Review – GCHS Exhibit

 Goodhue County Historical Society Exhibit
Reviewed January 6, 2015

 Items of Interest


General Comments

  • Unbalanced – No mention is made of traditional Dakota warfare during the Dakota War of 1862. Hostile Dakota killed more than 650 innocent white men, women and children. Hostile Dakota tortured, scalped, decapitated, dismembered, brained, poked out eyes, etc. The visitor cannot understand why Dakota were hanged and exiled. Traditional Dakota warfare was brutal. 

Most Objectionable Statements

The Dakota Oyate (Nation)

Minnesota is the homeland of the Dakota people. The ancient legends of the Dakota say that they were not only the first but that they were always here.
—What does this mean? – Homeland
—Incorrect – It cannot be proven who the first inhabitants were. No one was “always” here.
—Incorrect – No one can say where the ancestors of the Dakota came from and when they arrived in present day Minnesota.
—As the Dakota migrated from northern Minnesota, they killed members of other tribes and took their land.

The juncture of the Minnesota River and the Mississippi River, which is called Mendota today, was where creation occurred according to the legend. It was here that the first human appeared on the face of the earth. The Mdewakanton band of the Dakota call this place “the center of the earth.”
—Incorrect – That Mendota was the Dakota place of creation is a relatively recent change to Dakota history. Missionary Gideon Pond wrote in 1851 that the Mdewakanton believed that Mendota lay immediately over the center of the earth and under the center of the heavens. Pond did not say Mendota was a place of creation. Pond wrote that the Dakota believed they sprang into existence about the Mille lacs Lake area. Dakota have believed for more than 150 years Mille lacs Lake to be their place of origin.

There were seven subgroups that were united in an alliance known as the Seven Council Fires. Three of the groups moved westward to become nomadic buffalo hunters sometime in the 18th century.
—Is this correct? Didn’t the Yankton and Yanktonais also subsist on plants?

Oceti Sakowin (The Seven Council Fires)

The Eastern Dakota
     Mdewakantonwan – the Spirit Lake Dwellers
     Wahpekute – the Shooters in the Leaves
     Wahpetonwan – the Dwellers in the Leaves
     Sisitonwan – the Dwellers by the Fish Campground
The Western Dakota
     I-hank-ton-won (Yankton) – the End-village Dwellers
     I-hank-ton-wan-na – The Little End-village Dwellers
     Ti-ton-wan (Teton) – the Dwellers on the Prairies
—I have never seen the Dakota or Sioux separated into Eastern Dakota and Western Dakota. Today, the Dakota include the Mdewakanton, Wahpekute, Sisseton and Wahpeton. The Nakota include the Yankton and Yanktonais. The Lakota include the Teton.
—Disrespectful – I have been told by a Lakota person that to be called Dakota is offensive.
—Incorrect – These definitions are not consistent with other definitions for these bands. Representatives of each band should be asked how they want to be identified and what their name means.

A New History for Indians

Many history books suggested that America had been a vast, empty land destined by God to be claimed and civilized by our forefathers.
—Incorrect – Show me a history book that says America was a “vast, empty land.”

For more than 500 years, history ignored the fact that there were hundreds of tribes of indigenous peoples across the country, who had lived here for tens of thousands of years…
—Absolute Incorrect – Show proof that for more than 500 years, history ignored the indigenous peoples.
—Absolute Incorrect – A recent article in National Geographic Magazine states that the first people arrived in North America about 15,500 years ago. Show proof that anyone has lived here for “tens of thousands of years.”

There are stories that could have been told about each encounter between native tribes and the Europeans. Unfortunately, most of these stories would have included words like encroachment, conquest, oppression, forced removal, broken promises, and even genocide.
—Unbalanced – These words also applied to encounters between Native tribes before the whites arrived.
—Unbalanced – These words also applied to both sides in encounters between the Dakota and whites. If it is said the white committed genocide, it must be said that the Dakota committed genocide.

The Prairie Island Dakota people have retained a remarkable amount of their traditional culture despite aggressive efforts by the federal government to assimilate them into the white society.
—What does this mean?

The Beginning of a 28-Year War

August 1862 – Crop failures…Delays in distribution of food and cash…Tensions excalate. Five settlers killed near Acton.
—Incorrect – There was a bumper crop in 1862. Many crops failed in 1861.
—Incorrect – Food was issued to the Sisseton and Wahpeton. Food was not issued to the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute.
—Incorrect – excalate should be escalate
—Incorrect – Acton was a location in Meeker County. Five settlers were killed at Acton or it can be said that five settler were killed in Meeker County.
—Incorrect – To imply that food was the primary cause of the Dakota War in 1862 is incorrect. There were many complicated causes of this war.

August 18, 1862 – Dakota launch war against the whites.
—Incorrect – The majority of the Dakota did not want war. Not all of the Dakota leaders were present when the decision for war was made.

September 9, 1862 – Governor Ramsey declared in an executive order, “The Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the state.”
—How should the governor react? Hostile Dakota had just killed more than 650 innocent men, women and children; some in the worst way imaginable.

November 7, 1862 – 1700 Dakota women, children, and uncondemned men sent to prison camp at Fort Snelling. Condemned warriors retained at Camp Lincoln near Mankato.
—Incorrect – Fort Snelling was not a prison camp.
—Incorrect – Camp Lincoln was in Mankato.
—Incorrect – Some of the men in Camp Lincoln were not guilty and were later released at Fort Snelling.

December 26, 1862 – 38 Dakota warriors hanged at Mankato. Largest mass execution in history.
—Incorrect – The 38 included at least one white and several mixed-bloods.
—Incorrect – It was the largest simultaneous mass execution in U.S. history.
—Unbalanced – On August 18, hostile Dakota executed more than 50 white men, women and children in Milford Township, Brown County. Wasn’t this a larger mass execution?

[Photo of the Fort Snelling Internment Camp] – “Prison Camp at Fort Snelling, 1862-63”
—Incorrect – This was not a prison camp.

It was hardly an uprising or a rebellion. The Dakota people reacted to greed and oppression the way other people would react to these things. The Dakota people were defending their homeland.
—Incorrect – Those Dakota who favored war were also rebelling against their own people who wanted to adopt the ways of the whites.
—Incorrect – The causes of the Dakota War of 1862 were many and complicated.
—Incorrect – Killing more than 650 innocent men, women and children is not how most people would react.
—Incorrect – “Defending their homeland” is an opinion. If the Dakota were defending their homeland, why didn’t they go to war after the Treaties of 1851 when they sold much of Minnesota, part of Iowa and part of South Dakota to the United States?

February 16, 1863 – Congress passes act repealing all treaties with the Dakota of Minnesota.
—Unbalanced – In later years, Congress repaid the money for annuities and land taken in 1863.

March 3, 1863 – Congress passes act removing the Dakota and disposing of their lands.
—Incorrect – Not all of the Dakota were removed.

May 1863 – Over the winter, about 400 of the Dakota prisoners died in the camp. The remaining 1300 were prepared for removal from the state of Minnesota. Warriors who had not been sentenced to hang were shipped to Davenport, Iowa where they were imprisoned for three years and then sent to Santee, Nebraska.
—Absolutely Incorrect – U.S. Army records state that about 102 Dakota died in the Fort Snelling Internment Camp.
—Incorrect – Not of the remaining Dakota were removed from Minnesota.
—Incorrect – Dakota sentenced to prison terms were sent to Davenport. Dakota granted reprieves from hanging by President Lincoln were sent to Davenport.
—Incorrect – Some Dakota were released prior to serving 3 years.

A Monstrous Conspiracy

1787 – The Northwest Treaty Ordinance recognized Indians as equal but separate nations and pledged, “the utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indian; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent and in their property, rights and liberty shall never be invaded or disturbed.”
—The Northwest Treaty Ordinance was not forever the law of the land. U.S. Indian policy changed a number of times over the years.

1837 – Dakota sign treaty relinquishing their lands east of the Mississippi.
—Incorrect – The Mdewakanton sold their lands east of the Mississippi and all the islands in the Mississippi River.

1851 – Dakota are coerced into signing another treaty giving up all their remaining lands except for a narrow strip of reservation land extending 10 miles on each side of the upper Minnesota River.
—Disrespectful – Prove that the Dakota were coerced.
—Incorrect – There were 2 treaties with the Dakota in 1851: one with the Sisseton and Wahpeton and one with the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute.
—Incorrect – The Sisseton and Wahpeton did not give up all of their lands in 1851.
—Incorrect – There were 2 Dakota reservations.
—Incorrect – At 20 miles wide and combined 139 miles long, this was not a “narrow strip.”

1858 – …Dakota reservation is cut in half when Dakota are forced to sell the northern portion of the reservation.
—Incorrect – The Dakota were not given ownership of their reservations in the Treaties of 1851. In the Treaties of 1858, they were asked to vacate their reservation lands on the north side of the Minnesota River. They were paid a second time for these lands. They were given ownership of their remaining reservations on the south side of the Minnesota River.

“Following the ratification of the Treaty of 1851, the U.S. government expected the Dakota people to leave their homeland and move to the reservation land along the Minnesota River.
—Incorrect – There were 2 treaties with the Dakota in 1851 that created 2 reservations.
—Incorrect – Dakota leaders agreed in the Treaties of 1851 that they would move to their new reservations. Some Dakota villages were already located on the reservations. Some Dakota did not move to their reservations.

[From the Goodhue County Republican, December 14, 1860:]
The band of Sioux Indians that periodically pay their visits to the locality, have pitched their tipis on the banks of the river, about three miles above town. They will probably remain among us during most of the winter, or until they become such an intolerable nuisance that our people are compelled to take measures for their removal. We cannot understand why they are permitted to leave the reservation and locate in this vicinity every winter, in the face of repeated protests of our citizens.
—Dakota Indians who did not reside on their new reservations in 1860 were in violation of their 1851 Treaties.

By a remarkable coincidence, what was deemed best for the Indians was invariably also to the advantage of the government, the traders, and above all, the land hungry settlers.
—What does this mean?
—Disrespectful – Suggestion is made that the government, the traders and the settlers were dishonest.

Historians have viewed the 1851 Treaties at Mendota and Traverse des Sioux as a “monstrous conspiracy. After deducting the money that went to the traders and mixed-blood relatives, the Dakota received about seven cents an acre for their Minnesota lands.
—Disrespectful – Show proof that this was a “monstrous conspiracy.”
—Incorrect – The ceded land was never surveyed. We do not know how many acres were sold and therefore cannot say how much was paid per acre.
—Disrespectful – To criticize anyone without showing proof is disrespectful.

Exiled from Their Homeland

In May 1863, the Dakota people who were imprisoned at Fort Snelling since the Dakota Conflict ended were sent downriver on two boats into exile. For four weeks the 1300 prisoners were crowded together…Many died on the journey.
—Incorrect – Not all Dakota were exiled.
—Incorrect – They were not on steamboats for 4 weeks.
—Incorrect – Ten died on the journey. See Bachman, Northern Slave, Black Dakota.

Government agents chose a site near the confluence of the Missouri River and Crow Creek in Dakotah Territory to deposit them. On June 1, the Dakota exiles arrived to discover their new home was a barren patch of land in a remote part of the world far from Minnesota. The earth was parched, there was little or no food, and they were not permitted to leave to hunt. Starvation and disease took its toll, killing hundreds of Dakota men and women and wiping out the younger children.
—Incorrect – Crow Creek was not far from Minnesota.
—Incorrect – They were permitted to leave to hunt. See March 2, 1864, John P. Williamson, head of the Coteau, D T to his mother, Thomas Williamson Papers, MHS.

Julia’s Story

Many of the Dakota people who were imprisoned and exiled following the Dakota Conflict had played no role whatsoever in the war. One woman caught in the middle of the conflict was Mahpiyato-wig (Julia Frazier or Blue Sky Woman.)
—Is this correct? – Shouldn’t Mahpiyato-wig be Mahpiyato-win?

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