Review – MHS Dakota War FAQ – Website

Minnesota Historical Society (MHS)
U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 Website
Frequently Asked Questions
Reviewed on January 18, 2014 

Items of Interest

This file is located on the Home Page of the MHS U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 Website under FAQ. It is a listing of questions and answers mostly from the Dakota perspective. 

General Comments

  • Incorrect – There are many incorrect statements in these answers as shown below.
  • Unbalanced – There are many unbalanced questions and answers as shown below. Most of the questions and answers are from the Dakota perspective.
  • Since there is no way for visitors to ask questions, it appears these questions were posted by MHS staff.

 Most Objectionable Statements

In early 1862, a government official reported to President Abraham Lincoln about impending violence and rampant government corruption regarding Indian affairs in Minnesota. A few months later, the official’s warning came true.
—Incorrect – These charges of corruption were never proven. The war began for different reasons than stated in this report. 

In August 1862, after years of broken treaties and promises and facing starvation, factions of Dakota attacked white settlements, the Lower Sioux Agency and Fort Ridgely in south central and southwestern Minnesota. Not all Dakota participated in the war and some helped settlers and soldiers. —Incorrect – The causes of the Dakota War cannot be stated this simply.
—Incorrect – Hostile Dakota also attacked other people in other locations.

Between four and six hundred white civilians and soldiers were killed during the six weeks of war. It is not known how many Dakota people were killed in battle.
—Incorrect – More than 650 white civilians and soldiers and about 145 Dakota were killed.

On Dec. 26, 1862, 38 Dakota men were hanged in Mankato in the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
—Incorrect – This was the largest simultaneous mass hanging in U.S. history.
—Unbalanced – The mass murder of more than 550 white civilians by Indians was the largest in U.S. history.

Approximately 1,600 non-combatant Dakota and mixed-race people who surrendered after the war, mostly women, children and the elderly, were force-marched to Fort Snelling where they were held in a wooden stockade below the fort. During the winter of 1862-63 as many as 300 Dakota people died of disease in the crowded camp; Dakota women were assaulted by soldiers. The survivors were forcibly removed from the state’s boundaries to reservations in the Dakota Territory and what is now Nebraska.
—Incorrect – They were not force-marched to Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect -Most of them did not surrender. These were the friendly Dakota who did nott go to war.
—Incorrect – The wooden stockade was built to protect the Dakota from the angry whites.
—Incorrect – The official report stated that 130 died.
—Is this correct – Dakota women were assaulted by soldiers?
—Unbalanced – During the war, hostile Dakota force-marched mixed-blood and white captive to Dakota camps.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota survivors were removed from the state.
—Incorrect – Those that were removed were taken to Crow Creek in in what is now South Dakota.

About 280 Dakota men who had been convicted during trials held in Mankato were imprisoned at Davenport, Iowa, where 120 died. The survivors were allowed to rejoin their families in 1866.
—Incorrect – The Dakota trials were not held in Mankato.
—Incorrect – Some were released prior to 1866.

By 1862, the treaty and reservation system significantly changed Dakota culture and shrank its land base to a small tract of land along the Minnesota River.
—Incorrect – At 10 miles wide and combined about 150 miles long, this was not a small tract of land.

The war itself resulted in the deaths of hundreds of settlers, soldiers and Dakota, and depopulated much of southwest Minnesota for more than a year.
—Unbalanced – More than 650 white civilians and soldiers and about 145 Dakota were killed.

The original Dakota Reservation in the Minnesota Territory was established by treaty in 1851. The treaty set aside a 10-mile wide strip of land on both sides of the Minnesota River as the permanent home of the Dakota.
—Incorrect – There were 2 Dakota reservations.
—Incorrect – There were 2 treaties in 1851.
—Incorrect – The 2 reservations combined were about 150 miles long.
—Incorrect – This was not the “permanent home” of the Dakota. They were not given ownership of these reservations in 1851.

After the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, the United States Congress abrogated or nullified all treaties, and most of the Dakota were exiled to new lands along the Missouri River and in North and South Dakota. Dakota communities were reestablished in Minnesota in their current locations by acts of Congress in 1886.
—Unbalanced – In the 1970s, Dakota descendants were paid for land and annuities taken in 1863.
—Incorrect – They were exiled to Crow Creek along the Missouri River in present day South Dakota.
—Incorrect – There are 4 federally recognized and 2 non-federally recognized Dakota Communities in Minnesota. They were not all established in 1886.

Today the Dakota live on and off reservations throughout Minnesota, the Upper Midwest and Canada.  
—Incorrect – Today Dakota people live throughout the world.

The Dakota who now live in eastern North and South Dakota are the Nakota, comprised of the Yankton and Yanktonai.
—Incorrect – Today, Sisseton and Wahpeton also live on reservations in eastern South Dakota and North Dakota.

The Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community in Mendota is a non-federally recognized tribe.
—The Dakota community in Pipestone also is a non-federally recognized community.

The causes of the [Dakota] war are rooted in opposing views on land use and ownership and also long-term relationships between the Dakota and the U.S. government, in particular the treaties of 1851 and U.S. policies of assimilation that were enacted during the 1853-1862 reservation period.  The tragedy of hundreds of dead on both sides cannot be forgotten…
—What does this mean?

How will this story be shared with the state’s schoolchildren?
The story of the Dakota people is being told by Dakota people through educational programs, speakers, and publications by MHS and other publishers.  The primary Minnesota history textbook for 6th graders is Northern Lights, which is published by MHS.  It includes chapters about the Dakota people and the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
 —Unbalanced – Aren’t there any educational programs, speakers and publications about the settlers?
—Unbalanced – Does the Northern Lights textbook contain anything about the settlers in the Dakota War?
—The first version of the Northern Lights textbook was reviewed previous on this blog.

MHS intends to encourage discussion and reflection about the war, its causes and aftermath… We also hope that the non-Dakota public learn more about the Dakota people, their history, culture, and current life.
—Incorrect – People cannot learn about the Dakota War when MHS tells only one side and includes so many incorrect statements.
—Unbalanced – The Dakota public also needs to learn more about the non-Dakota people, their history, culture and current life.

How has the Minnesota Historical Society’s interpretation of American Indian history and the inclusion of American Indian perspectives changed through the years?
—Unbalanced – Where is the corresponding question about MHS’s interpretation of settler history?

At times, our interpretation has not adequately reflected American Indian perspectives.
—Unbalanced – At present, MHS’s interpretation of the settlers during and after the Dakota War is inadequate.

In 1987, MHS created an Indian Advisory Committee (IAC) that includes members of federally recognized tribes in the state.
—Unbalanced – Where are the Advisory Committees for the Germans, Swedes, Norwegians and all other ethnic groups involved in Minnesota history?

Today, MHS continues to evolve as an organization dedicated to preserving the history of our state and all of its people. Dakota and Ojibwe perspectives are shared at many MHS historic sites and in MHS publications.  This year, we’re recording oral histories from Dakota people throughout Minnesota, the Midwest and Canada to ensure that their truths, experiences and viewpoints relating to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 are part of the permanent historical record.
—Incorrect – The first sentence states that MHS is dedicated to preserving the history of our state and “all of its people”. But MHS’s focus in most if not all of their Dakota War products has been unbalanced in favor of the Dakota people.
—Unbalanced – Where are the perspectives of the other ethnic groups shown?
—Unbalanced – 51 people were interviewed. These interviews are segregated into 2 groups: 39 people who have Dakota blood and 12 people who do not have Dakota blood. The Dakota interviews outnumber the non-Dakota interviews by about 4 to 1.

The history and stories of settlers involved in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 have been and will continue to be included in the history MHS collects, preserves and shares.  Just as we worked with descendents of Dakota involved in the war in sharing their histories, we worked with descendents of white settlers to bring their stories forward as part of this narrative.
—Incorrect – “descendents” should be “descendants.”
—Unbalanced – Most if not all of MHS Dakota War products are unbalanced in favor of the Dakota people.

Beginning June 30 [2012], a new exhibit called “The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862” will offer visitors the opportunity to view documents, images and artifacts relating to the war. The exhibit will incorporate multiple points of view on the war, what led up to it and what followed.
—Incorrect – The large majority of the post-war interpretation was about the Dakota.

Exhibit development is one aspect of the “Truth Recovery Project,” a process through which Society staff members are meeting with descendants of those touched by the war, both Dakota and settler descendants.
—Incorrect – “Truth Recovery” was the theme, but as shown in these questions and answers and reviews on this blog, there are many incorrect statements in MHS Dakota War products.

The “Truth Recovery Project” is inspired by Healing Through Remembering, a group that deals with the legacy of conflict in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
—Incorrect – By focusing on one side and including many incorrect statements, MHS does not promote healing. In fact, this produces the opposite effect of healing.

What Dakota artifacts are in the Society’s collections?
[Here follows a long answer on Dakota artifacts.]
—Unbalanced – What about the settler artifacts in the collections?

Why does the Minnesota Historical Society operate the Alexander Ramsey House and why isn’t his role in the war and the removal of the Dakota from Minnesota discussed in the interpretation of the house?
—Incorrect – Ramsey did not remove “the Dakota” from Minnesota. The federal government made this decision.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota were removed.

In 1859, Ramsey was elected state governor and so was in office during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, many of whose causes were directly related to the treaties and lack of compliance with them by the government and traders.
—Incorrect – There is a slight suggestion here that Ramsey’s involvement with the treaties was a cause of the Dakota War. Please show evidence of this.
—Incorrect – How did the traders fail to comply with the treaties?

In 1862, Ramsey appointed his long-time friend and political rival Henry Sibley as commander of the forces raised to fight against the Dakota, notoriously stating that “the Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the state.”
—Unbalanced – Ramsey made this statement after hostile Dakota killed more than 550 white civilians and 100 soldiers. Ramsey was representing the popular public opinion of the state.

Could the policies of the U.S. government and the State of Minnesota government in the 1860s be considered genocide?
MHS…will provide many opportunities over the next year to learn about the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862…Programs at MHS will place those events within a broader context that considers American Indian history in the Upper Midwest, Dakota culture and the westward expansion of white settlement. We ask that members of the public take advantage of these opportunities to develop a deeper understanding of this time in our past and that you answer the question for yourself – did the policies of the United States government and the State of Minnesota constitute genocide?
—Unbalanced – Where is the question on whether or not the hostile Dakota committed genocide? Traditional Dakota warfare was genocidal in nature.
—Unbalanced – Most if not all MHS Dakota War products focus on what the whites did to the Dakota. How can the public judge whether or not the hostile Dakota committed genocide?

Was the internment camp located below the current Historic Fort Snelling really a concentration camp?
—Unbalanced – What about the camps where hostile Dakota held white and mixed-blood hostages? Where is the question on whether or not these were concentration camps?

Over the winter of 1862-63, after the U.S.-Dakota War, approximately 1,600 Dakota were held in a wooden stockade on the river flats below Fort Snelling. Nearly 300 Dakota people held there died over the winter of 1862-63, victims of illness and attacks by soldiers. The survivors were removed from the state of Minnesota beginning in the spring of 1863 to reservations in the Dakota territory and what is now Nebraska.
—Incorrect – The stockade was built to protect them from the angry whites.
—Incorrect – The official number of deaths was 130. 300 is a statistical high end estimate.
—Incorrect – Show that Dakota died as result of attacks by soldiers.
—Incorrect – Not all were removed from the state.
—Incorrect – They were removed to Crow Creek in present day South Dakota.

This camp is sometimes referred to as a concentration camp.
—Incorrect – Some people call this a concentration camp to evoke images of the Nazi concentration camps. This was not a concentration camp.

What role does the Minnesota Historical Society play in sharing American Indian history beyond that related to the war?
—Unbalanced – What role does MHS play in sharing settler history beyond that related to the war?

It is the mission of MHS to preserve and share the history of all of Minnesota’s people.
—Incorrect – Generally, MHS Dakota War products are unbalanced in favor of the Dakota people. One needs only to examine these questions and answers to see this.

MHS shares American Indian history in many ways:
Here follows a long list of resources on American Indian history resources.
—Unbalanced – Where is the long list of resources for other ethnic groups?

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