Review – MHS MN River Valley Tour – Revisited

“Minnesota River Valley Tour” Minnesota Historical Society (MHS)
Call 888-601-3010 or Go to
Reviewed January 11, 2014
Updated on March 17, 2006

 Items of Interest

 This tour was reviewed earlier on this blog under the title of MHS Mobile Tour. MHS has updated this tour and changed its name to “Minnesota River Valley Tour. The previous review has been deleted. Included is a review of the Travel Guide found on the website above.  

Using a phone, tourists can call, select a location and listen to comments about that location.  

MHS started an oral history project in 2011. They interviewed white and Dakota descendants of people involved in the Dakota War of 1862. Many of the narratives in this tour are extracted from the oral history project interviews. The longer interviews can be found on the MHS Dakota War website.  

From the MHS website: “The tour is funded by a grant from the National Scenic Byways Discretionary Grants Program administered by the Federal Highway Administration.”  

As noted below, this “Travel Guide” and telephone tour are terribly unbalanced. MHS History Center Museum Director, Dan Spock, stated in an interview with Star Tribune reporter, Curt Brown, “In a situation where it’s so contentious, part of what we’re trying to address through this observance is how we can be a better institution in terms of our relationship with the Dakota…” While trying to improve its relationship with the Dakota, MHS has forgotten the white victims of the Dakota War of 1862. 

General Comments 

  • Unbalanced – In the driving tour alone, I counted a total of 135 statements made by Dakota People and only 23 statements made by whites. This undoubtedly is the most unbalanced product that I have reviewed.
  • Unbalanced – Every year, thousands of people, including children, are introduced to the Dakota War. Focusing on one side does not help them to understand what happened.
  • Unbalanced – This tour was funded by the National Scenic Byways. Did they know what they were funding?
  • Unbalanced – Very little was said about the whites after the war. A listener will conclude that the Dakota were the only victims.
  • Incorrect – Nothing in the title or introduction indicates that this tour focuses on the Dakota perspective. This is deceptive.
  • Incorrect – Many of these statements are opinions that are not factual. This distorts history.
  • Incorrect – Many of these statements are taken out of context from interviews. They lose their meaning when made to stand alone.
  • Incorrect – Many of these opinions have nothing to do with the location where they appear. The essential information about these locations is not given.
  • Incorrect – Many narratives imply that all Dakota went to war. 100-150 young Lower Dakota men made the decision for war. The majority of the Dakota did not go to war. When we examine causes, we must focus on why this small group wanted war.
  • Unbalanced – The correct count of whites killed by hostile Dakota in the Dakota War of 1862 is never given. More than 650 whites were killed. This includes about 100 soldiers, 40 women, 100 children and 410 civilian men. 

Most Objectionable Statements 

Travel Guide – Map

—Incorrect – The distances are not in the same scale.
—Incorrect – Lac qui Parle Mission and Fort Renville are not located on Highway 7.
—Incorrect – Camp Release is too far west of Montevideo.
—Incorrect – Wabasha’s Village was never at this location.
—Incorrect – Birch Coulee Battlefield is too far north of Morton.
—Incorrect – The highway between LeSueur and Mankato should be 169. 

Travel Guide – Pages 2-30

While the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 lasted just six weeks, the issues surrounding its cause began years earlier and its aftermath still affects Minnesota and the nation to this day.
—Incorrect – How does this affect the nation today? 

The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 was the result of disastrous U.S. government Indian policies. Years of broken treaty promises to the Dakota, combined with an exploding settler population, created conditions ripe for conflict.
—Incorrect – The causes of the Dakota War cannot be stated this simply.
—Incorrect – No primary sources stated that the settlers were a cause of the war. 

Months before the war, George E. Day, a government official from Washington, D.C., visited Minnesota and wrote a report to President Abraham Lincoln documenting the rampant corruption associated with Indian Affairs, but no action was taken.
—Disrespectful – What happened to “innocent until proven guilty”?

In August 1862, when the Dakota were facing starvation after late annuity payments and the refusal by government agents and traders to release provisions, four young Dakota men killed five settlers near Acton.
—Incorrect – Not all of “the Dakota” were facing starvation.
—Incorrect -There was only one government agent.
—Incorrect – The traders sold food in trade or by giving credits. Not all of the traders stopped giving credits.
—Incorrect – The settlers were killed in Acton Township, Meeker County. It cannot be proven why they were killed.

In the days that followed, tribal factions attacked the Lower Sioux Agency, Fort Ridgely and white settlements in south central and southwestern Minnesota.
—Incorrect – They also attacked settlements in western and northwestern Minnesota.

The fighting lasted six weeks. Between 400 and 600 white civilians and soldiers and an unknown number of Dakota were killed.
—Incorrect – More than 650 white civilians and soldiers and about 145 Dakota were killed.

On December 26, 1862, 38 Dakota men were hanged in Mankato in the largest mass execution in U.S. history. More than 300 had initially been condemned to death, but President Lincoln commuted the sentences of 264 men to prison terms.
—Incorrect – This was the largest simultaneous mass execution in U.S. history.
—Unbalanced – The mass-murder of more than 550 white civilians by Indians was the largest mass-murder of white non-combatants by Indians in U.S. history.
—Incorrect – Lincoln saved 264 from hanging. He did not sentence them to prison terms.

Taoyateduta’s (Little Crow) wife and children at Fort Snelling, ca. 1863.
—Incorrect – This was one of his wives. When the fighting ended, some Dakota fled west or into Canada.
—Incorrect – Most of them fled.

About 1,700 noncombatant Dakota and mixed-race people who surrendered – mostly women, children and the elderly – were held over the winter of 1862-63 in an internment camp at Fort Snelling, suffering severe hardship. As many as 300 died.
—Incorrect – Most did not surrender. They waited here for Sibley to arrive.
—Incorrect – The official report said that 130 died at Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect – I would not call this severe hardship.

In 1863, those who survived were forcibly moved to reservations in the Dakota Territory and what is now Nebraska.
—Incorrect – Not all were removed from Minnesota.
—Incorrect – Those who were removed were moved to Crow Creek in Dakota Territory. In Dakota culture, a confluence of rivers is known as “Bdote.”
—For more information on the word Bdote see “Definitions” on the top bar.

In a series of treaties in the early- and mid-1800s, the U.S. government coerced the Dakota into ceding land…in exchange for promises of cash, goods, education and reservations.
—Incorrect – While they may have been coerced, the Dakota chose to sign these treaties.
—Incorrect – They received much more than cash, goods, education and reservations. This [Mendota] is our ancient homeland, the birthplace of the Dakota people.
—Incorrect – This is a relatively recent belief. For more than 150 years, Mille lacs Lake has been the Dakota place of creation.

Located within the [Fort Snelling State] park’s boundaries are the…and internment camp, called by some today a concentration camp…
—Incorrect – Some call this a concentration camp to evoke images of a Nazi concentration camp. This is incorrect. Dakota people came here to survive.

Once the farthest outpost of the U.S., Fort Snelling was built in the 1820s to serve the fur trade.
—Incorrect – Fort Snelling was built on a prominent point to defend this area in the event of war with other countries. Another function was to preserve peace between the Indians.

As Dakota were pushed onto smaller reservations of land, tensions mounted.
—Incorrect – The Dakota were not “pushed” onto reservations. Tensions also mounted for other reasons. By the early 1840s the fur trade was dying.
—Incorrect – Sibley wrote that there was a noticeable decline in the fur trade by the mid-1930s. However, the fur trade was still alive after the Dakota War of 1862. Treaties had reduced prime fur hunting territories for the Dakota…
—Incorrect – The Dakota continued to hunt on ceded land up to 1862.

After the war, he [Sibley] led punitive expeditions against the Dakota who had left Minnesota for the western territories.
—Incorrect – Sibley led one punitive expedition against the hostile Dakota after the war.

They made promises in those treaties that they never intended to keep. They had browbeaten and coerced the Indians to the point where they didn’t have much choice.
—Incorrect – Show proof they never intended to keep these promises.
—Incorrect – Dakota leaders chose to sign treaties.

Sibley House Historic Site – Visitors can learn about Sibley’s interaction with the Dakota before, during and after the war.
—Unbalanced – Visitors can also learn about Sibley and his interaction with white and mixed-blood people.

In 1851, as territorial governor and superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Minnesota Territory, Alexander Ramsey negotiated treaties on behalf of the U.S. government with the Dakota…Ramsey also served as governor during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, the causes of which were directly related to the treaties and lack of compliance with them by the government and traders.
—Incorrect – Ramsey was not the only one who negotiated treaties in 1851. By 1862, he was no longer superintendent.
—Disrespectful – Is it being implied that Ramsey, in part, caused the war?
—Incorrect – Lack of compliance with the treaties was one of many causes of the Dakota War.
—Incorrect – How was there lack of compliance with the treaties by the traders?

He [Ramsey]…notoriously stated “the Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the state.”
—Disrespectful – The hostile Dakota had just killed more than 650 white men, women and children. Ramsey agreed with popular public opinion.

The fur trade existed in Minnesota for 200 years and marked the beginning of Dakota and European contact.
—Incorrect – There were explorers here before the fur traders. It [Lac qui Parle Mission] was built by missionaries at a trading post founded by explorer and fur trader Joseph Renville.
—Incorrect – It was built near Renville’s trading post.

It [Traverse des Sioux] was also the site of the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux where the upper bands of the Dakota nation ceded about half of present-day Minnesota to the U.S. government in exchange for promises of cash, goods, education and a reservation.
—Incorrect – In 1851, The “Dakota Nation” had 7 bands. “upper bands of the Dakota nation” should be “the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands of the Dakota Nation”
—Incorrect – They gave up their claims on this land. The Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands gave up their claims on this land in the 1851 Treaty at Mendota.
—Incorrect – They received much more than cash, goods, education and a reservation.

A marker near Morton identifies where Wabasa’s band moved in 1853 after ceding millions of acres to the U.S. government.
—Incorrect – Wabasha’s village was southeast and across the Minnesota River from Morton.
—Incorrect – Wabasha and other Dakota leaders ceded millions of acres.

In the months leading up to the war, the U.S. government failed to make annuity payments owed to the Dakota and refused to provide food and supplies.
—Incorrect – Food was issued to the Upper Dakota and to the Lower Dakota farmers.

The Dakota then attacked settlements along the Minnesota River Valley…
—Incorrect – Hostile Dakota attacked settlements. The majority of the Dakota did not go to war.
—Incorrect – They also attacked settlements outside the Minnesota River Valley. [At the Lower Sioux Agency Historic Site] Learn about reservation life and causes of the war.
—Unbalanced – There also were government workers, missionaries, fur traders, etc. here.

Fort Ridgely’s 280 military and civilian defenders held out until U.S. Army reinforcements ended the siege.
—Incorrect – There were 180 military and civilian defenders.
—Incorrect – Many if not all of the reinforcements were volunteers.

After the war, nearly 1,700 Dakota women, children and elders were forced to travel for six days to an internment camp at Fort Snelling. As they marched through Henderson and nearby towns, angry residents threatened and attacked the captive Dakota.
—Incorrect – There were also young men in this group.
—Incorrect – They were not forced to travel.
—Incorrect – It is not known exactly how many days they travelled.
—Incorrect – Henderson was the only town where residents attacked this group.
—Incorrect – They were not captives.

In late September, after the defeat of Little Crow’s forces, a group of Dakota chiefs released white and mixed-race captives to Col. Henry Sibley.
—Incorrect – Those who released captives were not all chiefs.

Sibley also took into custody about 1,200 Dakota, a number that grew to nearly 2,000 as more surrendered or were captured.
—Incorrect – Sibley took into custody only Dakota men who were suspected to be guilty.
—Incorrect – Most did not surrender nor were they captured. They waited here for Sibley.

At the urging of Bishop Henry Whipple, President Abraham Lincoln reviewed the convictions and commuted the sentences of 264 to prison terms.
—Incorrect – Whipple was not the only one speaking for the convicted Dakota.
—Incorrect – Lincoln saved them from hanging. He did not sentence them to prison terms.

…38 men were hanged…the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
—Incorrect – This was the largest simultaneous mass execution in U.S. history.
—Unbalanced – The mass-murder of more than 550 white civilians by hostile Dakota was the largest in U.S. history.

In 1863, thousands of Dakota were forced onto reservations in the Dakota Territory and what is now Nebraska.
—Incorrect – In 1863, a little more than 1300 were removed to a reservation in Dakota Territory, what is now South Dakota. 

Stop # 1 – Introduction

Welcome to the Minnesota River Valley Mobile Tour. This tour offers reflections and historical narratives at locations along the Minnesota River that address one of the most tragic periods in Minnesota history surrounding the U.S. Dakota war of 1862.
—Incorrect – This introduction does not reflect the unbalance in this tour.
—Incorrect – Most of these narratives have nothing to do with the specific locations.

The Dakota word Bdote, translates to mean the mouth or junction of two rivers. For the Dakota people, the Mdewakanton, we came from the constellation Orion. The seven campfires, or the seven stars, in the constellation Orion, and we arrived here at the center of the earth, at the convolution of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, the Mni bdote.
—For more information on the word Bdote see “Definitions” on the top bar.
—Incorrect – This belief that the Dakota people came from Orion and emerged at mdote is a relatively recent belief. For more than 150 years, Dakota believed that Lake Mille lacs was their place of creation.
—Incorrect – “campfires” should be “council fires.”
—Incorrect – Gideon Pond wrote in September 1851, the Dakota believed “…the mouth of the Minnesota River (Watpa Minisota) lies immediately over the centre of the earth and under the centre of the heavens.” This does not mean it was a place of creation.
—Incorrect – “Convolution” probably should be “Confluence.”
—Incorrect – According to Riggs, “Mni” also means “mini” which means water. “Mni bdote” is redundant. 

When the US Government made a pact with us, will not live up to its agreement, we have to then defend ourselves.
—Incorrect – The hostile Dakota did not have to kill more than 550 innocent white civilians in order to defend themselves. This included about 40 women and 100 children.
They exiled the Dakota from the State of Minnesota.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota were exiled from Minnesota.

My family is scattered everywhere: Sioux Valley, Pipestone Creek, Crow Creek, Santee, Flandreau.
—Unbalanced – Many families are scattered everywhere. 500 people were killed, and virtually a nation disappeared.
—Incorrect – More than 650 whites and about 145 Dakota were killed.
—Incorrect – Which nation disappeared?

People don’t even know who they are anymore or even their family lineage.
—Unbalanced – Many people don’t know who they are or their family lineage.

They’re never going to give back the land; that’s never going to happen.
—Why should they give back the land? The Dakota took this land from other tribes and sold it to the U.S. Are the Ojibway going to give back the land they took from the Dakota in northern Minnesota?

We’re like trees. If we don’t know our roots, in terms of who we are, and how we are connected from the very beginning – to creation, and to God, and to the land. If you don’t have roots, the tree falls. And it dies.
—What does this mean? Are people falling and dying?

Stop #2 – Traverse des Sioux

In exchange for much needed money and goods, the Dakota gave up most of their land in two 1850s treaties and were forced to move to reservation strips along the Minnesota river.
—Incorrect – The Sisseton and Wahpeton sold their land because many of them were starving.
—Incorrect – Dakota leaders agreed to move to the reservations.

Government fraud and delay of these Dakota provisions needed for survival, set in motion the events leading into the US-Dakota war of 1862. One cause of the war was attributed to the deception around these treaties.
—Incorrect – No primary sources state that fraud and deception caused the war.

The treaties were not understood by the people…You know, the treaties weren’t for the betterment of the Dakota people. The treaties were for the Europeans.
—Incorrect – Many Dakota did understand the treaties.
—Incorrect – The treaties were mutually beneficial.

The treaty was a bogus document which allowed the U.S. to legally steal Dakota land. The U.S. never intended to keep their promises.
—Incorrect – Show proof for these opinions.

So they never actually paid for it; never paid a cent for all this vast territory.
—Absolutely Incorrect

If white people would have been more honest and would have kept their treaties, if they, Native Americans, had not been pushed into a corner, Had they been given the proper food and nourishment that they were promised it could have been a whole different way of life, for them; for us.
—Incorrect – It cannot be proven that this would have prevented a war. There were many causes of the war.
—Incorrect – Food was issued to the Upper Dakota and to the Lower Dakota Farmers. In Washington they already had the idea that they were going to exterminate the Natives into the west.
—Incorrect – Show proof for this opinion. The treaties are still valid…that the U.S. needs to honor those treaties and do what they need to do in order to do justice…
—Incorrect – These Dakota treaties are not still valid. The U. S. is suffering because they made so many mistakes, and that’s one of them. —Incorrect – Show proof for this opinion. 

Stop #3 – New Ulm

 —Some 50 white men, women and children were killed by hostile Dakota in nearby Milford Township. Some 35 whites were killed by hostile Dakota in the defense of New Ulm. No mention is made of these deaths. Who will remember these innocent victims?

Founded in the 1850s, New Ulm was a haven for German immigrants to start a new life on the prairie. But clashes over land rights and unfulfilled promises led to tension between the Dakota and these new arrivals, culminating in the U.S-Dakota war of 1862.
—Incorrect – In no way did the immigrants cause the war.

Eventually New Ulm rebuilt and to this day the community is still processing the events of the war.
—What does this mean – “processing the events of the war”?

…we had a Dakota speaking, and the first thing he said, ‘I was afraid to come to New Ulm.’
—Because one Dakota man was afraid to come to New Ulm does not mean all Dakota are afraid to come here. 

Stop #4 – Lower Sioux Agency

 —Unbalanced – People were killed here by hostile Dakota. Who will remember these innocent victims?  

Following the War of 1862, the US government exiled the Dakota from Minnesota, even those who had no involvement in the war, tearing families apart…They were taken by barge down the Mississippi and then up the Missouri, up to Santee, Nebraska.
—Incorrect – Not all Dakota were exiled.
—Unbalanced – Hundreds of white families also were torn apart.
—Incorrect – They were taken by steamboats down the Mississippi.
—Incorrect – They were taken to Crow Creek, Dakota Territory The US government promised to punish only those who fought in the war.

However, more than 300 Dakota were convicted in makeshift tribunals, some lasting as short as 5 minutes.
—Incorrect – Sibley promised to punish only those who were guilty.
—Incorrect – These were not make-shift tribunals.
—Unbalanced – The more important trials lasted much longer than 5 minutes.
—Unbalanced – Now describe the Dakota trial system. The people killed here at Lower Sioux Agency received no trial.

To be Dakota in Minnesota- what they went through…It takes me to why my people are the way they are today, why we haven’t healed…
—Incorrect – Not all Dakota people are healing today.

We didn’t own the lands, they belonged to everybody, and so we were willing to share with others that we felt needed. It was used against us. The generosity was used against us.”
—Incorrect – If the lands belonged to everybody, why did the Dakota want to be paid for the lands?
—What does this mean – how was the generosity used against us? 

Stop #5 – Birch Coulee

 —Unbalanced – Very little is said about the battle.
—Unbalanced – Settlers were killed by Indians in this vicinity. No mention is made of these murders. Who will remember these innocent victims?

The Battle of Birch Coulee. Lithograph by Paul G. Biersach, 1912
—Incorrect – This is not an accurate depiction of the Battle of Birch Coulee.

Mdewakanton and Wapekute lived on the Coulee for generations.
—Incorrect – Wapekute is misspelled.
—Incorrect – Show proof.

After many transformations, the prairie is now restored to the way it would have looked in September, 1862.
—Incorrect – The battlefield is lower today than it was in 1862. Fill was removed. Our descendants have been here thousands and thousands of years.
—Incorrect – “descendants” probably should be “ancestors”.
—Incorrect – This depends upon the meaning of “here.”

The land has a memory. Someday someone will be reminded of what happened there. And it probably won’t be good.
—What does this mean? This country is still ours, spiritually, because it is God-given. And when God does something, he doesn’t take it back.
—Incorrect – God did not give this land to the Dakota. The Dakota killed members of other tribes and took their land.

Settlers were very much a threat to Dakota way of life. They were moving on to Dakota lands that were encroaching on their livelihood.
—Incorrect – During the reservation era, a few settlers were moving onto reservation lands. The U.S. was in process of removing them.

At that point it was starting to settle in that their lives were going to be changed forever and there wasn’t a thing they could do about it.
—What does this mean – at what point?

What if a foreign country was encroaching onto your land? Would you retaliate, or would you just keep moving and let them take your land? We need to see the minds of the Dakota in saying ‘We are warriors’.
—Unbalanced – The Dakota killed members of other tribes and took their land.
—Incorrect – Dakota leaders agreed to sell their land and move onto reservations.

Our ancestors fought for our survival. They had to go to war to fight for survival. If they wouldn’t have fought, we would have all just died. We would have starved to death.
—Incorrect – The majority of the Dakota did not go to war.
—Incorrect – The hostile Dakota did not have to kill more than 550 innocent white civilians in order to obtain food.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota were starving. Food was issued to the Upper Dakota and to the Lower Dakota farmers.
—Incorrect – They all would not have died. By August, crops were ripening. In a matter of days there would be plenty of food. The annuity money arrived at Fort Ridgely on August 18. Within days, it would be paid and food issued to the Lower Dakota.

We know what happened, we know the things that they went through. They were true warriors. They went and they did what they had to.
—Incorrect – Dakota chief Akipa said to Chief Little Crow’s warriors, “there was no bravery in killing helpless men and women and little children, but that it was simply cowardice, and cowards would only boast of it.” See Through Dakota Eyes, page 134.

Stop #6 – Upper Sioux Agency

 —Unbalanced – Nothing is said about the attack on the agency.
—Unbalanced – Nothing is said about the people who lived here. Nothing is said about the people who were murdered here by hostile Dakota. Who will remember these innocent victims?

After centuries of sustaining a seasonal nomadic lifestyle, many in the Upper Sioux community turned to farming in order to adapt to reservation life.
—Incorrect – Their lifestyle was semi-nomadic. But following the war of 1862, the Dakota were exiled from Minnesota, fracturing their extended family. —Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota were exiled from Minnesota.
—Unbalanced – The war also fractured white families. We are a peaceful people.
—Incorrect – Dakota Indians killed more than 650 civilians and soldiers. These murders were not committed by “a peaceful people”.

We don’t know what happened to them as they scattered many different directions.
—Unbalanced – White families were also scattered many directions.

Stop #7 – Camp Release

 While some held on to traditional life, others adopted the white ways of farming, sparking tension.
—The tension came from Dakota who didn’t want their people adopting ways of the whites.

Many Dakota reluctantly joined the war against the whites.
—Many were threatened with death if they did not join.
—Many willingly joined.
—Some of the Upper Dakota joined.
—The majority of the Dakota did not go to war. Red Iron took captives and kept them safe.
—Other friendly Dakota also took captives and kept them safe.

As the war came to a close, the Upper Sioux Dakotas surrendered and turned over the white captives at Camp Release, with the promise of being spared prosecution by Henry Sibley and his troops. Yet another promise broken.
—Incorrect – The hostile Dakota surrendered. This included Lower Dakota and some Upper Dakota. The friendly Dakota waited here for Sibley. They did not surrender.
—Incorrect – Upper and Lower Dakota rescued hostages and turned them over to Sibley.
—Incorrect – This was not the reason they turned hostages over to Sibley.
—Incorrect – Sibley said he would punish only the guilty. He did not break this promise.

Roughly 2,000 Dakota were taken into custody at Camp Release. Of those, more than 300 were convicted in makeshift court hearings, some lasting as short as 5 minutes.
—Incorrect – Only the men who were suspected of being guilty were taken into custody.
—Incorrect – These were not makeshift hearings.
—Unbalanced – The more important trials lasted much longer than 5 minutes.
—Unbalanced – Now describe the Dakota trial system – there wasn’t one.

The decisions of the peaceful [Dakota] versus the unfriendly [Dakota] had no impact on the result.
—Incorrect – If not for the actions of the friendly Dakota, many more whites and Dakota would have been killed.

Stop #8 – Fort Renville

 We had a very powerful connection with ‘unci maka,’ grandmother earth. We knew how to use what we had here on mother earth, on ‘maka ina’.
—Incorrect – Both of these statements are made at this stop. Which is correct?

The Dakota, wherever they had to go they used the river as the fastest way of getting around.
—Incorrect – They travelled overland to places where rivers did not go.

For 200 years, the fur trade existed in relative peace until traders starting taking advantage of Native relationships.
—What does this mean? Who did this, where did they do this and when did they do this?

The fat is called wasin. Wasicu – takers of fat. That’s what they called the white man. That was the first encounter with the European fur traders. They controlled the trade. Indians depended on the traders for food and clothing.
—Incorrect – Riggs’ Dakota-English Dictionary defines wasin as “fat meat or pork.” Riggs defines Wasicu as “keel or bottom of a boat.” Riggs defines Wasicun as “Frenchmen, in particular; all white men, in general” or “a familiar spirit.” “takers of fat” is a more recent corruption of the definition of Wasicun.
—Incorrect – At first encounter, the Indians did not depend on the traders for food and clothing. They later became dependent. The traders came in and they would want to make a deal: ‘Oh, we want this little island over here; it’s worth nothing…’
—Incorrect – The traders did not want land, they wanted furs. 

Stop #9 – Lac qui Parle Mission

 The mission was self sustaining for more than 10 years.
—Incorrect – The mission relied on funds from their home office and donations from others.

The Lac qui Parle mission officially closed in 1854, due to low attendance.
—Incorrect – The mission moved to the Upper Agency area so that its members could be closer to the benefits of the 1851 Treaty.

Less than 15 years later, the Dakota were forcibly removed from the Lac qui Parle area, following the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
—Incorrect – The war caused Dakota in this area either to come into Camp Release or to flee.

Boarding Schools – Transcript
—Incorrect – There were no boarding schools at Lac qui Parle.
—Unbalanced – Compare these many comments to boarding schools for other ethnic groups.
—Incorrect – There is an attempt here to blame the U.S. for Dakota people losing their language. Many Dakota people chose to stop speaking their language just as other ethnic groups chose to stop speaking their languages.

The aim of the boarding schools was not only to Christianize the Dakota community, but also eliminate Dakota culture altogether, by forcibly removing Dakota children from their parents.
—Incorrect – Christianize should be capitalized.
—Incorrect – Dakota children were not removed from good homes. The boarding schools provided better living conditions for children who did not have good homes.

The obvious objective of the Indian boarding schools was to get Native people into the workforce of America. But the subversive objective was the idea to weaken them to the degree to where it’s just easier to erase them off the map.
—Incorrect – Had the U.S. wanted to “erase them off the map”, this would have been done.

You lose your language when you go to boarding schools because we had signs on every door that said, “Speak English!” And if you don’t, you get strapped.
—Unbalanced – Compare this to white public schools in New Ulm at a time when many of the children did not know English.

They didn’t finish the job. Their mission wasn’t accomplished. We’re still here. I’m still here.
—Incorrect – If the U.S. had wanted to destroy the Dakota Indians, this would have been done.

Dakota Language Today – Transcript
—Unbalanced – Where is the Language Today Transcript for other ethnic groups?

Stop #10 – Wabasha Village

 —Incorrect – Wabasha’s village was never located where the travel guide and map indicate. 

But by the time of the 1851 treaty signing, Chief Wabasha and his band were pushed further away from these forests to a small piece of land along the Minnesota river.
—Incorrect – At a combined total of 20 miles by about 150 miles, the reservations were not a “small piece of land.”
—Incorrect – They were not confined to these reservations. They continued to return to former hunting grounds.

Archaeology confirms this long held oral knowledge of Dakota villages spanning the state of Minnesota.
—Incorrect – There were villages spanning the state, but many were not Dakota. Other people were here before the Dakota migrated here.

Although at times it probably feels like Minnesota has forgotten us…
—What does this mean?

Cooperative societies work together and I think that’s been the goal of the foreign governments, is to get rid of that cooperativeness among the groups. And when we become individuals and we start hoarding as individuals, then we’ve lost those values that were there in the beginning.
—What does this mean?

Stop #11 – Fort Ridgely

 —Unbalanced – Little is said about the whites who were here. Whites suffered here. Whites were killed here. Who will remember these innocent victims?
—Unbalanced – Nothing is said about the battles.

Fort Ridgely. Painting by James McGrew, 1890
—Incorrect – The painting image is reversed.

While originally built as a place to protect newly arrived European settlers…Fort Ridgely became a turning point in the U.S.-Dakota war, with lasting implications.
—It was also built to maintain peace on the reservations.
—What does “lasting implications” mean? Archeological History Transcript
—Note that “Native” as it is used here, does not mean “Dakota.” The fire ring and other “Native” artifacts found at Fort Ridgely do not mean these were made by Dakota people. The Oneota site indicates other people were here before the Dakota arrived.

I think it’s important for all Minnesotans to know that the Dakota people were here long before the European contact.
—What does “here” mean?

Archaeological research reinforces what Dakota people have always known about the land.
—What does this mean?

When we find ourselves going to Fort Ridgely and examining this history, our role in it is one of trauma and it’s often very hard…Fort Ridgely brings up strong emotions for people in the Dakota community.
—What does this mean? Dakota lost 2 battles here. They attempted to kill some 180 defenders and 300 refugees.

It’s really difficult teaching your children that these forts were built to protect Euro-Americans against Indians and that their job was to kill Indians. They are difficult reminders that there’s still that attitude in America that Indians are the enemy.
—Incorrect – Soldiers at Fort Ridgely killed hostile Dakota in self-defense.
—Incorrect – Where does this attitude exist?

Today’s educators in the Dakota community use Fort Ridgely as a tool to educate Dakota youth, not only about their history but also important values in the community.
—How does Fort Ridgely help educate “important values in the community”?

When I’m riding in Fort Ridgely and we’re using our Dakota language when we’re riding there, I feel like that’s a way of healing, not only for ourselves, but for the land there that once heard the language spoken so freely within the area there. This land, it appreciates that.
—What does this mean? What about the other languages spoken here before and after the Dakota? 

Stop #12 – Henderson

 —Unbalanced – There were many refugees in Henderson as a result of the Dakota War. Nothing is said about them other than they attacked the Dakota here. 

Painting – “Captured prisoners.” 1868, Kansas Historical Society
—Incorrect – This painting is not about the Dakota Indians. It does not accurately depict the Dakota march to Fort Snelling.

In the immediate aftermath of the US-Dakota War, the U.S Government force marched 1,700 women, children and elders for 6 days up to an internment camp at Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect – They were not force marched.
—Incorrect – There were young Dakota men in this group.
—Incorrect – We don’t know which day they left the Lower Sioux Agency, so we don’t know how many days it took to reach Fort Snelling.

They experienced really horrific treatment at the hands of citizen-soldiers and mobs along the way, that were angry about the fighting that was taking place in Minnesota.
—Incorrect – Where were they mistreated by citizen-soldiers?
—Incorrect – Where other than Henderson were they mistreated by mobs?

They walked them all they way up through Henderson all the way to Fort Snelling. They were placed into a concentration camp. And after that they were exiled from our Dakota lands.
—Incorrect – There were many wagons in this group. Those who wanted to ride chose to ride.
—Incorrect – The term “concentration camp” is used to evoke images of a Nazi concentration camp. The camp at Fort Snelling was not a concentration camp.
—Incorrect – Not all of them were exiled.

It’s understandable that there are Dakota people that are still sad and have grief over that event and still carry the trauma of what happened in Henderson.
—Unbalanced – There were many refugees in Henderson who had family members who were killed by hostile Dakota. What do their descendants feel today?
—Unbalanced – It appears it was okay for hostile Dakota to kill whites but it was not okay for whites to attack the Dakota. Interment Camp – Transcript
—Why is this interpretation in Henderson?

That confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota River is a really important site to Dakota people…that’s where the concentration camp was and where people were in prison. So it has a bitter-sweet connotation there. It’s a place of rebirth and birth, but it’s also a place of great tragedy.
—Incorrect – This was neither a concentration nor a prison camp.
—Incorrect – That this was a Dakota creation site is a relatively recent belief. If this site was sacred to the Dakota, they would not have sold it in 1805 nor would they have allowed Fort Snelling to be built here.

Following the U.S.-Dakota War, the U.S. Government punished the Dakota community. Some were hanged in Mankato, while others were imprisoned in Iowa. 1,700 Dakota women, children, and elders were marched more than 100 miles…to Fort Snelling…Up to 300 Dakota did not survive the harsh winter.
—Unbalanced – What about the hundreds of white people who died after the war?
—Unbalanced – What struggles did the white survivors have after the war?
—Incorrect – There were also young Dakota men in this group taken to Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect – The official number of deaths in the Fort Snelling camp was 130.

There must have been a lot of them that died there [Fort Snelling]. And what happened to them? Expendable, I guess.
—Incorrect – If they had been expendable, the U.S. would have left them all die.
—Unbalanced – Were the more than 650 white civilians and soldiers that were killed by hostile Dakota also expendable?

Dakota Healing – Transcript
—Unbalanced – Where is the White Healing – Transcript?

The Dakota Commemorative Walk is a memorial to Dakota ancestors, elderly women and children that were force-marched in November of 1862 from what is present day Morton, Minnesota to Fort Snelling. It’s to honor our ancestors; because of them and their will to survive that Dakota people are here today.
—Incorrect – There were also elderly men, young women and young men in this group in 1862.
—Incorrect – They were not force-marched.
—Incorrect – They started from the Lower Sioux Agency.
—Unbalanced – Many Dakota people are here today because the U.S. helped them to survive. …But then also it’s great to see people of Henderson, the actual town of Henderson, where they have acknowledged what their ancestors did.
—What did their ancestors do?
—Unbalanced – Did the Dakota marchers acknowledge what their hostile Dakota ancestors did?

The Dakota use the walk as a time to reflect on – and to heal from – the trauma the march left on their community.
—Unbalanced – Not all Dakota are healing. It’s very important for us not to forget those ones that treaded through the harsh weather, and were taken without their belongings.
—Incorrect – Prove that the weather was harsh in the first week of November 1862.
—Incorrect – If they did not take their belongings, it was because they chose not to. 

Stop #13 – Mankato

 What would you do if you were promised thousands of dollars? If you moved to a smaller portion of land and the U.S. said: ‘We’ll feed you, we’ll give you implements so you can be farmers.’ But when you did move onto those small pockets of land, you were starving. Your children were starving, I would fight. I would fight today even though I knew it would be futile. Because you’re going to die anyway. You’re going to starve.
—I would not have killed more than 550 innocent white civilians for food.

The Dakota did fight in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Even with casualties on both sides at the end of the war, the Dakota were outnumbered.
—Incorrect – The majority of the Dakota did not go to war.
—Incorrect – At the start of the war, the Dakota outnumbered the whites on the frontier.

…38 Dakota men were hanged…in the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
—Incorrect – This was the largest simultaneous execution in U. S. history.
—Unbalanced – The mass-murder of more than 550 white civilians by hostile Indians was the largest in U.S. history.

…Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and hung us.
—Disrespectful – Lincoln also saved some 264 Dakota men from the gallows.

The hanging in Mankato, left scars on both Dakota and settler descendants.
—Incorrect – The war left scars on settler descendants. The hanging did not.

But when you think of our warriors that were hung there and the sacrifice that they made for me and all my people, it makes it a little bit easier to know that they sacrificed so we can have what we have today.
—Incorrect – A minority of the Dakota went to war and killed more than 650 white civilians and soldiers.

As a result, 38 Dakota men were hung and most of the Dakota were removed from the state. How did this help the Dakota people? It still seems that it was hanging for the sake of hanging.
—Incorrect – These 38 were implicated in the murders of at least 99 civilians. This was not a guiltless hanging.

There are families of Minnesota, their ancestors settled here. Their ancestors were killed by my ancestors. They need that healing also.
—Excellent Comment! – Finally some balance

Dakota Commemoration – Transcript
—Unbalanced – Where is the discussion of the White Commemorations?

Public acknowledgement is really important, and it’s a critical piece I think that’s missing. So that people will never forget who the 38 were and the sacrifice that they made so that Dakota people could survive.
—Unbalanced – Where is the public acknowledge of the more than 650 white civilians and soldiers who were killed by hostile Dakota?
—Incorrect – Dakota people suffered more as a result of the hostile Dakota going to war than if they had not gone to war.

2 thoughts on “Review – MHS MN River Valley Tour – Revisited

  1. Very sad that the TRUTH has not been told, that the TRUTH was not formally recorded and that the TRUTH will never really be TOLD or RECORDED for future generations..

    • The truth has been told. We need to take the time to sort it out from the many misconceptions. After reviewing more than 200 products, I find that sadly, few people are taking the time to do this.


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