Trauma of America’s Past:
Restorative Justice, Honest Patriotism, and the Legacy of Ethnic Cleansing”
By Howard J. Vogel BUFFALO LAW REVIEW [Vol. 55]
Reviewed July 11, 2013
Updated March 17, 2016

Items of Interest

In summary, according to the author, the Dakota Indians were victims of the U.S., the State of Minnesota and the white Minnesota settlers. The trauma of the Dakota War of 1862 and its aftermath transcends the generations to today’s Dakota descendants. Action is needed to help these Dakota descendants in their healing process.

General Comments

  • UNBALANCED – The author presumes the Dakota were the major victims of the Dakota War of 1862. In my first pass of this essay, I found more than 39 unbalanced statements. I summarize them in this section and do not discuss them below.
  • Unbalanced – The author ignores the crimes against the whites and the resulting trauma. Hostile Dakota killed more than 650 whites; some in the worst way imaginable. See Michno, Dakota Dawn for more on atrocities committed by hostile Dakota.
  • Unbalanced – The author states that the U.S. committed genocide and ethnic cleansing. He does not mention the genocide and ethnic cleansing by the Ojibwe against the Dakota, the Dakota against other tribes nor the Dakota against the whites.
  • Unbalanced – Very little mention is made of the Dakota and the mixed-bloods who opposed the war.
  • Unbalanced – Some of the sources used by the author expand on the injustices done to the Dakota and the trauma their descendants still feel today. But, these sources DO NOT speak for all Dakota descendants.
  • Unbalanced – While criticizing the court trials of the Dakota, the author fails to state that the Dakota did not conduct court trials.
  • Unbalanced – The whites are criticized for offering bounties for Dakota scalps. No mention is made that the Dakota also offered bounties for white scalps.
  • Incorrect – Many errors in fact are made by the author and some of his sources. In order for this trauma to subside and healing to start, this history must be remembered with accuracy, balance and respect for all the ethnic groups involved. The high number of incorrect statements in this essay hurts the author’s case.

Most Objectionable Statements

I want to speak about the story the Dakota people tell about the terrible truth of the Dakota–U.S. War of 1862…
—Incorrect – Officially, this is the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
—Incorrect – As explained above, the author does not tell the entire truth.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, Americans are having to come to grips with a startling reality—the Indian has not vanished…
—Incorrect – I doubt that anyone is startled that the Indian has not vanished.

This challenge has been placed before me and all the people of Minnesota with the launching in 2002 of the Dakota Commemorative Marches…an initiative undertaken by people of the Dakota Oyate (Nation) today who are the descendants of the Indigenous people of Minnesota. The marches are conducted…every two years through 2012…The marches are an Indigenous effort to remember and heal the enduring trauma of the Dakota Oyate that is the legacy of the United States government action that dispossessed them of their ancestral homeland and drove them from it through a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing that was genocidal in spirit and design.
—Incorrect – Very few Dakota people participated in these marches. These marches should not be identified as events of major significance.
—Incorrect – Most of the Dakota were removed from the State as a result of the mass murder of over 650 whites by hostile Dakota – the largest mass-murder of civilians by Indians in U.S. history. Removal of most of the Dakota was not genocidal. The mass-murder was.

As I heard it then, it was a story about Milford Township…just east of a disputed boundary with the Sioux Reservation established in 1851…
—What does this mean? – “disputed boundary”
—Incorrect – There were 2 reservations. Correctly stated, it was the Lower Sioux Reservation.

The change in name [of the Dakota War] reflected the fact…that the Indigenous peoples had been provoked by a string of broken promises that had reached a critical point in August 1862, when payments in gold from the United States to the Dakota people, due them under terms of the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux concluded in 1851, were late.
—Incorrect – The causes of the Dakota War are many and complicated. To simplify them into broken promises and a late payment is incorrect.
—Incorrect – 100-150 members of a Lower Sioux soldiers’ lodge made the decision to go to war. Many joined them. Many were forced to join. The majority did not want war with the whites.
—Incorrect – There were 2 U.S.- Dakota treaties in 1851.
—Incorrect – The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux was not concluded until 1852.

The Dakota people confronted the Indian Agent Andrew Myrick at the Lower Sioux Agency…he said, let them eat grass or their own dung. Winter was now fast approaching and with little means to purchase the supplies they would need, the Dakota people were desperate. It is no wonder that war was declared on the United States by a contingent of warriors who rode into battle on August 17…
—Incorrect – Andrew Myrick was a fur trader.
—Incorrect – It is not known for sure where this confrontation took place.
—Incorrect – This event occurred in July or early August. Winter was not fast approaching.
—Incorrect – There promised to be a bumper crop. There would be plenty of food for everyone.
—Incorrect – The war started on August 18.

The second experience came through…the dramatic 120-mile commemorative marches in the valley by the Dakota people of today who are descendants of those Indigenous people…They commemorate the forced march of the Dakota Oyate to a concentration camp…just below Fort Snelling…
—Incorrect – There were 2 marches in 1862. The march to Mankato was about 65 miles. The march to Fort Snelling was about 100 miles.
—Incorrect – The march to Fort Snelling was not a forced march.
—Incorrect – The camp at Fort Snelling was not a concentration camp.

…the world in which I grew up and was socialized still remembers the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862 and its aftermath as a glorious triumph of the pioneers over the savagery they experienced…
—Incorrect – It was a glorious triumph over the hostile Dakota. Had the Dakota broken through the barricades in the battles of New Ulm, the author may not be here to write this story.

The phrase in that [1851] treaty–Sioux Nation of Indians–suffers from ambiguity. In the first instance, the word Sioux is a shortened form of a pejorative word of the Ojibwe people used to refer to the Dakota Oyate (or Dakota Nation).
—Incorrect – The word “Sioux” is derogatory to many Dakota people. But, some Indian communities still use “Sioux” in their names. Sioux also means enemy.
—Incorrect – Today, Sioux may be the only English word that represents the Oceti Sakowin. Today, Dakota means only the 4 eastern bands.

…the seven groups…that make up the Oceti Sakowin, are identified, from east to west, as follows: the Bdewakantunwan (or Mdewakanton)…
—For more information on the word Bdewakantunwan see “Definitions on the top bar.

In August of 1862, the Dakota people were living on a small reservation running along the south shore of the Minnesota River Valley in southern Minnesota.
—Incorrect – There were 2 Dakota reservations.
—Incorrect – At a combined 10 miles by about 150 miles long, these were not small reservations.

Under these [1851] treaties, twenty-four million acres were ceded to the United States in exchange for money that went almost entirely to fur traders to settle old accounts with the Indians plus a promise of the United States to supply food and other goods, along with money payments on a regular basis to permit the Dakota people to sustain their communities in a reservation located on a narrow strip of land 140 miles long running ten miles wide with five miles of the width lying on each side of the Minnesota River.
—Incorrect – Estimates of the land sold range from 21 million to 35 million acres.
—Incorrect – The money did not go “almost entirely” to the traders.
—Incorrect – The benefits of the treaties were much more than stated here.
—Incorrect – There were 2 reservations.
—Incorrect – The reservations were 20 miles wide; 10 miles out from each side of the river.

In 1858, this reservation was cut in half when the United States demanded and received cession of the five mile by 140 mile strip on the north shore of the river. With this devastating loss of land base, the lives of the Dakota people became very precarious and dependent on the United States fulfilling its promises to provide for their well-being.
—Incorrect – There were 2 reservations and 2 treaties in 1858.
—Incorrect – The land on the north side of the river was 10 miles wide.
—Incorrect – The remaining reservations were 10 miles wide on the south side of the river.
—Incorrect – I would not call this a “devastating land loss.”
—Incorrect – Selling the land on the north side of the river did not change the Dakota status. They continued to hunt on the north side and on distant hunting grounds.

In late August 1862, the failure of the United States to live up to its promises posed dire consequences in the face of the on-coming winter. Promised funds from St. Paul had not arrived and anxiety among the Dakota had reached a high point in the face of the on-coming winter.
—Incorrect- The war started on August 18 not late August.
—Incorrect – The “on-coming winter” was still 3 months away. There was a bumper crop ripening in the fields. Soon there would be plenty to eat.

In November, two forced marches under military escort, took place…One, composed largely of Dakota women and children numbering 1,658, traveled…120 miles to Fort Snelling…The other, composed of over 392 men who had been tried…was sent to Mankato where they were imprisoned to await determination of whether they would be condemned to death or prison.
—Incorrect – The march to Fort Snelling was not forced. The distance was about 100 miles.
—Incorrect – Not all at Mankato faced death or imprisonment.

…in the spring of 1863, the remaining people [at Fort Snelling], along with the warriors who had been imprisoned at Mankato, were herded onto steamboats that traveled down the Mississippi and up the Missouri rivers. The convicted warriors were imprisoned in Davenport, Iowa, while the rest were dispersed to reservations across the prairies stretching form Nebraska to Alberta.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota were removed from Minnesota.
—Incorrect – Those taken to Davenport did not go up the Missouri River.
—Incorrect – Those not taken to Davenport were taken to the Crow Creek Reservation in Dakota Territory.
—Incorrect – The rest were not dispersed. This movement of the Dakota after the war is more complicated that this.

All of the Dakota people in Minnesota became subject to forced removal through a government policy formally adopted by the United States, following strong advocacy by Minnesota and its wartime governor, Alexander Ramsey. This was pursued by (1) reallocation of annuities due to the Dakota under the treaties of 1851 to the immigrant settler refugees thus depriving the Dakota of an important source of means for their maintaining their communities and (2) removal of the Dakota from the state of Minnesota by military attack beginning in the summer of 1863.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota people were removed from Minnesota.
—Disrespectful – Hostile Dakota had just killed more than 650 whites. Ramsey was representing popular public opinion.
—Disrespectful – The author does not state the tremendous loses of life and property suffered by the whites. Shouldn’t they have been compensated for their loses?
—Incorrect – Who was removed from Minnesota by “military attack?”

…after review of the action of the military tribunal by President Lincoln, thirty-eight warriors…were executed in one pull of the hangman‘s rope…It stands today as the largest mass execution in United States history. For decades no marker noted the events of that day at the site.
—Incorrect – Lincoln had his aides review the transcripts.
—Incorrect – The rope was cut not pulled.
—Incorrect – This was the largest simultaneous mass execution in U.S. history.
—Incorrect – There was a marker on this site for many years before the white buffalo.

The forced marches of November 1862 were the first phase of the forced removal of the Dakota from their homeland. The second phase occurred in 1863 with the mounting of a military campaign…charged with the mission to carry out the ethnic cleansing Governor Alexander Ramsey had called for…Ramsey explicitly embraced the long-established pattern of hatred of Indians that took hold in the United States history…As such, it is an example of the dark side of democracy in which murderous ethnic cleansing has played such a powerful role.
—Incorrect – The march to Fort Snelling was not forced.
—Incorrect – The purpose of the 1863 campaign was to seek out and punish the hostile Dakota.
—Incorrect – Ramsey did not make the decision for this military campaign. The U.S. did.

…The military campaigns of 1863 that followed the 1862 war, coupled with a state bounty placed on the head of Dakota people in Minnesota that would reach $200 for dead Indians, would now be carried out to drive the Dakota from…the place they called Minisota Makoce — their homeland known to them as the Land Where the Waters Reflect the Skies.
—Incorrect – These events following the Dakota War happened because of the war. Four bounties were paid for Dakota scalps.
—Incorrect “Land Where the Waters Reflect the Skies” is a recent change to the Dakota language. According to Riggs, A Dakota-English Dictionary, Minisota means “whitish water.”

In the quarter century that followed the war, four tiny Dakota communities were established in Minnesota on very small pieces of land and recognized by the United States government. In part, this was a recognition of the protection given by many Dakota people to the immigrant settler refugees who had fled in the face of the outbreak of the war…
—Incorrect – Today, there are 4 federally recognized Dakota communities in Minnesota. At least 2 were not established and recognized within 25 years of the Dakota War.

[Commemorative March]
The walkers of 2004 traveled a route using present-day roads that follow approximately the original route that vulnerable Dakota women and children were forced to walk from present day Morton, Minnesota, to a concentration camp at Fort Snelling in November, 1862.
—Incorrect – The Commemorative march to Fort Snelling in 2004 was about 95% or more off the course of the original route. In 1862, those taken to Fort Snelling did not go through New Ulm, Mankato or St. Peter. See Bakeman and Richardson, Trail of Tears: Minnesota’s Dakota Indian Exile Begins.
—Incorrect – There were young men and elders in this group.
—Incorrect – Dakota women were strong and hardy. They were not vulnerable.
—Incorrect – Not all of them walked. Many had horses and wagons.
—Incorrect – They were not force marched.
—Incorrect – Their starting point was the Lower Sioux Agency.
—Incorrect – The Fort Snelling camp was not a concentration camp.

It was a bittersweet feeling to be walking in the beauty of the Minnesota River valley, the Dakota place of origin…
—Incorrect – That the Minnesota River valley is the Dakota place of origin is a recent change to Dakota history. For many years, Mille lacs Lake was the Dakota place of origin.

Many died on the way from their injuries. Those imprisoned at Fort Snelling died of exposure, disease, and starvation.
—Incorrect – A total of 4-5 in both marches were reported to have died along the way.
—Incorrect – Fort Snelling was not a prison camp.
—Incorrect – No one died of exposure. They had their tipis. No one died of starvation unless they refused to eat.

Are contemporary social ills linked directly to our past? Challenges exist today, such as poor mental health, poverty, alcohol abuse, suicides, and homicides.
—What does this mean? Today’s social ills in the Dakota communities are linked to the Dakota War of 1862?

The heartbroken and shattered lives of Dakota people need to be healed from the trauma of our historical grief. Validating the story and recognizing the human spirit will bring the light that will finally allow the healing to begin.
—Incorrect – This does not speak for all Dakota people. All Dakota do not think or feel the same.

…the guidelines express a depth of respect that resonates with the Dakota idea of Ohoda. Ohoda defines respect in a way that expresses the deep relation of all that is encountered in the cosmos in the Dakota worldview. From this deep recognition…springs an obligation to care for the well-being of the relations in which we are embedded.
—Incorrect – While this may be true today, it was not true in 1862 when hostile Dakota killed more than 650 people.

Minisota Makoce — which identifies the homeland of the Dakota — evokes tender feelings of connection on the part of Dakota people who live at great distances from this homeland as the result of the expulsion of their ancestors from the state of Minnesota through military violence undertaken by the United States and the state of Minnesota in 1862 and 1863.
—Incorrect – Most of the Dakota people were removed from the State because hostile Dakota went to war in 1862.
—Incorrect – The U.S. made the decision to remove most of the Dakota. The State of Minnesota did not.

Reconciliation is a process in which forgiveness begins, and which can only be completed by ongoing reparative action in the relationship that emerges within the process.
—Incorrect – Reconciliation means many different things to many people. Reconciliation requires truth-telling on all sides. Reconciliation has not worked and will not work.

In closing I come back to the story I started with. I now know that the earliest of my immigrant ancestors came to settle upon land stolen from the Dakota people by the United States, through the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux in 1851…
—Incorrect – The land was not stolen.
—Incorrect – This land was also sold in the 1851 Treaty of Mendota.

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