Review – DNR Lake Shetek Signs

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Lake Shetek State Park Signs
Reviewed November 6, 2014

Items of Interest

 These signs are located throughout the park including the interpretive center which is a building separate from the park office. Stop in the park office to obtain the locations of these signs.

The signs provide maps, photos, information on the attack and information on the settlers before, during and after the attack.

A tall monument marks the mass-grave of the Shetek victims.

General Comments

  • Unbalanced – This is one of a few sites where more needs to be said about the Dakota involved:
    • The map in the interpretive center shows a site titled “Old Pawn” across the lake west of the Duley cabin site. Little is said of Old Pawn, a Dakota neighbor. Was this a Dakota village site? When the settlers were attacked, whose side was he on? What happened to him after the attack? Why isn’t his site shown on the maps on the trail signs?
    • Lean Bear and White Lodge are mentioned. Who were they? Where were their villages? What happened to White Lodge after the attack?
    • Who were the other Dakota involved in the attack?
    • During the attack, settlers gathered at the Wright cabin for defense. One sign says 8 Dakota joined them. One sign says several Dakota joined them. A sign in the interpretive center says that about 9 Dakota lived on the lake in the summer. Other signs do not mention these Dakota. Who were they?
    • The Slaughter Slough site has a memorial on the site. But no mention is made of this in the park.
  • Incorrect – Text on the signs describing the gathering at the Wright cabin for defense differs from sign to sign. There are 6 different versions of this event.
  • Incorrect – Text on the signs describing the events just prior to Slaughter Slough differs from sign to sign.
  • An attempt is made to explain why the Dakota attacked the whites. No mention is made that this was part of a larger series of attacks on the settlers across the frontier. Why did these Indians attack the settlers at this time?
  • Incorrect – The word “battle” is used twice. This was hardly a battle. It was a massacre.

Most Objectionable Statements

One Tragic Day at Lake Shetek

 —Located inside the interpretative center. 

Early in the morning a group of about 20 Dakota Indians, lead by Lean Bear and White Lodge, seek out and kill John Voigt and then Andrew Koch. It is thought they are singled out by the Indians because of previous bad relationships – Voigt accused the Indians of stealing from him and Koch would not trade or share food with the Indians as some of the other Shetek settlers had.
—And why were other settlers killed or taken captive?

Who Lived at Lake Shetek and What Happened to Them?

 —Located inside the interpretive center.
—Good information on the settlers and what happened to them.

Duley Cabin Site

 —There is an old cabin on this site. It was the Kock Family cabin once located outside the park. It was moved to the Duley Cabin Site and restored. I don’t see mention of this.

 Why did the Dakota attack the Shetek settlers?
 —This section is duplicated on other trail signs.

The Dakota were the inhabitants of this part of Minnesota when European and American explorers and traders first ventured out here in the mid-1700s.
—The Dakota were recent inhabitants of this part of Minnesota, having migrated into this area about 1700.

Lean Bear, White Lodge and the approximately 40 Dakota soldiers who attacked the Shetek settlers were from western Minnesota and eastern South Dakota. Since they were not participants in the Treaties in 1851 and 1858 that ceded most of their Minnesota homeland to the United States government, they likely viewed the treaties as invalid and the Shetek settlers as trespassers.
—Incorrect – Sources state that young men from Lean Bear, White Lodge, Sleepy Eyes and Limping Devil villages were involved in this attack.
—Incorrect – The 1851 Treaties ceded the Lake Shetek area to the U.S. The 1858 Treaties had nothing to do with this area.
—Incorrect – Lean Bear was Red Iron’s head soldier when Red Iron signed the 1851 Treaty at Traverse des Sioux. White Lodge was the son of either old Sleepy Eyes or Limping Devil. Sleepy Eyes and Limping Devil signed the 1851 Treaty at Traverse Sioux. Lean Bear and White Lodge were listed on the 1861 U.S. Annuity Census. They were receiving annuities from the 1851 Treaty at Traverse des Sioux. They were participants through their relationship with those who did sign the treaty. In either case, this does not justify their attack on men, women and children.

However, the Dakota Indians showed much restraint in reacting to the occupation of their homeland the failure of the United States government to fulfill the terms and conditions of the treaties. In August 1862 the Dakota’s anger and resentment exploded in a violent but unsuccessful attempt to drive settlers out of their homeland. The event had devastation consequences for all involved.
—Incorrect – Causes of the Dakota War of 1862 were much more complicated than this.
—Incorrect – The majority of the Dakota did not go to war in 1862. 100-150 young Lower Dakota men made this decision. Others joined them and others were forced to join them. Friendly Dakota rescued the hostages held by the hostile Dakota and brought an early end to this war.
—Incorrect – These Dakota who attacked Lake Shetek were among the most militant Dakota.

William Duley Sr. cut the rope that hung 38 Dakota Indians, convicted of participating in the U.S. Dakota War at Mankato, Minnesota, on December 26, 1862. It is the largest mass execution in American history.
—Incorrect – The 38 included one white and several mixed-bloods.
—Incorrect – It was the largest mass simultaneous execution in American history.

Eastlick Cabin Site

 —No comment on this sign

 Shetek Monument

 —No comment on this sign

Tragedy Surrounds Smith Lake on August 20, 1862

 —No comment on this sign

 Smith Cabin Site

 —No comment on this sign

Wright Cabin Site

 John Wright was ambitious and hardworking, making them the most well-to-do family in the Shetek settlement. But he also sold whiskey to the Dakota Indians, a business that was disliked by many of the other Shetek settlers. It also earned him the distrust of the Indians.
—Disrespectful – Why is this information important? Wasn’t it legal to sell liquor to the Dakota? Didn’t the Dakota have the right to buy liquor? Did he cheat the Dakota? Does this suggest why the Wrights were well-to-do? How should the visitor interpret this?

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