Review – MHS Acton Sign

Minnesota Historical Society
The Acton Incident Sign
http://www.usdakotawar.org/history/acton-incident
Reviewed on May 29, 2017

Items of Interest

From the MHS Website: This sign replaced the old sign in 2012. Content on this sign was reviewed by an MHS historical marker committee, as well as by Dakota consultants and the MHS Indian Advisory Committee.

This review includes the text on the Minnesota Historical Society website and the text on the sign.

With 19 incorrect statements on this sign, this is one of the worst signs I have reviewed.

Most Objectionable Statements

Website Text

On Sunday, August 17, 1862, four young Dakota men of the Wahpeton band were returning hunting.

  • Incorrect – We do not know if they were returning from hunting.

Upon seeing some chicken eggs in a nest at the farm of a white settler, there was a disagreement whether or not to take the eggs. When one refused, his companion dared him to prove that he was not afraid of the white man’s reaction. The Dakota men proceeded to engage a white man nearby, Robinson Jones. Following him to a white homestead where some white settlers were gathered, they suggested a shooting match between them and the white men present.

  • Incorrect – We do not know for sure where the eggs were.
  • Incorrect – An eyewitness accounts says that Robinson Jones followed the Dakota to a nearby homestead.
  • Incorrect – Accounts vary. We do not know for sure there was a shooting match or if they were testing a gun that one of the Indians wanted.
  • Incorrect – There are many accounts as to what happened in Acton Township. To say this is what happened cannot be proven.

Sign Text

  • Incorrect – There are many accounts as to what happened in Acton Township. To say this is what happened cannot be proven.

On August 17, 1862, four young Dakota hunters, returning to their hungry families from an unsuccessful hunt, argued about stealing food from white settlers.

  • Incorrect – We do not know that they were returning to their families.
  • Incorrect – We do not know if their families were hungry.
  • Incorrect – We do not know if they were returning from a hunt.
  • Incorrect – We do not know if their hunt was unsuccessful. At least one account says they were successful.
  • Incorrect – We do not know if they argued about stealing food from white settlers.

Sungigidan, Kaomdeiyeyedan, Nagiwicakte, and Pazoiyopa dared each other this: who among them was brave enough to shoot the settlers?

  • Incorrect – This appears to be Chief Big Eagle’s account. According to Big Eagle, they did not dare each other to shoot the settlers. According to Big Eagle, the dispute was between 2 of them.

The youth spoke with Robinson Jones, Acton’s postmaster and storekeeper, at his farm. They followed him to this location, about a quarter mile from the home of Howard Baker.

  • Incorrect – According to an eyewitness account, Jones followed them to Baker’s home.
  • Baker’s home was on this site about a quarter to a half mile from the home of Robinson Jones.

Here they shot and killed Baker, Viranus Webster and Robinson Jones and his wife. After they left, passing Jones’s home, they killed his daughter, Clara D. Wilson.

  • Disrespectful – All the victims are named except Robinson Jones’ wife.
  • Incorrect – Clara D. Wilson was Robinson Jones’ step-granddaughter.

Although the war was ignited by the actions of a small band of teenage hunters, its causes were far deeper.

  • Incorrect – We do not know that they were teenagers. At least one eyewitness said they were middle-age.

By 1862, European Americans were pouring onto the ancestral lands of the Dakota.

  • Incorrect – They had been “pouring onto” the lands ceded by the Dakota in the Treaties of 1851. This started after the treaties were signed.

White leaders, determined to seize millions of acres of rich farmland, forced the Dakota onto reservations.

  • Incorrect – If they were determined to seize this land, they would have done what the Dakota did to other tribes when they seized their land.
  • Incorrect – By signing the Treaties of 1851, the Dakota villages that were not already on the reservations, agreed to move to the reservations. They were not forced. Some Dakota never moved onto the reservations.

The Dakota were expected to assimilate: to farm rather than hunt, to speak English, to cut their hair and wear unfamiliar clothing. Missionaries sought to replace the Dakota belief system with Christianity.

  • Incorrect – Dakota chose to become farmers and Christians.
  • Incorrect – The Dakota were not expected to speak English.

The payments promised in the 1851 and 1858 treaties were illegally taken by traders or were late in delivery.

  • Incorrect and disrespectful – Show proof that payments were illegally taken by traders.
  • Incorrect – Show proof that the payments prior to 1862 were late.

Families were torn between the past and a foreign, uncertain future. To some, war seemed the only option. The U.S.–Dakota War of 1862 launched 30 years of war between the United States and American Indians on the Northern Plains.”

  • Incorrect – Many Dakota had been in contact with the whites for more than 100 years. This was not foreign to them.
  • Incorrect – The Dakota War of 1862 did not launch anything. It was part of a series of wars between the American Indians and the U.S.
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