Review – Incorrect Statements

Review – Incorrect Statements Summary
 March 7, 2014

To date, I have reviewed more than 200 products related to the Dakota War of 1862. I have accumulated incorrect statements from these products and have sorted them into categories. Many duplicate statements have been removed. In all, I have about 90 pages! This essay is a summary of these statements.

General Comments

  • The truth is tragic enough. We do not need to embellish or revise this history.
  • Many ethnic groups were involved. They all need to be included. But, many products focus on the Dakota perspective.
  • People search for and report the worst things the whites did to the Dakota. It appears that the Whites did nothing right.
  • Much more time and space are devoted to Dakota history than to other ethnic groups, especially after the Dakota War of 1862.
  • Many general statements about various groups are not correct because these statements do not apply to all persons in that group.
  • Many people today, have beliefs about Dakota history based on wrong information.

There are several reasons for these many incorrect statements:

  • People make mistakes.
  • Surface researchers. They trust what they see and hear. They pick up and repeat incorrect statements. One must do the research to approach the truth.
  • People are prejudiced. Their prejudice blinds their objectively. They collect and repeat information that supports their beliefs.
  • Entertainers have read a few books. They like to entertain others with what they know. What they lack, they make up. Telling the story is more important than getting it right.
  • Beware politicians who claim to be historians. Politicians think it is okay to revise history to achieve their agendas. Some use this history to gain attention. Some want reparations in land and money for what happened in 1862. They revise and embellish history to advance their agendas.
  • The majority of the incorrect statements come from interviews with people who do not know this history. They give opinions and incorrect statements which are edited into videos, websites, books and essays. These people do not take responsibility for accuracy in what they produce. They trust the people they interview.

Following are comments on some of the most objectionable statements in each category.

10 Introduction

Changes to the Dakota language in recent years corrupt and confuse the Dakota language.

  • For more information on the words Bdote and Bdewakanton see “Definitions” on the top bar.
  • Minisota has become Mi-ni So-ta Ma-ko-ce or Mni Sota Makoce.
  • Spellings and definitions of the 7 bands of the Dakota Nation are not consistent.

15 Dakota History

  • The Dakota were Minnesota’s first people.
  • The mouth of the Minnesota River was the Dakota place of creation
  • Camp Coldwater Spring was the Dakota place of creation
  • The Dakota originated in the Constellation Big Dipper

It cannot be proven that the Dakota were Minnesota’s first people.

Missionary Gideon Pond arrived in Minnesota in 1834. Pond wrote, “The Mdewakantonwan tradition…asserts that they sprang into existence about the lakes at the head of Rum river.” This is the Mille lacs Lake area. See Pond, “Gatherings from the Traditional History of the Mdewakantonwan Dakotas”, Dakota Tawaxitku Kin, September 1851. Dakota have believed for more than 150 years this to be their place of creation.

In recent years, people have claimed that the mouth of the Minnesota River was the Dakota place of creation. When the Bureau of Mines land, near Minnehaha Park, became available, a spring located on this land became the Dakota place of creation. It was claimed that Dakota spirits from the Constellation Big Dipper came to earth, landed in this spring and emerged as Dakota People. For more on Dakota creation, see:


20 Dakota Culture

  • The Dakota were a peaceful people
  • The earth is our Father. The earth is our Mother. The earth is our Grandmother.

But, they were often at war with their neighbors. Henry Sibley confirmed this in an 1852 letter to General Winfield Scott asking that a fort [Fort Ridgely] be built because, “the Sioux or Dakotas are the most powerful and warlike tribe on the continent. They are stretched over a thousand miles of country and wage interminable war with almost every other band with whom they are brought in contact.”

There is confusion in Dakota spiritually.

30 Fur Trade

  • The fur traders cheated the Indians.
  • They conspired with the U.S. to cheat the Indians.
  • When the treaty money came, the fur traders got all their money.

But, I have yet to see any solid proof that any fur traders cheated the Indians. There were many mixed-bloods and Dakota people involved in the fur trade. Were they also cheating their own people? If Dakota thought they were being cheated by their traders, they would have gone elsewhere.

35 Missionaries

  • The missionaries forced the Dakota to become Christians.
  • They were trying to destroy Dakota culture.

The missionaries came, built missions and invited the Dakota to attend. They had no power. They could not force the Dakota to do anything. Some Dakota chose to attend the missions and the missionary schools. Some Dakota chose to become Christians and farmers.

40 Christian Indians

  • When the Dakota converted to Christianity, they ceased being Dakota.

This is incorrect. Religion is only a part of culture.

Many Dakota War products ignore the Christians and others who did not go to war against the whites. They do not want to show that the Dakota were divided.

45 Treaties

  • “They [U.S.] never paid for it; never paid a cent for all the vast territory.”
  • “The U.S. forced the Dakota to sell the north half of their reservations in 1858.”
  • In 1863, as a result of the Dakota War of 1862, the treaties were abrogated. Annuities and land were taken from the Dakota.

This is absolutely incorrect. The U.S. paid thousands of dollars in cash, food, goods and other services. If not for the 1837 Treaty and the 1851 Treaties many Dakota would have starved to death.

In the 1851 Treaties, the Dakota were not given ownership of their reservations and they were paid for these reservations. In 1858, they were paid a 2nd time for the north half and they were given ownership of the south half of their reservations. This amounted to thousands of dollars. I did not see this mentioned once in over 200 Dakota War products.

In the later 1800s and in the 1900s, the U.S. paid Dakota descendants for the annuities and annuities taken in 1863.

50 Reservations

  • “If they left the reservations, they would be shot!”
  • “They were forced to trade with the fur traders on the reservations.”
  • “They could not leave to hunt.”

They were frequently off the reservations for a variety of reasons, including hunting. Accounts prove they were in New Ulm spending money and trading furs. I cannot find one case where a Dakota was shot for being off the reservation.

55 Settlers

  • White settlers knew they were moving their families into a hostile environment and then feigned surprise when the Dakota fought to defend their right to their homeland.
  • In 1862, there were no innocent white settlers in Minnesota.
  • The settlers of New Ulm had no idea they were settling on land that is not legally theirs.
  • The settlers were competing with the Dakota for the available game.

The settlers did nothing wrong. More than 550 settlers were killed during the Dakota War by hostile Dakota. The settlers were not permitted to hunt on the reservations. The Dakota competed with the settlers for the available game off the reservations.

60 Causes of the War

  • Indian Agent Thomas Galbraith refused to distribute food to the Dakota.
  • The annuities were often late or never paid at all
  • The system was set up so officials could siphon off money.
  • Broken treaties were the obvious crux of the U.S.-Dakota war of 1862.
  • Acton – The war began because a few warriors accused each other of being cowards, afraid to steal a white farmer’s hen’s eggs.
  • 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.

Any examination of causes of the war has to consider why 100-150 young men of a Lower Sioux Soldiers’ Lodge decided to take their people into a war they could not win. Others joined them and others were forced to join them. The majority of the Dakota leaders were not involved in the decision to go to war. The majority of the Dakota warriors did not go to war. Friendly Dakota allied with the U.S. Army to rescue the hostages and bring an early end to the war.

Galbraith did issue food to the Upper Dakota. He promised to issue food to the Lower Dakota but then refused. I can find no situation where annuities were never paid at all. Numerous charges are made against the U.S. and State officials but proving these charges is difficult if not impossible. Broken treaties were contributing factors but not a primary cause of the war. Four Dakota killed 5 settlers in Acton Township, is a fact. But, there are too many different stories about Acton to say much more than this. Hostile Dakota Indians did not have to kill more than 650 white civilians in order to obtain food. By going to war, they caused additional suffering and deaths for their people.

65 Dakota War of 1862

As stated above, a Lower Dakota Soldiers’ Lodge made the decision to go to war. Friendly Dakota allied with the U.S. Army, rescued the hostage and brought an early end to the war. Few Dakota War products discuss this conflict between Dakota who wanted war and the majority who did not want war.

Traditional Dakota warfare was brutal and genocidal. It did not matter if the victim was a man, woman or child. Few Dakota War products discuss traditional Dakota warfare.

Estimates of whites killed vary from 300 to over 1200 to hundreds. Estimates of Dakota killed vary from 25 to “unknown number.” Where are people finding these numbers?

70 Aftermath (Dakota)

I have about 32 pages of incorrect statements on the Dakota aftermath and just over one page on the White aftermath. This is not because there are more incorrect statements on the Dakota; it is because a tremendous majority of the history after the Dakota War is about the Dakota. We are told about the Dakota trials, the Dakota marches, the Dakota Fort Snelling Internment Camp, the Dakota Mankato Prison Camp, the Dakota hangings, the Dakota exile, Dakota at Davenport Prison, Dakota at Crow Creek, bounties on Dakota scalps, Dakota communities, Dakota initiatives, Dakota trauma and healing. But little is said about the Whites after the war.

The U.S. is criticized for how it handled the Dakota trials. The Dakota trial system is never discussed. Had the hostile Dakota broken through the barricades at New Ulm, there would have been no trials. They would have killed everyone. What if the U.S. had done as used the Dakota?

There are many incorrect statements made about the removal of the friendly Dakota to the Fort Snelling Internment Camp. One map incorrectly shows they were taken through New Ulm, Mankato and St. Peter. An incorrect statement says boiling water was poured on them in New Ulm. The actual distance of this march was about 110 miles. Yet most estimates place it at 150 miles.

Many say that 38 Dakota were hanged at Mankato. Actually, there was 1 white man and several mixed-bloods included in this group. “Largest mass execution in U.S. history” is often stated. It was the largest simultaneous mass execution in U.S. history.

Estimates of deaths in the Fort Snelling Internment Camp range as high as 400. The official number of deaths reported by the U.S. Army was 102. Later, Henry Sibley reported 130 deaths. Many use 300 which cannot be proven.

A surprising number of people think all Dakota were removed from the State. But, Dakota scouts and their families remained. Other Dakota were taken to Faribault. Some Dakota living among the whites remained. Some think the Dakota Removal Act of 1863 prohibits Dakota from returning to Minnesota. This is incorrect.

It is often stated that in 1863, the U.S. abrogated all treaties with the Dakota Indians and took their annuities and land. This is not totally correct. No one states that in the later 1800s and in the 1900s, Dakota descendants were paid for the annuities and land taken.

Some use the terms genocide, ethnic cleansing, forced-marches and concentration camps to describe what happened to the Dakota after the war. They want to evoke images of Nazi Germany. But, no one states that these terms could also be used to describe what the hostile Dakota did to the whites during the war.

Ramsey is criticized for ordering punitive campaigns against the fleeing Dakota in 1863 and 1864. The U.S. made these decisions because hostile Indians were returning to Minnesota and killing settlers.

People talk about pain, anger and trauma that have lasted for generations. But, not all descendants of Dakota War participants feel the same way. We are shown only the most emotional statements and are led to believe that all descendants feel this way.

MHS, TPT and others say we need to learn more about the Dakota side. But, they do not present the diversity of today’s Dakota People. While giving more time and space to the Dakota side, they take away from the other ethnic groups. Where are the videos on the other ethnic groups that were involved in the Dakota War?

One person says it is time to tell the Dakota side. But, they resort to white history in order to do this.

People claim to still be healing. Some talk about reconciliation. But healing and reconciliation are never defined. Will people ever be healed? How can people reconcile if we do not know what this means?

“Truth Recovery” was a mantra that MHS was using in 2012. However, because of their process, MHS also recovered and published many untruths.

Some Dakota claim the U.S. stole their land and they want reparations. But, the Ojibwe forced the last of the Dakota out of northern Minnesota. Why aren’t Dakota demanding reparations from the Ojibwe? When the Dakota Indians migrated out of Northern Minnesota, they killed members of other tribes and took their land. Are they offering reparations to these tribes?

In 2002, a small group of Dakota went on a “commemorative march” in the “tracks of our ancestors” from the Lower Sioux Agency to Fort Snelling. The 2012 march received much attention from TPT in their “The Past is Alive Within Us” video. In 2012, they were still more than 80% off-course of the original march in 1862.

70 Aftermath (Whites)

See my comment above in 70 Aftermath (Dakota).


When I speak, I try to be as accurate, as balanced and as respectful as possible. I make this known in many speeches. People often remark that they appreciate this. People do not want to hear just one side. Unfortunately, most of these products are one-sided. They focus on the Dakota side of the Dakota War in 1862 and the Dakota side after the war.

Some people claim to be healing. Some people want reconciliation. How can people heal and reconcile when there are so many incorrect and unbalanced statements in these products?

Organizations conduct interviews and then edit these interviews to tell the story they want to tell. All people do not think alike. Descendants of those involved in the Dakota War do not all have the same feelings about what happened. The diversity of these thoughts is not portrayed in many Dakota War products.

What if some of what you believe about the Dakota Indians and the Dakota War of 1862 is based on incorrect statements?

I will start posting essays and continue to post a few reviews. Let’s see if I can do this right.

2 thoughts on “Review – Incorrect Statements

  1. Hello, my name is Lee Ann TallBear, and here is my geneology: Mother: Arlene Heminger; grandfather, Felix Heminger; great grandmother, Ruth Abigail (Wakeman) Heminger; great-great grandfather. Wowinape aka Thomas Wakeman; and great-great-great grandfather, Ta Oyate Duta aka Little Crow. Much of what you state above has merit, that is for sure. But you are also guilty of a one-side perspective…guess that is just part of human nature, whether you are an amateur or professional historian – we are all influenced by our upbringing, language and culture. “Christianity” as it is interpreted by those also influenced by their own or their leaderships personal and political agendas, is the platform upon which most actions were justified by the “white man”…in your mind’s eye try to become a Dakota – your life as you know it is rapidly changing….your land which consisted of 24 million acres not the left overs of what the government said they would “give” you has been taken from you by questionable means; white leadership decide who your leadership is – not you- and hand pick the ones who will put their “x” on a document that they can not read…you state that because the Dakota were a warring people that is somehow different than the whites who had left their own countries because some crooked landlord stole their land or worked them like slaves, .and now wanted to take ours by whatever means they could. was somehow justified. It is true that not all Dakotas think alike….no more so than it is true that all white men think alike. I like your statement about our creation stories and yes there are many versions….just as I like your stories about your creation stories…the burning bush, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, oh year, and the guy who procreated with his own daughters…Sodom and Gomorrah…the parting of the Red Sea….etc,etc. I guess you could say you have fables, folklore in all forms of religious or spiritual worship….and conflicts and denials…like the Borgia pope…..King Edward’ church of England…the Lutherans….kind of like you believe what ever suits your personal or political agenda…sound familiar?

    • Lee Ann:

      Thank you for your comment.

      If I appear to be one-sided, it is because I am reacting to statements that are incorrect, unbalanced and disrespectful. My goal is to seek out these statements without prejudice.

      The whites left their homelands and came to America for many reasons. I see this history as a continuum of people taking land from others. The whites decided to take a less violent approach and wrote treaties.

      A small group of Dakota men made the decision to go to war. They ignored Chief Little Crow who opposed war. I do not know of any Sisseton and Wahpeton leaders who were involved in the decision for war. While many Dakota were probably angry at the U.S., the majority did not think war was the answer. They remained loyal to the U.S. Some openly opposed the war. Sadly, many Dakota War products ignore those loyal Dakota.

      Yes, the Bible has many stories, but it has only one creation story. And among the many ethnic groups, there are many creation stories. For more than 150 years, the last-standing belief was that Lake Mille lacs was our Dakota place of creation. I believe a few people are corrupting this story for purposes of obtaining land at Fort Snelling and Coldwater Springs.


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