Review – MHS DW Website (1 of 7)

 Minnesota Historical Society (MHS)
U.S./Dakota War of 1862 Website – Revisited
http://usdakotawar.org/
1 – Home
Reviewed on January 17, 2014 

Items of Interest

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 statements on this website are extracted from the oral history project interviews. The original interviews are found here under Oral Traditions.

 This website was reviewed about a year ago on this blog. MHS has since updated this website. The previous review has been deleted. There are 7 main parts:
   1. Home
   2. Dakota Homeland
   3. Newcomers
   4. Treaties
   5. War
   6. Aftermath
   7. Today
Because of their size, each part will be reviewed in a separate review.

General Comments

  • Incorrect – There are many incorrect statements here and elsewhere on this website. Many incorrect statements are made in the oral interviews. These statements have been published without validation.
  • Unbalanced – This first part is supposed to be an introduction. However, the main focus is on the Dakota Indians. 

Most Objectionable Statements 

Video – Introduction 

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? How does this connect to the Dakota War of 1862?

Mni Sota Makoce, the “land of cloud tinted waters” in the Dakota language is known today as Minnesota. It has been the homeland of the Dakota people for thousands of years.
—Incorrect – According to Riggs’ Dakota-English Dictionary, “Mni” also means “mini” which means water. Riggs defines minisota as “whitish water.” The water is whitish because of its content not its reflection.
—Incorrect – It is believed that the ancestors of the Dakota Indians migrated into present day Minnesota. It cannot be proven they have been here for thousands of years. 

Settlers were very much a threat to the Dakota way of life. They were encroaching onto their livelihood.
—Incorrect – Dakota leaders sold their land. Settlers settled on this ceded land. A few settlers mistakenly settled on reservation land. The U.S. was in process of removing them in 1862. Each year Dakota hunters left the reservations to hunt in their former hunting grounds. They competed with the settlers for the available game.

By 1862, Dakota People faced many hardships and…when the U.S. Government broke its promises, some of the Dakota People went to war.”
—Incorrect – Broken promises were only one of many causes of the Dakota War.

When the U.S. who made a pact with us would not live up to its agreements, we had to then defend ourselves.
—Incorrect – We were not defending ourselves by attacking and killing more than 550 white civilians and 100 soldiers.

The fighting lasted six weeks and many people on both sides were killed. Descendants of those touched by the war continue to live with the trauma it caused.
—Unbalanced – More than 650 whites were killed and about 145 Dakota were killed.
—Unbalanced – Not all descendants are living with trauma.

They’re [U.S.] 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 Ojibwe going to give back the land they took from the Dakota?

…our view of the past is formed by the things we choose to keep and the stories we choose to tell.
—This is exactly why MHS must do a better job of making these products accurate, balanced and respectful for all people involved.

We [Dakota] are a peaceful people.
—Incorrect – Attacking and killing more than 650 white civilians and soldiers are not the actions of a peaceful people.

End-of-Video 

Oral Traditions

—Unbalanced – 11 Dakota communities are listed, but only 1 settler community is listed.
—Unbalanced – There are 51 interviewed segregated into 2 groups: 39 people who have Dakota blood and 12 people who do not have Dakota blood. Dakota interviews outnumber non-Dakota interviews by about 4 to 1. 

Minnesota River Valley Tour

—This has been reviewed previously on this blog. See “Review – MHS Mobile Tour.” 

Research Resources

—Incorrect – Names of the divisions and council fires of the Sioux or Dakota Nation given here do not agree with the names of the divisions and council fires given later in Part 2 – Dakota Homeland.
—Unbalanced – Photos of almost 1,000 Dakota artifacts are shown. Where are the photos of settler artifacts?

MHS Treaty Story

—This has been previously reviewed on this blog. See “MHS MN Territory Website.”

Fort Snelling Website

—Because of its size, this will be reviewed at a future date and posted to this blog.

Beginning Dakota

—Unbalanced – Where are the beginning language courses for the other ethnic groups who were involved in the Dakota War of 1862?

Bdote Memory Map

—This has been previously reviewed on this blog. See “MHC Bdote Memory Map Website.”

MNopedia: Minnesota Encyclopedia

—This has been previously reviewed on this blog. See “MHS MNopedia Website.”

Teacher Resources

—Unbalanced – The video and resources overwhelmingly favor education about the Dakota Indians.

Genealogy

—Unbalanced – There is a special section for “Dakota Family History.” Where are the special sections for other ethnic groups?

Media Room

—Unbalanced – Much of this text is about the Dakota after the war. Where is the text on the settlers after the war?

The [Dakota] war followed years of broken treaties and promises to the Dakota people in a state with a burgeoning white population.
—Incorrect – The causes of the war were much more complicated than this. 

In August 1862, when late annuity payments and the refusal by agents and traders to release provisions found the Dakota facing starvation, some factions attacked white settlements, the Lower Sioux Agency and Fort Ridgely in south central and southwestern Minnesota.
—Incorrect – The agent did issue food to the Upper Dakota and to the Lower Dakota farmers.
—Incorrect – The traders traded food or they sold food on credit. After they learned that the Lower Sioux Soldiers’ Lodge planned to refuse to pay their debts when the annuity arrived, many stopped giving credits.
—Incorrect – Not all of “the Dakota” were facing starvation.
—Incorrect – They also attacked settlers and soldiers in other areas.

The fighting lasted six weeks. Between four and six hundred white civilians and soldiers were killed. The number of Dakota killed in battle is not known.
—Incorrect – More than 650 white civilians and soldiers and about 145 Dakota were killed.

After a trial by military tribunal, 38 Dakota men were hanged in Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862. It remains the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
—Incorrect – It was the largest simultaneous mass 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.

The rest of the approximately 1600 non-combatant Dakota and mixed-race people (mostly women, children and the elderly) who surrendered at what came to be known as Camp Release near Montevideo were forced to march for six days to Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect – These were the innocent Dakota. They did not surrender. They waited for Sibley to arrive.
—Incorrect – They were not forced to march to Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect – It is not known which day they left Lower Sioux Agency, so it cannot be determined how many days it took to get to Fort Snelling.
—Unbalanced – Hostages taken by hostile Dakota were force-marched to Dakota camps.

There, they were held over the winter of 1862-63 in an internment camp, sometimes called a concentration camp, below the fort. Eventually, they were forcibly removed from the state to reservations in the Dakota Territory and what is now Nebraska. The convicted prisoners whose death sentences were commuted were transported to a military prison at Camp McClellan, near Davenport, Iowa.
—Incorrect – People call it a concentration camp to evoke images of a Nazi concentration camp. It was not a concentration camp.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota were removed from the state.
—Incorrect – Those who were removed from Fort Snelling were taken to Crow Creek in present day South Dakota.
—Incorrect – Other Dakota men who were sentenced to prison terms were also taken to Camp McClellan.

After the war, thousands of Dakota fled Minnesota for Dakota Territory. Col. Sibley and Gen. Alfred Sully, a Civil War veteran, led punitive expeditions in the territory in 1863 and 1864.
—Incorrect – Sibley was not involved in the 1864 expeditions.

Although these expeditions ended the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862…
—Incorrect – The Battle of Wood Lake and subsequent release of the hostages at Camp Release ended the Dakota War of 1862.

While the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 lasted just six weeks, the issues surrounding its causes continue to affect Minnesota and the nation to this day.
—Incorrect – How does this affect the nation today?

Between 1805 and 1858, treaties made between the U.S. government and the Dakota nation reduced Dakota lands and significantly altered Minnesota’s physical, cultural and political landscape.
—Incorrect – These treaties were made with bands of the Eastern Dakota. 

By the summer of 1862, the situation for many Dakota families had grown desperate: annuity payments were late due to the U.S. government’s priority in financing the Civil War, some traders at the Indian Agencies refused to extend credit for food and other goods until the Dakota had cash to pay their debts, and finally, recent droughts had contributed to poor harvests which left many Dakota families hungry.
—Incorrect – It cannot be said with certainty that the Civil War caused the 1862 payment to be late.
—Incorrect – Many traders stopped giving credits when they learned that the Lower Sioux Soldiers’ Lodge planned to refuse to pay their debts when the annuity money arrived.
—Incorrect – There was a drought in 1861. In 1862, there would be a bumper crop.

Due to these and other factors, tensions within Dakota communities reached a breaking point. On August 17, 1862, four young Dakota men killed five people living at the farms of Robinson Jones and Howard Baker near Acton, Minnesota.
—Incorrect – We do not know why they killed 3 men, a woman and a girl.
—Incorrect – These farms were in Acton Township, Meeker County.

Over the next several weeks, groups of Dakota soldiers attacked settler communities throughout the Minnesota River Valley…The war lasted nearly six weeks. During that time, between four and six hundred settlers and U.S. soldiers, as well as an unknown number of Dakota, lost their lives.
—Incorrect – They also attacked settlers and communities outside of the Minnesota River Valley.
—Incorrect – More than 650 settlers and soldiers and about 145 Dakota lost their lives. 

The war fractured Minnesota’s Dakota community. The war was fought primarily by a relatively small group of Dakota who lived on the Lower Sioux Reservation, and there was not universal support for the war within the Dakota community at large. Throughout the war, many Dakota as well as people of both Dakota and European ancestry (called “mixed-bloods” at the time) protected prisoners captured during the war and worked to secure their release to U.S. soldiers. For a tense period of time, it seemed as though a civil war might erupt between various Dakota communities.
—About 500 Dakota willingly fought in the war.
—Otherwise, this is an excellent statement.

…many Dakota left the state, while others surrendered to U.S. military forces at Camp Release…
—The innocent Dakota did not surrender; they waited at Camp Release for Sibley to arrive.  

Sibley established a military commission to try Dakota men suspected of killing or assaulting civilians.
—Incorrect – They were also trying Dakota for other reasons.

The remaining 38 men were hanged in Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862, in 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 Indians was the largest in U.S. history.

The rest of the approximately 1,600 Dakota and “mixed-bloods” who surrendered at Camp Release…were forced to march to Fort Snelling where they spent the winter of 1862-63 in an internment camp, sometimes called a concentration camp…
—Incorrect – They did not surrender.
—Incorrect – They were not forced to march to Fort Snelling.
—Incorrect – Some call this a concentration camp to evoke images of a Nazi concentration camp. This was not a concentration camp.

“Amid all this sickness and these great tribulations,” remembered Tiwakan (Gabriel Renville), a Sisseton Dakota man…”it seemed doubtful at night whether a person would be alive in the morning.”  It is estimated that 130 to 300 people died, due mostly to malnutrition and disease resulting from the conditions inside the camp.
—Incorrect – Gabriel Renville was also part white.
—Incorrect – The official number of deaths was 130.
—Incorrect – Show proof that any died of malnutrition.
—Unbalanced – Hundreds of whites died after the war from injuries received and from epidemics that swept the crowded refugee towns.

n May 1863, those remaining were taken to western reservations by steamboat.
—Incorrect – Not all Dakota were removed.
—Incorrect – Those who were removed were taken to Crow Creek in present day South Dakota.

During the summer of 1863, Brig. Gen. Sibley along with Brig. Gen. Alfred Sully, mounted a joint military operation called the “Punitive Expeditions” against those Dakota who had left Minnesota and headed into the western territories.
—Incorrect – They were seeking to punish only the hostile Dakota.

Media Room – Timeline
—Unbalanced – Following the Dakota War entry, all of the entries on this timeline are about what happened to the Dakota. Where are the entries on what happened to the settlers?

Pike’s Treaty: September 23, 1805
The “treaty” was ratified by Congress in 1808, but since Pike didn’t have the authority of the U.S. Senate or the President…According to an 1856 Senate committee report, “There is no evidence that this agreement, to which there was not even a witness . . . was ever considered binding upon the Indians, or that they ever yielded up the possession of their lands under it.”
—Unbalanced – Obviously the Dakota felt bound to the treaty otherwise they would not have permitted Fort Snelling to be built here.

Doty Treaty: July 31, 1841
The United States does not ratify the treaty.
—This treaty was not ratified. It should not be mentioned.

Treaty of Traverse des Sioux: July 23, 1851 and Treaty of Mendota: August 5, 1851
Facing mounting debts to fur traders and the pressure of new settlers pouring into the newly established Minnesota Territory, the Dakota leaders reluctantly sign treaties, hoping that government promises of reservations and annuities will provide a secure future for their people.
—Incorrect – The Sisseton and Wahpeton signed their treaty because they were starving.

Powerful and influential fur traders coerce the Dakota into giving up their land in exchange for promises of cash, goods, annuities and education.
—Incorrect – The Dakota were coerced by the fur traders, but they chose to sell their land.
—Incorrect – They received much more than cash, goods, annuities and education.

Thinking they are endorsing a third copy of the treaty, the Dakota leaders sign “Traders’ Papers,” illegal documents drafted by the traders themselves. The documents promise much of the $305,000 cash payment to the traders to fulfill “just obligations.”
—Incorrect – Some knew what these papers were.
—Incorrect – If these were illegal documents, the U.S. would have voided these papers during Ramsey’s subsequent trial.

Reservations Halved: 1858
After four long months spent in Washington, D.C., the Dakota are forced to sell the north half of their reservation in exchange for goods and annuities and the continuing right to live on the southern strip of their reservation.
—Incorrect – There were 2 reservations.
—Incorrect – They gave up their claims to the north half of their reservations. They did not own their reservations. They were paid twice for the northern half – once in 1851 and again in 1858.
—Incorrect – They were given ownership of the southern half of their reservations in 1858.

U.S.-Dakota War Begins: August 18, 1862
By the summer of 1862, living conditions on the Upper and Lower Sioux reservations have deteriorated further. Assimilation policies mandated by the U.S. government use the withholding of food and other supplies as a means of forcing the Dakota to conform to white ideals.
—Incorrect – Food and supplies were not withheld to force the Dakota to conform to white ideals. Extra food and supplies were given to those who would become farmers.

By the summer of 1862, tensions on the reservation are unbearable. Annuity payments are late again, and the traders refuse to extend further credit. The Dakota “Soldiers’ Lodge” advocates the use of force to acquire food for the Dakota people.
—Incorrect – It was not the traders’ responsibility to feed the Dakota. We don’t know how much food the traders had.
—Incorrect – The traders learned that the Lower Sioux Soldiers’ Lodge planned to refuse to pay their debts when the annuity money arrived.
—Incorrect – Not all of the traders refused to extend further credit.
—Is this correct – the Soldiers’ Lodge advocates the use of force to acquire food? They did not have to kill more than 650 whites to obtain food.

The situation falls apart on August 17, when four young Dakota men kill five settlers near Acton.
—Incorrect – They killed 3 men, a women and a girl in Acton Township, Meeker County.
—100-150 men of a Lower Sioux Soldiers’ Lodge made the decision to go to war. The majority of the Dakota leaders were not involved in this decision.

U.S.-Dakota War, First Strike on New Ulm: August 19, 1862
About 100 Dakota soldiers attack New Ulm at 3:00 p.m. After almost two hours of fierce fighting, the Dakota break off the attack due to torrential rains.
—Incorrect – This was not “fierce fighting.”

U.S.-Dakota War, Battles at Fort Ridgely: August 20 and 22, 1862
Fort Ridgely’s 280 military and civilian defenders hold out until Army reinforcements end the siege.
—Incorrect – There were 180 defenders.

Removal of Dakota Survivors: November 7-13, 1862
Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey declares that “the Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the state.” About 1600 Dakota women, children and older men are marched from the Lower Sioux Agency to Fort Snelling. Along the route they are attacked by mobs of angry settlers.
—Incorrect – It is not known for sure which day they departed from the Lower Sioux Agency.
—Disrespectful – Ramsey was representing the popular public opinion.
—Incorrect – The federal government decided to move these Dakota to Fort Snelling. Ramsey had no say in this.
—Incorrect – There were also young men in this group.
—Incorrect – Where other than Henderson were they attacked by mobs of angry settlers?

Dakota Internment at Fort Snelling: November 1862-Spring 1863
Dakota men, women and children are imprisoned in an internment camp, sometimes called a concentration camp, on the river flats below the walls of Fort Snelling. Nearly 300 Dakota prisoners die over the winter, victims of illness and of attacks by civilians and soldiers.
—Incorrect – They were not imprisoned here.
—Incorrect – Some call this a concentration camp to evoke images of a Nazi concentration camp. This was not a concentration camp.
—Incorrect – The official number of deaths was 130.
—Incorrect – When did civilians and soldiers attack and kill Dakota in the camp?

Trials and execution of Dakota at Mankato: December 26, 1862
Of the hundreds of Dakota people who surrendered or were captured during the U.S.-Dakota War, 303 men are tried in a military court and convicted of raping and murdering civilians.
—Incorrect – Most of the Dakota people neither surrendered nor were captured. They waited at Camp Release for Sibley to arrive.
—Incorrect – More than 303 were tried.
—Incorrect – Many were convicted for actions other than rape or murder.

At the urging of missionary Henry Whipple, President Abraham Lincoln reviews the convictions and commutes the sentences of 264 prisoners. Lincoln then signs the order condemning 39 men to death by hanging. One prisoner is reprieved just before the sentencing is carried out. The remaining 38 men are hanged at Mankato on December 26, 1862—the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
—Incorrect – Whipple was not a missionary. He was a bishop.
—Incorrect – Others besides Whipple also urge Lincoln to be lenient.
—Incorrect – This was the largest simultaneous mass hanging in U.S. history.

Dakota Banished from Minnesota: Spring 1863
After the deadly winter of 1862-1863, more than 260 Dakota men convicted the previous fall are brought to a compound in Davenport, Iowa, where they spend three years before being exiled.
—Incorrect – Some were released before 3 years.
—Incorrect – They had already been exiled.

The Dakota at Fort Snelling are sent by steamboat down the Mississippi and up the Missouri Rivers to new reservations including Crow Creek in Dakota Territory, a dry, barren place that was unsuitable for farming.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota at Fort Snelling were removed from the state.
—Incorrect – There was only 1 reservation – Crow Creek.

A federal law, the Dakota Expulsion Act, abrogates all Dakota treaties and makes it illegal for Dakota to live in the state of Minnesota. The act applies to all Dakota, regardless of whether they joined the war in 1862. This law has never been repealed.
—Incorrect – This was called the “Sioux – Dakota Removal Act.”
—Incorrect – This Act removed most of the Dakota from the state. It did not make it illegal for Dakota to live in the state, as many Dakota remained. It did not stop Dakota people from returning to Minnesota.
—Incorrect – This Act also provided for land for the Dakota. It cannot be repealed.

Dakota leader Taoyateduta, who fled to Canada after the battle of Wood Lake, is shot and killed by Nathan Lamson near Hutchinson, Minnesota. Lamson is awarded a $500 bounty by the state of Minnesota.
—Incorrect – This was an award, not a bounty.

The state of Minnesota places bounties – ranging from $25 to $200 – on the scalps of Dakota people. Governor Alexander Ramsey orders punitive expeditions into Dakota Territory to hunt down Dakota people.
—Unbalanced – The Dakota also placed bounties on white scalps during the Dakota War.
—Incorrect – Ramsey did not order these expeditions; the federal government did.

About 150 Dakota who assisted in the punitive expeditions are allowed to remain in Minnesota after the war.
—Incorrect – Other Dakota were also allowed to stay.

First Dakota Commemorative March: November 7-13, 2002
The first Dakota Commemorative March is held along the route of Dakota prisoners of war who were forced to march to Fort Snelling in 1862.
—Incorrect – The first commemorative march was about 90% off-course of the 1862 march.
—Incorrect – They were not prisoners of war.
—Incorrect – They were not forced to march to Fort Snelling. 

Remarks by Historical Society Director Stephen Elliott

—I will respond to this speech after reviewing this website

About

A Letter from the Director
—I will respond to this letter after reviewing this website.

FAQ

—A review of these FAQ has been previously posted to this blog. See “Review – MHS Dakota War FAQ – Website.”

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