U.S.–Dakota War

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Winning Nomination

The Dakota Conflict of 1862, once called the Great Sioux Uprising, was the most tragic and deadly event in Minnesota history. Instigated by a series of exploitative and broken treaties, the six-week war between the U.S. and the Eastern Dakota Nation resulted in hundreds dead, farms and homes abandoned, and the forced exile of the Dakota people from the state. A kangaroo military court condemned over 300 Dakota men in 15-minute trials. President Abraham Lincoln reviewed the cases and pardoned all but 38, who were hanged on the day after Christmas, 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota. To heighten the effect of their execution, all 38 were hanged simultaneously in a single drop--the largest mass execution in U.S. history. The Dakota Conflict cleared the way for white settlement and its influence can still be felt in the Dakota community.
~Kristian Berg, St. Paul



Runner-up Nominations

This event transformed the state sending the Dakota people into exile and turmoil. This event resonated with local residents for years afterwards resulting in numerous monuments and memorial events. It's a crucial piece to the history of Minnesota and involves multiple cultures.
~Julie Anderson, Peachtree City, GA

Wood Lake Battle of the 1862 US-Dakota Conflict This Battle dictated the end of the Dakota war. There are several Dakota and White warriors buried in unmarked graves on the battlefield which is in danger of being developed The direct result of this battle descimated the Dakota population. Wholesale round-up of the Dakota, hostile or not,and the exodus of the white settlers from the MN River Valley delayed the settlement of that part of the state for 10 years and has had a residual effect on how our MN culture has developed.
~Larry Whitaker, Marine on St. Croix, MN

Changed the demographics within the state, showed how federal policy would change the western U.S. Set the pace for tribal relations for the next near 150 years. . .
~Steven Blondo, Minneapolis, MN

Changed the way the Native American was treated not only in Minnesota, but around the rest of the NW Teritory. Don't forget, the largest mass execution in the history of the United States took place in Mankato when 38 Native American were hanged - President Lincoln commuted the sentences of over 150 so only 38 died, either the day before or the day after Christmas.

Actually there are probably two events that changed Minnesota, the first was the way the Native Americans were treated and caused the uprising, and the second was the execution - which will probably never happen again in the United States!
~Jim Miner, Rochester, MN

This watershed event opened western and southern Minnesota to agricultural development, the milling industry in Minneapolis. No other event comes close in understanding the history of the state, in terms of area involved, failed treaties, lives lost, a mass execution, and national implication. It is the biggest single event in U.S. history where the Native Americans took it to the settlers on their own terrain and on the largest scale. Was there ever another time when you might think, If you move to Minnesota, you could be killed. This would have to be #1--nothing else ever came close.
~Robert Stassen, Fayetteville, AR

It was a major event in Minnesota's young history all the while during the war between the states.
~Paul Fischer, Red Wing, MN

Coming in the midst of the cataclysm of the Civil War, this war was a true terrorist attack similar to September 11 in our century, in that it was so unexpected--no one thought it could, or would, happen, yet hundreds of lives, both Indian and white, were lost. This was the bloodiest Indian war in the country's history, and for 38 days Minnesota, a new state only four years old, was almost uninhabitable. Our perceptions of Indians was changed forever, and attitudes of whites who had abused Indians for so many years left a lasting scar on our history.
~Peter Clark, Roseville, MN

A major incident in the relations between whites and native peoples when 33 Dakota men were hanged at Mankato. Many were innocent men. This incident was after the 1860s Sioux Uprising. White and native relations really changed after that.
~B. Taylor, Minneapolis, MN

Took Indians' land.
~Charles Nordby, Lamberton, MN

Mass Execution after Sioux Uprising Hopefully, much later, a lesson for us about justice.
~Greg Maxam, St. Paul, MN

The Dakota conflict came early in our state history. The influence has been profound. It united Minnesotans who had come from various localities into a united citizenry. At the same time it revealed that Minnesotans are as susceptible to the passions of bigotry and revenge as those of any location.

An unkown number of settlers were killed by the Indians. 38 Sioux Indians were hanged at the conclusion of the conflict. More Indians should have been killed said many Minnesotans. The Indians suffered greatly after the conflict was over. The prejudice and deprivation continued well into the Twentieth Century. It may not yet be removed from the public mind.

Minnesota Nice is a phrase I don't like very well especially when I think about the Dakota Conflict. There is a painting in the Minneapolis Institute of Art titled Minnesota Nice against a background, a backdrop, of an 1862 map silhouettes of the Mankato gallows, mounted soldiers and downcast Indians on foot in the direction of the Dakota Terrirtory. On the right-hand border is a long listing of treaties broken by the Federal government.
~Norman Tegen, Hopkins, MN

Minnesota Civil War Minnesota's Civil War was splitting the Minnesota into another struggle, the Dakota against the newest to MN--the white settlers. White settlers were killing the Dakota people. It was splitting Minnesots apart. All that had not been needed was a spark of disaster. In the summer of 1862 the spark came. The Dakota War was one of the bloodiest episodes in Minnesota's history.
~Tony Ayaia, Minneapolis, MN

Shana Shana lived in South Dakota. She was 23 years old and she had 2 daughters. When the Dakota war began the settlers decided to bring her to a village where she protected an immigrant girl. Then Shana said that she adopted her because several weeks before her daughter had died. Every one should be proud of her for giving an immigrant girl a house to live in.
~Kathia Ayala Arenos, Minneapolis, MN


Contents

History

Minnesota's darkest hour

It has been known by many names over the years, from the Great Sioux Uprising to the Dakota Conflict to the U.S.-Dakota War. It is one of Minnesota's most tragic, most notorious moments in time, and its effects are still felt today.

In 1851, the Treaty of Mendota and the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux resulted in the ceding of all but 4 percent of Dakota lands in Minnesota Territory to the United States. Over the next nine years, some Dakota families managed to adapt to the government's policy that they establish farms on their reservation lands, but tensions continued to rise as annuity payments promised through the treaty were delayed. Crop failures in 1861 made a bad situation worse, and by the summer of 1862, Minnesota's Dakota families were starving.

On the morning of August 18, 1862, a group of Dakota men attacked the Lower Sioux Agency, a U.S. government establishment near Redwood Falls. The United States retaliated, and for the next six weeks a series of battles broke out throughout southern Minnesota. Nominator Kristian Berg picks up the story from here: "The war resulted in hundreds dead, farms and homes abandoned, and the forced exile of the Dakota people from the state. A military court condemned over 300 Dakota men, many in 15-minute trials. President Abraham Lincoln reviewed the cases and pardoned all but 38, who were hanged on the day after Christmas, 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota. To heighten the effect of their execution, all 38 were hanged simultaneously in a single drop--the largest mass execution in U.S. history."

For many years, the Dakota perspective on the war was ignored. Today, the inhumane treatment of the Dakota people--before the hangings they were forced into a concentration camp at Fort Snelling and after the hangings they were exiled from Minnesota--is widely acknowledged, and ceremonies seeking reparation and reconciliation have taken place. The first was a powwow held near Mankato in 1972. Organized by Amos Owen, a Dakota spiritual leader, and Bud Lawrence, a white businessman from Mankato, the powwow helped spur a campaign to replace an outdated granite marker near the site of the hangings with a bronze tablet that explaiins the executions within the context of the war. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first powwow Reconciliation Park was dedicated in Mankato, with a thirty-five-ton bison sculpture as its centerpiece. Amos Owen offered a prayer at the powwow that is now inscribed on a plaque near the sculpture:

"Grandfather I come to you this day
in a humble way to offer prayers
for the thirty eight Dakota who perished
in Mankato in the year 1862.
To the West, I pray to the Horse Nation
and to the North, I pray to the Elk People.
To the East, I pray to the Buffalo Nation,
and to the South, the Spirit People.
To the Heavens, I pray to the Great Spirit
and to the Spotted Eagle.
And Below, I pray to Mother Earth
to help us in this time of reconciliation.
Grandfather, I offer these prayers
in my humble way.
To all my relations."

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