MHS Scorecard

Minnesota Historical Society Scorecard
January 1, 2017
Updated on May 29, 2017

Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) produces more products related to the 1862 Dakota War than any other organization or individual. Below are counts of incorrect, unbalanced and disrespectful statements in MHS products. The detailed reviews can be found elsewhere on this blog.

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Be Skeptical

Be Skeptical
© December 6, 2016, John LaBatte

Skeptic – “a person who questions or doubts something (such as a claim or statement)”

To date, I have reviewed more than 300 products related to Dakota/White history. These include essays, speeches, websites, exhibits, signs, audio-visual and books. I can definitely conclude that there is much incorrect, unbalanced and disrespectful information out there on this history.

Why is this happening? Read on. Continue reading

Review – Composite II Speeches

Composite II Speeches (Up to August 2015)

Items of Interest

Included below are reviews of 29 speeches. I attended most of these speeches and found others on the internet. I combined these speeches into a “Composite speech.”

One of the speakers was an archeologist. His answers to my questions:

  1. The ancestors of the Dakota Indians were not Minnesota’s first residents.
  2. The ancestors of the Dakota Indians arrived in present day Minnesota about 600 A.D. from the central Mississippi River area.
  3. The ancestors of the Dakota Indians never occupied all of Minnesota.
  4. It cannot be proven there are Dakota remains in all of the burial mounds in Minnesota.

General Comments

  • There are many unproven allegations, incorrect generalities and incorrect statements in the following statements.
  • Some of these statements are complicated and need more details than what I can give here.

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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 – SP PP Historic FS

Historic Fort Snelling
June 24, 2016, St. Paul Pioneer Press insert
Published by Northwest Publications
Writers: Nick Woltman and Andy Rathbun
Reviewed on July 7, 2016

Items of Interest

This 48-page publication was inserted into the June 24, 2016 St. Paul Pioneer Press. However, it appears that only residential subscribers received a copy. As of this date, it has not been made available to the general public.

Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) has requested $34,000,000 from the State Legislature for renovations to Historic Fort Snelling. I believe this publication was produced in order to help justify this request for funding.

This publication contains many good photographs and area maps.

Some of my Dakota ancestors were taken to the Fort Snelling Internment Camp in 1862. They were not forced-marched. They were taken here to survive.

Text from this publication will not be provided in this review. All comments below are my comments related to statements in the publication. Some points in this publication are repeated several times. My comments on these points are also repeated. I focus mainly on the material related to the Dakota Indians and the 1862 Dakota War.

General Comments

  • This publication contains many incorrect and unbalanced statements. I believe it portends the future MHS interpretation at Historic Fort Snelling.
  • Incorrect – The U.S. was responsible for the Dakota Indians. The U.S. made the decisions to try them, move them to camps at Mankato and Fort Snelling and to remove most of them from the state. The State of Minnesota did not make these decisions and should not be held accountable.
  • Unbalanced – The Christian and Farmer Dakota prior to the 1862 Dakota War are not mentioned.
  • Unbalanced – The Friendly Indians who opposed the Dakota War, allied with the U.S. Army, rescued the hostages held by the hostile Dakota and brought an early end to the war are not mentioned.
  • Unbalanced – No mention is made of the Dakota Indians in the Fort Snelling Internment Camp who were taken to Faribault.
  • Unbalanced – No mention is made of the Dakota who left the Fort Snelling Internment Camp to become scouts for the U.S. Army.

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Historic Fort Ridgely – Visitors Beware

Historic Fort Ridgely – Visitors Beware
© June 23, 2016, John LaBatte
Updated on July 17, 2016

Fort Ridgely State Park is managed by the Minnesota DNR. Historic Fort Ridgely occupies about 22 acres within the State Park. The Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) owns Historical Fort Ridgely and sub-contracts its operation to Nicollet County Historical Society (NCHS). Today, MHS is asking for $34,000,000 from the State Legislature for Historic Fort Snelling. Fort Snelling was never attacked. Historic Fort Ridgely is the most significant historic site in Minnesota. So, how do MHS and NCHS treat Historic Fort Ridgely? Read on.

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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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