Review – MHS FS at Bdote Book

Fort Snelling at Bdote: A Brief History
By Peter DeCarlo
St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society, 2016
Reviewed on February 19, 2017

Items of Interest

The title implies this book is about historic Fort Snelling. But, much of it is about Dakota Indian history not related to historic Fort Snelling.

Written by a Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) employee and published by MHS, this book leaves no doubt of MHS’s policy on historic Dakota/White relations.

I am reviewing only that portion of this book related to the Dakota Indians.

General Comments

  • Save your money.
  • How do I use this book? It has no footnotes, no Table of Contents and no Index. Without footnotes, the text lacks credibility. It is a storybook. The knowledgeable reader will be insulted. The unknowledgeable reader will be misled.
  • As I read this book, these words came to mind: wrong, biased, disrespectful (to the Whites), exaggeration, allegation, generalization, incomplete, wordsmithing, revisionist history and agenda-driven.
  • Incorrect – The author states that ancestors of the Dakota Indians were the first residents of the state of Minnesota. This cannot be proven.
  • If Mdote (Bdote) was sacred to the Dakota, they would not have sold this land in 1805, they would not have confirmed the sale in 1820, they would not have granted Pike Island to Pelagie Faribault in 1820 and they would not have permitted the US to start building Fort Snelling in 1820.
  • Unbalanced – It is stated that the Fort Snelling Dakota internment camp was a concentration camp, but it is not stated that the camps where hostile Dakota held white and mixed-blood civilians were concentration camps.
  • Unbalanced – It is stated that the US committed genocide against the Dakota Indians, but it is not stated that hostile Dakota committed genocide against whites and mixed-bloods.
  • While this book is about Fort Snelling and the Dakota Indians, I never saw the Dakota name for Fort Snelling.

Most Objectionable Statements

Page 3

  • Incorrect – My Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines “millennia” as “a period of 1000 years.” People have been in the Mdote area longer than 1000 years.
  • If Mdote was sacred to the Dakota, they would not have sold this land in 1805, they would not have confirmed the sale in 1820, they would not have granted Pike Island to Pelagie Faribault in 1820 and they would not have permitted the US to start building Fort Snelling in 1820.
  • Unbalanced – The Dakota Indians also invaded, killed members of other tribes and took their land.
  • Incorrect – The Dakota group moved to Fort Snelling after the Dakota War of 1862 also contained young Dakota and mixed-blood men.
  • Disrespectful – The term “truth telling” is used here. MHS should not criticize others until they clean up their own act.

Pages 4-5

  • What does this mean? – No explanation is given as to why the photos of these 6 people appear here.
  • Incorrect – One person is identified as having “Mdewakantonwan” blood. However, this spelling disagrees with “Bdewakantunwan” the spelling used in this book.

Page 6

  • Incorrect – If Fort Snelling “stands on sacred land,” the Dakota never would have allowed Fort Snelling to be built here.
  • Incorrect – It cannot be proven that the Dakota people have lived at Mdote (or in present day Minnesota) the longest.
  • Incorrect – While stating that there is “no single Dakota creation story,” the author accepts the story that the Dakota were created in the Mdote area.
  • Incorrect – The name “Minnesota” represents the content of the Minnesota River water not its “reflection of the sky. See “Definitions” on the top bar above.
  • “Mni Sota Makoce” is a modern Dakota term for the state of Minnesota today.
  • Incorrect – If Pike Island was a Dakota sacred place, the Dakota never would have given it to Pelagie Faribault in 1820.
  • Incorrect – These translations of the Dakota bands of the 7 council fires keep changing. These translations bear little resemblance to previous translations.

Page 7

  • This map of the Mdote area is not dated. Where is the mouth of the Minnesota River?

Page 8

  • Incorrect – The early missionaries to the Dakota Indians created the written Dakota language. They published the book, A Dakota-English Dictionary. They certainly knew more about the Dakota language than today’s Dakota linguists.
  • Incorrect – See Riggs, A Dakota-English Dictionary, page 2: “NOTE – Some Dakotas, in some instances, introduce a slight b sound before the m…” I will repeat, “Some Dakotas, in some instances, introduce a slight b sound before the m…”
  • Incorrect – Some Dakota communities use the “Mdewakanton” spelling because this is the spelling they prefer. They can change their names if they choose. They should be called what they call themselves.
  • In this book, the Dakota word “mdote” has been changed to “bdote” and the Dakota word “mini” has been changed to “mni.” Why didn’t “mini” get changed to ‘bini” or “bni”? It has the same “m” sound.
  • See my essay, “Bdewakanton, Bdote, and Mnisota” published on this blog.
  • Is this correct? – Dakota women went to Nicollet Island to give birth. Show proof.

Page 10

  • Incorrect – It cannot be proven that the Dakota are descended from ancient inhabitants of Minnesota.
  • Unbalanced – As with archaeologists, Dakota people have only theories about where they may have come from.
  • The author uses BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era) in place of BC and AD. BCE and CE are used to avoid referring to Christ.

Page 12

  • Incorrect – Ella Deloria wrote about the Teton and Yankton Bands at a later date. She referred to them as Dakota.
  • Incorrect – It cannot be proven that the Dakota lived throughout present day Minnesota.

Page 16

  • Just because LaSalle did not mention the Dakota in his account does not mean he did not make contact with them.
  • An “unknown Frenchman” is credited with a Dakota origin story. Is this even worth repeating?
  • Unbalanced – The Doctrine of Discovery is discussed. Where is the discussion on the Dakota philosophy of taking land from other tribes?

Page 18

  • Incorrect – It cannot be proven that the Dakota and Ojibwe were more often allies than enemies.
  • As the Dakota migrated out of northern Minnesota, they took land from other tribes.

Page 19

  • Unbalanced – If the whites were colonialists and imperialists, what should we call the Dakota who killed members of other tribes and took their land?
  • Is this correct? – Show proof that Carver ascended Pilot Knob.

Page 20

  • Disrespectful – The Dakota and Ojibwe chose to participate in the fur trade. They chose to go into debt with their traders.
  • Incorrect – My Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines “Anglo” as, “a white inhabitant of the U.S. of non-Hispanic descent.” By this definition, “Anglo” includes French and English.
  • It makes no difference that Zebulon Pike did not have government authority to negotiate the treaty of 1805.
  • It makes no difference that General James Wilkinson was a paid Spanish agent.

Page 21

  • Unbalanced – Throughout this book, the images of individual Dakota people are significantly larger than the images of individual white people.
  • Incorrect – If Mdote was sacred land, the Dakota never would have sold this land in the 1805 Treaty at Mendota.

Page 22

  • Incorrect – Dakota villages did claim and defend land.
  • Incorrect – If Dakota leaders misunderstood the Treaty of 1805, they would not have confirmed the sale and permitted Fort Snelling to be built in 1820.
  • If there were legal problems with the Treaty of 1805, if Pike valued the land purchased at $200,000 and if the treaty was invalid, it makes no difference. The Dakota confirmed the sale in 1820.
  • Unbalanced – Describe how the Dakota obtained this land they sold to the US.

Page 25

  • In 1820, the Dakota signed an agreement granting land at Mdote to the US. They also granted Pike Island to Pelagie Faribault. They would not have done this if this land was sacred.
  • Construction of Fort St. Anthony (Fort Snelling) began on September 10, 1820. If this site was sacred to the Dakota, they would not have permitted the fort to be built.
  • Incorrect – Fort Snelling could not control fur trade traffic in all of Minnesota.
  • Incorrect – The US purchased land from the Dakota. This was not an “invasion.”

Page 29

  • On page 28 is a map of the Mdote area drawn by Taliaferro in 1835.
  • Incorrect – On the north shore of Lake Harriet is the mission begun by Jedidiah Stevens in 1835.

Page 31

  • Disrespectful and Incorrect – Show proof that lines were drawn in the Treaty of 1825 for future acquisition by the US. Lines were drawn to try to stop inter-tribal warfare.

Page 35

  • Incorrect – “Mendota” was derived from “Mdote.”

Page 37

  • Incorrect – The missionaries did not try to persuade the Dakota to abandon all of their lifeways and beliefs.
  • Incorrect – The missionaries did not want to eradicate all Dakota culture.

Page 38

  • Incorrect – By 1837, the end of the fur trade was not near.
  • Disrespectful – Use of the term “claimed debts” implies the debts owed to the traders were not legitimate.
  • Incorrect – The Dakota and Ojibwe chose to become “entangled in the fur trade’s credit system.”
  • Disrespectful – The author assaults the traders’ claims as “real or not.” If any traders filed false claims, name the individuals and show proof.

Page 40

  • Disrespectful – Name the traders who tried to force the Dakota back into debt and show proof.
  • Disrespectful – Name the persons who tried to extract money from the Dakota and show proof.

Page 43

  • Incorrect – Joseph R. Brown came to Minnesota as a drummer boy for the army.
  • Is this correct? – Were there 30,000 Indians in Minnesota Territory in 1846? Show proof.
  • Unbalanced – The negotiations of the treaties of 1851 are criticized. Compare the 1851 Treaties process to how the Dakota killed members of other tribes and took their land.
  • Disrespectful – If the traders claimed any debts that were false, name the traders and show proof.
  • Is this correct? – Show proof that Sibley wanted to keep the Dakota in the territory so their annuity money supported the territory economy.

Page 44

  • Incorrect – The 1851 Treaties created 2 Dakota reservations.
  • Incorrect – The Dakota seized land from other tribes. The US did not seize land from the Sisseton and Wahpeton in 1851. It was purchased.
  • Incorrect – At the 1851 Treaty signing at Traverse des Sioux, the commissioners waited almost 3 weeks for all of the Sisseton and Wahpeton to arrive.
  • Incorrect – If the Dakota “reached decisions by consensus, why weren’t all of the Dakota included in the decision to go to war in 1862?
  • What does this mean? – Sibley negotiated with the Dakota “off the record”?
  • Incorrect – Choosing to become farmers did not mean the Dakota were giving up their traditions.
  • Incorrect – Some of the Dakota leaders did know what the traders’ paper was.

Page 45

  • Incorrect – The reservations created by the 1851 Treaties remained the same. The US said the Dakota did not own these reservations and paid them additional money.

Page 46

  • Incorrect and Disrespectful – Show proof that the US removed the Dakota people by “manipulation, deceit, coercion and corruption.”
  • Unbalanced – Then show how Dakota people obtained this land.
  • Incorrect – My Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines “millennia” as “a period of 1000 years.” People have been in the Mdote area longer than 1000 years.
  • Unbalanced – Displacement and violence between Indian tribes existed long before the whites arrived.
  • Unbalanced – The author calls the whites “settler colonists” because they seized land from its original inhabitants. But, the author does not give a name to the Dakota who seized land from other tribes. What do we call the Dakota?
  • Incorrect – The whites purchased the land; they did not seize it.
  • There are many charges on this page against the US handling of the Treaties of 1851. Without footnotes, these are merely allegations.

Page 49

  • Incorrect – The Treaties of 1851 created 2 Dakota reservations.
  • Incorrect – In 1858, the Dakota did not own their reservations. The 1858 treaties requested that they vacate their reservation lands on the north side of the Minnesota River. They were paid a 2nd time for these lands. The author does not mention that they were given ownership of their reservations on the south side of the river.
  • Incorrect – Show proof that Brown handpicked Dakota leaders for the 1858 Treaties.
  • Incorrect – There are many charges on this page against the US handling of the Treaties of 1858. Without footnotes, these are merely allegations.
  • Incorrect – Not all of the reservations were parceled into 80-acre allotments.
  • Incorrect – Fort Ridgely was not responsible for keeping the Dakota on the reservations. Dakota frequently left their reservations to hunt and for other reasons.
  • Unbalanced – If the US wanted to concentrate and control Indigenous people, what did the Dakota want to do to the people whose land they took?
  • Many Dakota chose to become farmers.
  • Incorrect – The US offered education and help in getting started on farms. This was not a bad thing.

Page 52

  • Incorrect – The causes of the Dakota War of 1862 are much more complicated than those given here.
  • Incorrect – Dakota chose to adopt some European culture. By 1862, there were about 250 Dakota families on farms. They still retained much of their Dakota culture.
  • Incorrect – There were 2 Dakota reservations.
  • Incorrect – Not all of the crops failed on the reservations in 1861.
  • Incorrect – The author does not mention that food was issued to the Dakota during the 1861-62 winter.
  • Incorrect – Crop failure was not the only cause of starvation.
  • Incorrect – The author does not state that food was issued to the Sisseton and Wahpeton in August 1862.
  • Disrespectful – Andrew Myrick told the Dakota to eat grass because he learned that the Lower Dakota soldiers’ lodge planned to drive up their debts and then refuse to pay. The US, not the traders, was responsible to feed the Dakota.
  • Incorrect – Not all of the traders refused to give credit.
  • Incorrect – There were 2 Dakota reservations.
  • The murders in Acton Township were a primary cause of the war. Acton was not the beginning of the war.
  • Incorrect – There are many versions of what happened at Acton. Not mentioning this is incorrect. See my essay, “Dakota War Causes – Acton” published on this blog.
  • Incorrect – The Acton murderers returned to Red Middle Voice’s village.
  • Incorrect – The decision to go to war was made by a faction of the Lower Dakota Indians. It cannot be proven that any of the Upper Dakota leaders were present. This violated the traditional form of decision making where all of the leaders should be involved.
  • Incorrect – The source for what Little Crow said is questionable.
  • Incorrect – The number of Dakota deaths during the Dakota War of 1862 can be estimated. Saying an “unknown number” lets the reader decide.

Page 53

  • Unbalanced – The author criticizes Sibley’s court trial commission. Compare this to the Dakota trial system; there wasn’t one.
  • What does this mean? The Dakota taken to Fort Snelling “followed a northern route?”
  • Moving the Dakota to Fort Snelling was a humanitarian effort. How many more would have died had they been left at Camp Release? My Dakota ancestors were in this group. I am grateful this decision was made.

Page 54

  • Unbalanced – Graphic details are given of a Dakota baby killed in Henderson. Where are the graphic details of the many white babies killed by hostile Dakota?
  • Unbalanced – Graphic details are given of a Dakota grandmother killed by a white soldier. Where are the graphic details of the many white grandmothers killed by hostile Dakota?
  • Unbalanced – Graphic details are given of a Dakota woman being “brutally outraged” by white soldiers near the Fort Snelling Dakota internment camp. Where are the graphic details of white women being “brutally outraged” by hostile Dakota?
  • Incorrect – It is not known which day the Dakota departed the Lower Sioux Agency for Fort Snelling.
  • Incorrect – It is not known when the census at the Lower Sioux Agency was taken of Dakota going to Fort Snelling. A census was taken about 3 weeks later at Fort Snelling. The author states there was a “loss of fifty-seven Dakota.” It cannot be assumed these people died.
  • Unbalanced – Meat provided to the soldiers was also sometimes of poor quality.
  • Is this correct? – Show proof that the quantity of food provided to the Dakota at Fort Snelling was not “always sufficient.”

Page 55

  • Unbalanced – The author states that the Fort Snelling Dakota internment camp was a concentration camp. It is not stated that the camps where hostile Dakota held white and mixed-blood civilians were concentration camps. If the Fort Snelling camp was a concentration camp then the camps holding white and mixed-blood civilians were also concentration camps.
  • Incorrect – The Nazi forced-labor and death camps were concentration camps. This is the image evoked by the term “concentration camp.” Dakota activists called the Fort Snelling Dakota camp a concentration camp to evoke these images.

Page 57

  • Unbalanced – Show that the Dakota were in worse conditions in the Fort Snelling internment camp than if they had been left at Camp Release.
  • Is this correct? – “offal mixed with the mud.” Show proof.
  • Incorrect – The official army record at Fort Snelling stated that 102 Dakota died in the internment camp. Any other number given is purely an estimate.
  • Incorrect – The author implies that Dakota were forced by conditions in the camp to convert to Christianity. However, in later years, many of them continued to be Christians.
  • Incorrect – The quote from the newspaper describes the burial location as “an old burial ground back of Mendota.” This cannot be proven to be Pilot Knob.
  • Incorrect – The Dakota in the Fort Snelling camp were permitted to fish. They were provided food and firewood. They were paid for labor. They were permitted to leave the camp and go to places like St. Paul.
  • Incorrect – Among the 38 men who were hanged at Mankato, 4 were mixed-blood Dakota/White and 1 was white.
  • Incorrect – Mankato was not the largest mass execution in US history.
  • Unbalanced – It should be stated that the murder of more than 650 whites during the Dakota War was the largest mass-murder of civilians by Indians in US history.

Page 59

  • Unbalanced – During the Dakota War of 1862, Dakota also offered bounties for white scalps.

Page 60

  • Dakota/White mixed-bloods also enlisted for duty in the Civil War.

Page 61

  • Incorrect – The Dakota men imprisoned at Davenport reunited with their families at the Santee Reservation in Nebraska.

Page 85

  • Unbalanced – It is stated that the US committed genocide against the Dakota Indians, but it is not stated that hostile Dakota also committed genocide against whites and mixed-bloods.

Page 86

  • Incorrect – The author provides the definition of genocide from the 1948 United Nations Genocide convention, but, the author does not mention the 1998 Rome Statute. See Anderson, Ethnic Cleansing and the Indian: The Crime That Should Haunt America. See my essay “Genocide and Concentration Camps” published on this blog.
  • Unbalanced – The author identifies examples of genocide committed by the Whites against the Dakota. But, the author identifies no examples of genocide committed by hostile Dakota against the Whites.
  • Unbalanced – Dakota were hunted down, hanged, separated from their wives and treated harshly because of the Dakota War of 1862. The author does not state what effect the War had on white families.
  • Incorrect – I have yet to find a case where Dakota children were taken from good homes and sent to boarding schools.
  • Incorrect – Among the 38 men hanged at Mankato were 4 Dakota/White mixed-bloods and 1 White.

Page 88

  • “Mdewakantonwan” appears on one of the stones at Pilot Knob. They have it correct.
  • Dakota people wanted the land at Camp Coldwater in order to build a casino. For many years, this land was ignored by the Dakota people. It suddenly became sacred when the Bureau of Mines moved. The land is now managed by the National Park Service and can be enjoyed by everyone.

Page 92

  • The National Trust for Historic Prevention named historic Fort Snelling, “Bdote Fort Snelling.” However, this is not an official name change.

Outside back cover

  • Incorrect – My Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines “millennia” as “a period of 1000 years.” People have been in the Mdote area longer than 1000 years.
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