Column: The truth about the 1862 Dakota War

"As Minnesotans blow out the candles next year on 150 years of statehood, they'll do well to acknowledge that there were people living on this land long centuries before 1858. And that for those original people -- and their descendants, still very much here -- statehood wasn't the beginning of something grand, but the ending.

Permit a synopsis: "Uprising" [a new book by Minnesota state Rep. Dean Urdahl] recounts the plight of the Santee Dakota people in years following the 1851 treaty that confined them to a narrow strip of land along the Minnesota River, in exchange for the promise of an annual payment from the U.S. government.

The payment was very late in the Civil War summer of 1862. Previous payments had been irregular and had been mostly usurped by unscrupulous white traders. Crops had failed in 1861. Game was scarce. Pleas for release of foodstuffs from white-controlled granaries were ignored. The Dakota were dying of starvation.

Then four reckless young Indians killed a white family on Aug. 17, 1862, and a war was on. Before it was quelled six weeks later, between 300 and 800 white settlers and several times that many Dakota were dead.

The episode resulted in the largest mass execution by the U.S. government in the nation's history: Thirty-eight Indians were hung in Mankato the day after Christmas in 1862. Thousands more were interned in concentration camps -- one at Minnesota's hallowed Fort Snelling -- before being forced into exile in Dakota Territory."

Get the Story:
Lori Sturdevant: A time when cultures met -- and clashed (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 10/28)

$rl Dakota War of 1862, Wikipedia -