Review – MHS/NCHS/GAC – LQP Exhibit

Minnesota Historical Society/Nicollet County Historical Society /Gustavus Adolphus College
Lac qui Parle Mission Exhibit and Trail Signs
Reviewed on September 30, 2016

Items of Interest

The Lac qui Parle Mission was in service from 1835 to 1854. The site is owned by the Minnesota Historical Society and managed by the Chippewa County Historical Society.

In 2016, the old panels inside the church were replaced with five new interpretative panels. Six new panels were added to the outside of the church. The church is open daily only part of the year. Check the Minnesota Historical Society and Chippewa County Historical Society websites for hours of operation.

“This exhibit was begun in 2013-14 by students in a public history course at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, in collaboration with the Nicollet County Historical Society. It was finished by Carrie Reber Zeman in conjunction with the Minnesota Historical Society.”

General Comments

  • An advisory group also contributed much time and feed-back to this exhibit. Some of the advisors were Grace Goldtooth-Campos, Franky Jackson, Richard Josey, June Lynne, Dave Craigmile, Jeff Williamson, Jon Willand, John LaBatte, Curtis Dahlin, Mary Bakeman and Lois Grewe. I think it disingenuous to not credit them and their contributions. I do not know if any of these people were given the opportunity to review the final panels before they were installed.
  • As with Historic Fort Ridgely, the Lac qui Parle site needs a clean-up. The Huggins cabin site sign has been torn down. All that remains is a sign post and a wood-framed outline of the cabin site. The sign should be replaced or the post and framed outline removed. The staircase to the spring is covered with weeds. A sign should be placed here saying the trail is closed. The sign on the Riggs and Pettijohn cabins site is separating from its post. These older signs should have been replaced.
  • It appears that bushes were removed on the south side of the church. The job was never finished. The removal area needs to be cleared and restored. The bushes that were removed have been lying in a nearby pile for at least 2 months.
  • The spelling of the word “Mdewakanton” is not consistent in the signage. It appears as “Bdewankantunwan,” “Mdewankanton” and “Mdewakantonwan.” See my essay, “Bdewakanton, Bdote and Mnisota.”
  • Traditional Dakota religion is not discussed at all. It should be discussed and compared to Christianity. More information needs to be provided on why Dakota people converted to Christianity. There is much duplication on the signs. This wasted space could have been used for these topics.

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Review – MHS/NCHS – FR Exhibit

 

Minnesota Historical Society/Nicollet County Historical Society
“Fort Ridgely” Exhibit
Located at Historic Fort Ridgely Commissary
Reviewed on June 21, 2016

Items of Interest

MHS employees were involved in this exhibit; one had oversight. Nicollet County Historical Society employees were involved. Interns were involved. However, the exhibit does not credit anyone for their work.

No credit is given for funding. Who provided the funds for this exhibit?

This exhibit discusses some topics such as slavery at Fort Ridgely which have not been discussed previously at the Fort.

General Comments

  • The book Soldier, Settler Sioux: Fort Ridgely and the Minnesota River Valley, 1858-1867, by Paul N. Beck, was one of the main sources used. However, a sketch of Fort Ripley appears on the cover and on page xxii. And it is misidentified as Fort Ridgely. This tends to make me skeptical of the contents of this book.
  • Unbalanced – White leaders in the battles are named. Dakota leaders are not named.
  • Disrespectful – The Renville Rangers, some 50 Dakota/white mixed-bloods and whites, fought bravely in the defense of Fort Ridgely. They are completely omitted from this exhibit. Two of my mixed-blood uncles were members of this group. I am offended by this omission.
  • Disrespectful – The Dakota War of 1862 was the most important historical event at this site. But, the war is briefly discussed on only one panel.
  • Incorrect – Complicated subjects need more space else they should not be mentioned.
  • There were many incorrect statements in the text at Fort Ridgely already. The existing mistakes should be fixed before adding more mistakes.

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Review – GAC Exhibit – Revisited

Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter
“Commemorating Controversy: The Dakota -U.S. War of 1862”
First Reviewed on March 9, 2012
Revisited on June 16, 2016
Updated on May 27, 2017

Items of Interest

Gustavus Adolphus students, with help from instructors and advisors, completed this exhibit in 2012. It has been on display at President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington D.C., Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York, National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D. C. and other locations. As of the date of this review, it is on display at Historic Fort Ridgely. This exhibit won the National Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History in May of 2013.

Do these honors make it good exhibit? Read on and judge for yourself

General Comments

  • Incorrect – There are a high number of incorrect statements.
  • Unbalanced – The exhibit does not discuss the heroic efforts of the Friendly Dakota who rescued the hostages held by the hostile Dakota and brought an early end to the war. The visitor is led to think that all Dakota Indians went to war when in fact the majority of the Dakota Indians opposed war with the whites.
  • Unbalanced – The exhibit discusses what happened to the Dakota after the war. It does discuss what happened to the whites.
  • Incorrect – Allegations and opinions are treated as facts without showing proof.
  • Incorrect – General statements are made that did not apply to all Dakota Indians.
  • Incorrect – Complicated subjects need more space else they should not be discussed.
  • Unbalanced – There is no discussion on how the Dakota Indians obtained this land. They were not always here. They took it through warfare. They did not write treaties.

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Review – MHS FR Exhibits

Minnesota Historical Society (MHS)
Fort Ridgely Historic Site
Commissary Exhibits
Reviewed on September 26, 2015
Updated on June 13, 2017

Items of Interest

The exhibits include Fort Ridgely history, Fort Ridgely in the Dakota War of 1862, period ordnance including a 12-pounder mountain howitzer and ammunition, period food, clothing, supplies and equipment including a “Sibley Tent,” period photos of Fort Ridgely and the Civil War, results of excavations done in 1936-37 and 1972 and CCC reconstruction work done in the 1930s.

This review will focus only on the Dakota War of 1862 information.

I believe that some of the panels in this exhibit were moved here in 2001 from the Lower Sioux Agency Historic Site when its exhibits were updated.

Four other reviews of Fort Ridgely products have been posted to this blog:
Fort Ridgely Historic Site Sign
Fort Ridgely Trail Signs
MHS Fort Ridgely Information Website
Fort Ridgely Introduction Video

General Comments

  • Disrespectful – Fort Ridgely Historic Site is one of the most significant historic sites in the State. Its exhibits need to be updated and corrected.
  • One panel states that there were 180 defenders during the 2 battles in 1862. This is correct. The Fort Ridgley Site Sign and the MHS Fort Ridgely Information Website state that there were 280 defenders. This is not correct.
  • The exhibit is an olio of items added over the years. There are exhibits that have little to do with the fort.
  • Incorrect – There is a main diorama in the back room showing the layout of the fort and descriptions of the buildings. However, there are other layouts and building descriptions on site that are not consistent with this main diorama. It is confusing.
  • Incorrect – I cannot find a good discussion anywhere on this site of the first and second battles.
  • Unbalanced – I cannot find any items in the back room related to the Dakota Indians except for short descriptions and paintings of the battles.

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Review – GCHS Exhibit

 Goodhue County Historical Society Exhibit
Reviewed January 6, 2015

 Items of Interest

 None

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.  Continue reading

Review – DNR USA Exhibit

 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Upper Sioux Agency State Park Office Center
Reviewed on January 15, 2008 

Items of Interest 

There is a reconstructed Agency period duplex in the State Park. Other building sites are marked. These sites are interpreted with signs. 

General Comments

  • Unbalanced – There are photos of 3 Dakota leaders who opposed the war, but no photos of Dakota leaders who favored the war.  Continue reading

Review – DNR FS Exhibit

 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fort Snelling State Park Visitor Center
Reviewed on April 20, 2013
Updated on March 17, 2016

Items of Interest 

This exhibit was installed about 2001. DNR let Dakota people decide on content.  Assistance in spelling the Dakota language for this exhibit and determining the spelling of Dakota names on the concentration camp list was provided by the Dakota-English Dictionary Project (DEDP).

General Comments

  • Names of locations and Dakota people are changed. There needs to be a group of representatives from the Dakota communities that decides on Dakota names and on spelling. Were descendants consulted before their family names were changed?

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