Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

“Mending generations of bad feelings” in Redwood County during “The Year of the Dakota” February 28, 2013

WILL THE DIVIDING LINES ever connect into a complete circle of healing?

A century and a half after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 ended, can the Dakota and descendants of white settlers, and others, ever fully reconcile and forgive?

Words on a marker in Reconciliation Park in Mankato where 38 Dakota were hung on Dec. 26, 1862.

Words on a marker in Reconciliation Park in Mankato where 38 Dakota were hung on Dec. 26, 1862.

The issues that divide—of blame and of animosity, of death and of punishment, of land and of banishment, and more—remain, sometimes subtle and below the surface, sometimes exposed.

As a native of Redwood County in southwestern Minnesota and as a descendant of settlers who fled their New Ulm area homestead during the U.S.-Dakota War, I have always been especially interested in this conflict.

So when I learned that the City of Redwood Falls on January 15 joined the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in adopting resolutions “recognizing the 150th anniversary of the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862 and declaring 2012-2013 the Year of the Dakota,” I took note.

The resolution states, in part in paragraph two:

WHEREAS, much has yet to be learned about issues revolving around land, reparations and restitution, treaties, genocide, suppression of American Indian Spirituality and Ceremonies, suppression on Indigenous languages, bounties, concentration camps, force marches, mass executions and forcible removals; and…

For my home county, at the geographical center of the war and home to the Dakota, then and now, passage of this resolution reflects a desire to understand, to educate, to heal.

Now you wouldn’t think, after 150 years, that such a resolution would even be needed. Trust me. Hard feelings still exist. But because I have not lived in Redwood County for decades and am therefore only an outside observer, I contacted Redwood Falls Mayor and avid local historian Gary Revier with a few questions.

I posed this question, among others, to Revier: All these years after the Dakota War ended, what, if any, tensions still exist between the Dakota and Whites in Redwood County?

As I expected, the mayor, who could have danced around my question with political rhetoric, told it like he sees it:

To answer your question about tensions between the Dakota and White communities, I would have to say emphatically “yes.” I believe it is more of a trust issue for the Dakota. On the White side, I would have to say there is a lot of envy because of the success of the gaming industry among the various Indian communities.

When I hear from my fellow members of the White community, they almost always begin by saying, “I am not prejudiced, but…” They then go on to explain some good deed they did for a Native American or some distant cousin three times removed who they are related to.

The Milford State Monument along Brown County Road 29 west of New Ulm commemorates the deaths of 52 settlers who were killed in the area. Located along the eastern edge of the Lower Sioux Reservation, Milford had the highest war death rate of any single township.

The Milford State Monument along Brown County Road 29 west of New Ulm commemorates the deaths of 52 settlers in Milford Township during the U.S.-Dakota War.

Revier, who also happens to be a descendant of white settlers impacted by the U.S.-Dakota War, endorses the resolution which calls for presenting the Dakota perspective through discussion; efforts by the City of Redwood Falls to promote the well-being and growth of the American Indian Community; and that such efforts “will mark the beginning of future dialogues and efforts to rectify the wrongs that were perpetrated during, and since, the year 1862, a tragic and traumatic event for the Dakota People of Minnesota.”

Says Revier:

I do support the resolution for many reasons, but the one that provides me with the most satisfaction really starts mending generations of bad feelings between the two nations. The first step towards reconciliation is admitting to the aggrieved party that there were atrocities committed. Once again this is more complex than can be explained in one or two sentences.

The mayor is right. Summarizing and defining issues spanning 150 years would be a difficult undertaking, especially in the context of a blog post.

A photo panel at the Traverse des Sioux Treaty Center in St. Peter shows Dakota leaders photographed in Washington D.C. in 1858. The photo is from the Minnesota Historical Society.

A photo panel at the Traverse des Sioux Treaty Center in St. Peter shows Dakota leaders photographed in Washington D.C. in 1858. The photo is from the Minnesota Historical Society.

Now, though, through adoption of the “Year of the Dakota” resolution, the City of Redwood Falls, in discussion with the Dakota community and others, is aiming to “open additional dialogue and create better communication and feelings among the citizens of both communities,” Revier says.

While methods of accomplishing this have not yet been fully defined, the Redwood Falls community has already hosted roundtable discussions, author visits, video showings, presentations and historic site tours related to the U.S.-Dakota War during the war’s sesquicentennial in 2012.

Ramsey Falls in Alexander Ramsey Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Ramsey Falls in Alexander Ramsey Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Additionally, Revier notes that when the city celebrates the dedication anniversary of its 219-acre Alexander Ramsey Park this year, the event will also be “a celebration of the Dakota who consider it a very special place.”  The Dakota once lived on the land (which eventually became the park) and the name Redwood comes from the Dakota word Can-say-api, meaning “where they paint the tree red,” the mayor says. A “101st Celebration and Ramsey Park Jamboree” is set for June 5 at the Redwood Area Community Center, according to the Alexander Ramsey Park Facebook page.

The park is named after first Minnesota Territorial and (second) Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey who negotiated treaties with the Dakota and was accused, but later cleared, of fraud in those negotiations. Revier is interested in possibly renaming the park, he says, “to something that would be more descriptive of the area which is home to so many indigenous people.”

This artwork by Gordon M. Coons, which was on recent temporary display at the Traverse des Sioux Treaty Center, marks the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. According to information posted with the piece, "...the crows, known as messengers, are silent and unable to carry the stories of the 38 Dakota hanged in Mankato. Each crow carries the name of a Dakota hanged in Mankato. The texture on the crows is a blend of acrylic paint and soil from the historical sites of the Sioux Uprising of 1862. The soil is from the Traverse des Sioux treaty site of 1851 and eight other locations of the Sioux Uprising of 1862."

This artwork by Gordon M. Coons, which was on recent temporary display at the Treaty Site History Center in St. Peter, marks the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. According to information posted with the piece, “…the crows, known as messengers, are silent and unable to carry the stories of the 38 Dakota hanged in Mankato. Each crow carries the name of a Dakota hanged in Mankato. The texture on the crows is a blend of acrylic paint and soil from the …Traverse des Sioux treaty site of 1851 and eight other locations of the Sioux Uprising of 1862.” Coons is an enrolled member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribe of northern Wisconsin and now lives in Minneapolis.

WHILE COMMUNICATING with Revier and researching for this post, I noticed that the “Year of the Dakota” resolution passed by the city of Redwood Falls varies from those approved in Minneapolis and St. Paul. One difference comes in the number of Dakota who were executed, a figure referenced in the first paragraph of the resolution. The Twin Cities resolutions note the number of executed Dakota—those hung in a mass hanging in Mankato—at 38. The resolution from Redwood Falls defines the number as 38+2 Dakota.

I asked the mayor to clarify. Revier added the “2” to represent Medicine Bottle and Little Six (Shakopee), Dakota leaders who were hung at Fort Snelling for their roles in the U.S.-Dakota War.

When I consider all the mayor has shared with me and my own knowledge of the tensions that have existed in Redwood County for 150 years, I wonder how reconciliation will ever be achieved. But I have to hold onto hope—hope that this newly-adopted resolution will foster discussion and understanding, hope that each side can stop blaming the other, hope that forgiveness will come…

Gordon M. Coons also created this 1862 U.S. flag which features the names of the 38 Dakota who were executed during a mass hanging in Mankato. "...the 38 Dakota are woven into the history of the U.S. and appear to be woven into the flag," information posted with the display at the Traverse des Sioux Treaty Center states.

Gordon M. Coons also created this 1862 U.S. flag which features the names of the 38 Dakota who were executed during a mass hanging in Mankato. “…the 38 Dakota are woven into the history of the U.S. and appear to be woven into the flag,” information posted with the display at the Treaty Site History Center in St. Peter states.

NOTE: I contacted Dr. Chris Mato Nunpa,  retired former associate professor of Indigenous Nations and Dakota Studies who authored the resolution along with other Dakota people and supporters. He declined to comment.

To read the entire resolution adopted by the Minneapolis City Council, click here. The Redwood Falls version varies only in the number of Dakota specified (38+2) and, of course, in the council name stated in the resolution.

The Saint Paul City Council resolution differs from that of the other two cities as the city’s parks and recreation department  is directed to “work with the Dakota Bdote Restoration Consortium to identify, name and interpret sacred Native American sites at and nearby the sacred Bdote…” You can read the entire resolution by clicking here.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The educating & healing continue 150 years after The U.S.-Dakota War December 28, 2012

STUDYING MINNESOTA HISTORY decades ago, I learned about “The Sioux Uprising of 1862” and even wrote a term paper on the topic bearing that title.

This archway leads to the Wood Lake State Monument, on the site of the battle which ended the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862.

This archway leads to the Wood Lake State Monument, on the site of the battle which ended the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862.

I thought nothing negative of that word, Sioux, which translates to “snake.” The Ojibway, once enemies of the Dakota, gave the tribe that name. I did not know; it was the word I was taught.

That I even studied “The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862,” the proper terminology for the six-week war fought primarily in my native southwestern Minnesota 150 years ago, seems remarkable. So many in Minnesota never knew of this conflict in our state’s history.

I don’t pretend to know every detail of the war between the Dakota and the white settlers and soldiers. But I do remember that I grew up with a fear of “Indians,” reinforced by the television westerns especially popular during my formative years and by the history lessons delivered about The Sioux Uprising of 1862, as it was then called.

Those classroom lessons were decidedly one-sided: The whites were the good guys, the Indians the bad guys. That line of thinking was wrong, oh, so wrong. I realize that now, having reached that conclusion decades ago.

The maltreatment of the Dakota by greedy traders, broken treaty promises, starvation, efforts to convert and transform the Dakota people into Christian farmers, expulsion from their homeland and more contributed to the war.

Yet, even the Dakota disagreed about the need to wage this battle. Some helped settlers escape to safety while others plundered and killed. My own maternal forefathers fled the New Ulm area to St. Peter, making this war a part of my personal family history.

The Milford State Monument along Brown County Road 29 west of New Ulm commemorates the deaths of 52 settlers who were killed in the area. Located along the eastern edge of the Lower Sioux Reservation, Milford had the highest war death rate of any single township.

The Milford State Monument along Brown County Road 29 west of New Ulm commemorates the deaths of 52 settlers who were killed in the area. Located along the eastern edge of the Lower Sioux Reservation, Milford had the highest war death rate of any single township.

While I carry no ill will toward the Dakota, I will tell you, unequivocally, that feelings still run deep in southwestern Minnesota. I am also honest enough to admit that perhaps I would feel differently if my family members had been massacred or if I was of Dakota, instead of German, heritage.

Although time can heal, it doesn’t always. Misconceptions and misguided expectations, even after 150 years, exist on multiple sides of the issue. I won’t delve into that here, but I do think the healing is still ongoing, forgiveness (on both sides) still not attained.

Words on a marker in Reconciliation Park in Mankato where 38 Dakota were hung on Dec. 26, 1862.

Words on a marker in Reconciliation Park in Mankato where 38 Dakota were hung on Dec. 26, 1862. On Wednesday, a new Dakota 38 Memorial was dedicated listing the names of the 38 men who died here. This file photo was taken of an existing plaque in the park.

In a ceremony in Mankato on Wednesday marking the 150th anniversary of the hanging of 38 Dakota, Mayor Eric Anderson proclaimed this the year of “forgiveness and understanding.”

The Dakota also called upon all to “forgive everyone everything.” Those words will be engraved into Kasota stone benches to be installed next summer at the site of the new Dakota 38 Memorial dedicated in Reconciliation Park on Wednesday.

Strides toward understanding and forgiveness, and education, can perhaps finally heal the still festering wounds of this long ago war.

TO VIEW PHOTOS from the event in Mankato on Wednesday, click to link here to Minnesota Public Radio.

TELL ME, ESPECIALLY if you grew up in Minnesota, did you study The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862? Also, are Minnesota students today being taught about this war?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In Faribault: Scholar to address Lincoln’s response to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 September 5, 2012

A Lincoln postcard which a collector brought to a Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meeting several years ago.

THE FIRST TIME I ATTENDED a Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meeting nearly three years ago, I arrived expecting to view slave documents. The presenter, however, left the papers at home and brought, instead, memorabilia specifically related to Abraham Lincoln.

He did not disappoint. I viewed vintage postcards and original photos of Lincoln, Civil War buttons and replicas of Mary Todd Lincoln’s White House china, among many other items.

An 1840 Philadelphia Derringer, like the pistol used to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

What impressed me the most, however, was the collector’s 1840 Philadelphia Derringer, exactly like the pistol with which John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln. The weapon was nearly small enough to hide in the palm of my hand.

Visuals like that teach me more about history than any textbook ever will. So do guest speakers. They address the monthly meetings of the Roundtable whose 25 members are interested in preserving and interpreting the Civil War.

Now the Faribault-based Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable is bringing in a scholar of Abraham Lincoln to kick off its eighth year as an organization. You needn’t be a Roundtable member to attend; I’m not.

Bryce Stenzel of Mankato portraying President Abraham Lincoln. Stenzel, among other things, directs Lincoln’s Traveling Troupe, a group of students and community actors who bring Lincoln’s life and legacy to life via a dramatic, living history portrayal and authentic re-enactment.

Bryce Stenzel of Mankato, who developed a first-person portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in 1989 and since has traveled around the country presenting, will present “1862: Lincoln Trials by Fire” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 20, at the Faribault American Legion, 112 Fifth St. N.E.

He will address, Stenzel says, “the ‘State of the Union’ as it existed in 1862 and Lincoln’s response to the U.S.- Dakota War, against the backdrop of the American Civil War and the issuance of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862.”

It’s a timely topic given this year marks the 150th anniversary of the U.S. – Dakota War.

Specifically, Stenzel details, his upcoming program “is a means for Faribault to acknowledge its unique connection to the U.S. – Dakota War by paying homage to its native son, Bishop Henry Whipple. Even though no fighting took place in Faribault, your community played an active role in influencing the final outcome.”

This historian, who has authored eight books on local historical and Lincoln-related topics, possesses an advanced history degree and has taught social studies/history at all levels, including college, has long taken a personal interest in the U.S. – Dakota War. His great-great grandmother and her two-year-old daughter escaped a band of Dakota warriors by hiding in tall prairie grasses. And his great-great grandfather served with the Fifth Minnesota Regiment and fought in the decisive Battle of Nashville in 1864.

Stenzel grew up in Mankato, where 38 Dakota were hung in the largest mass execution in U.S. history. President Lincoln commuted the death sentences of 265 Dakota.

Says Stenzel:

The central question of my presentation is why did Lincoln feel compelled to intervene at all, when he didn’t have to? In fact, from a political standpoint, Lincoln committed political suicide—most Minnesotans at the time believed it was both right and necessary to hang the Indians as a means of preventing such a tragedy from ever happening again. It is useful for the modern audience to consider that what was “politically correct” in the 19th century, is no longer. Historical interpretation changes with time.

Dan Peterson, a member of the Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable who has heard Stenzel speak, fully endorses him: “(Stenzel)) reminds me of my love for Abraham Lincoln just to be in his audience or close to him. Lincoln is on our money, our named streets, one state capitol, highways, buildings, businesses, cars and more. You just cannot get away from him.”

FYI: Tickets to the dinner and program are on sale now at the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault or from Chuck Peterson (507-301-2470), Jan Stevens (507-244-0500) or Dan Peterson (507-459-3140). Cost is $22 for non-members and $20 for paid-up members of the Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable.

Tickets for the meal of pork ribs with trimmings must be purchased by Saturday, September 8. The event begins at 5 p.m. on September 20 with a social and then dinner at 6 p.m.

If you want to attend just the Lincoln presentation by Stenzel, the cost is $10 for adults, $5 for students 16 and older, and free for those under 16. The program begins at 7:30 p.m.

The Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meets the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Faribault Senior Center with a speaker at each meeting. In October, the topic will be the New Ulm raid as part of the U.S. – Dakota War; in November, the Antietam Battlefield; and in December, the annual Civil War food potluck (probably with possum soup, hardtack and more, Peterson promises).

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Bryce Stenzel photo courtesy of Bryce Stenzel

 

New exhibit highlights Rice County in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 September 2, 2012

IT IS EASY TO FORGET SOMETIMES, because I grew up in the region of Minnesota where the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 was centered, that residents of the county in which I now live also played an integral role in the conflict.

Specifically, Rice County residents Bishop Henry Whipple and Alexander Faribault, after whom my community of Faribault is named, are key persons often noted in historical information written about the war.

I am always surprised that relatively few people from outside of southwestern and central Minnesota know so little about the bloody, six-week war between the Dakota and the white settlers and soldiers given it is a major, defining event in Minnesota history.

An overview of 1862, Through Rice County’s Eyes, which opened August 22 in Northfield.

However, awareness has grown considerably this year on the 150th anniversary of the war, including right here in Rice County. The Northfield Historical Society, partnering with the Rice County Historical Society, is currently showcasing an exhibit, 1862, Through Rice County’s Eyes.

I recently checked out the Northfield exhibit, which features mostly memorable quotes, volumes of summarized information and copies of photos. It’s a lot of reading.

But if you’re interested in educating yourself, it’s worth the time and concentration needed to absorb the information presented in this exhibit. And I’ll admit to occasionally skimming the postings because I am more of a visual, multi media, show-and-tell kind of history learner. I also had a pretty good background of knowledge going into the exhibit.

This sculpture of Alexander Faribault trading with a Dakota trading partner stands in Faribault’s Heritage Park near the Straight River and site of Faribault’s trading post. Faribault artist Ivan Whillock created this sculpture which sits atop a fountain known as the Bea Duncan Memorial Fountain.

I knew, for example, that fur trader Alexander Faribault was one-quarter Dakota and married to Mary Elizabeth Graham, whose mother was a family member of a Dakota chief. I knew, too, that Faribault was involved in the negotiating and translating of land treaties between the government and the Dakota before the war and that he benefited financially.

I was aware that Alexander Faribault sheltered the Dakota.

Above the photos and info is this quote by Bishop Henry Whipple to President Buchanan in August 1860: “In my visits to them, my heart had been pained to see the utter helplessness of these poor souls, fast passing away, caused in great part by the curse which our people have pressed to their lips.”

But I had forgotten that Bishop Henry Whipple, a long-time advocate for the rights of the Dakota and known to them as “Straight Tongue,” worked to find a safe refuge for them in the city of Faribault.

Alexander Faribault opened his land to the Dakota. Information in the exhibit states:

This land was the only safe-haven of its kind in a state now prejudiced in fear and anger against anyone with Dakota blood.

According to info in the exhibit, Alexander Faribault, whom you recall was one-fourth Dakota, also experienced prejudice against him. By 1869, this once successful fur trader, flour mill owner and politician had to sell his land and assets, including the land occupied by the Dakota.

Equally interesting is the quote, below, attributed to Mary Whipple. Even though her husband, the bishop, worked tirelessly to help the Dakota, fear still existed in his home community.

A quote from a letter written by Mary Whipple to her sister during the U.S.-Dakota War.

Perhaps the most interesting fact I learned relates to that of Lt. Rollin Olin, a decade-long resident of Northfield. He was second in command of the Third Minnesota Regiment at the Battle of Wood Lake—the final battle of the war—and a member of a five-man military tribunal which tried the Dakota following the war. He signed more than 300 death sentences for nearly 400 Dakota charged with murder, rape and/or robbery.

For me, that raises the obvious question: How could someone who fought against the Dakota judge them without bias? All members of the tribunal, in fact, had fought the Dakota. The answer, of course, is that Lt. Olin and the other four could not.

Likewise, the Northfield Historical Society is wisely careful to indicate that its new, temporary exhibit may not please everyone or include everything on the topic of Rice County’s connection to the war. On the NHS website, you’ll read this disclaimer:

As varied as these and other local perspectives may be, any exploration of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 suffers from the inevitable limitations facing every historical examination—limitations such as scope and biases, past and present, which impact the telling and perception of the stories and data. In presenting the exhibit 1862, Through Rice County’s Eyes this fall, NHS endeavors to draw visitors into thoughtful interest and discussion of this momentous event and its aftermath by sharing local connections. Come and critically examine this exhibit.

The exterior of the Northfield Historical Society, 408 Division Street, Northfield.

FYI: To learn more about 1862—Through Rice County’s Eyes, click here to the NHS website.

To learn more about the Minnesota counties, county by county, involved in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, click here.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A Minnesota politician & writer shares his insights on “The Dakota War, a clash of cultures” May 18, 2012

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This archway leads to the Wood Lake State Monument, on the site of the battle ending the U.S.-Dakota Conflict.

Dean Urdahl has written the trilogy of Uprising, Retribution and Pursuit.

I COULD HAVE LISTENED to Dean Urdahl for hours. Not Urdahl the Minnesota State Representative from District 18B. But Urdahl the historian, the retired American history teacher, the storyteller, the writer.

The southern Minnesota politician, who co-chairs the Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, was in Faribault Thursday evening to talk about the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and to promote his trilogy of historical fiction novels about that conflict.

Urdahl’s interest in the U.S.-Dakota War is rooted deep in family history, in the soil of Meeker County where his Norwegian immigrant ancestors settled in 1856 and where, on August 17, 1862, five settlers were killed by a small group of Dakota. That attack in Acton Township, only 1 ½ miles from Urdahl’s current home, marked the beginning of the war.

Urdahl’s great-great-grandfather helped bury those five victims in the cemetery of Ness Lutheran Church, a country church southwest of Litchfield. A monument there honors the five who were slain. The Representative grew up attending Ness Lutheran, listening to his mother tell stories about his ancestors and the area’s history. That sparked his interest in history and specifically a strong interest in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

“What happened in 1862 (in Minnesota) is largely ignored by historians,” Urdahl said, adding that the U.S.-Dakota War “gets scant attention and deserves more.”

In 1862, a divided nation was more focused on the conflict between North and South than on the clash between cultures in Minnesota, Urdahl explained.

This historian, however, certainly drew attention to the war between the white settlers/soldiers and the Dakota during his presentation, “The Dakota War, a clash of cultures,” at the monthly Cannon Valley Civil War Roundtable meeting in Faribault in this, the 150th anniversary year of the War.

Cultures collided, Urdahl said, as immigrants settled in the native home of the Dakota and the government adopted a policy “to turn them (the Dakota) into farmers.”

Conflict also existed among the Dakota—between “the blankets,” those sticking to traditional ways, and “cut-hairs,” those turning into farmers, he said.

Speaking without notes and with the skill of a master storyteller passionate about his subject, Urdahl mesmerized his audience, sharing information and a story-style time-line of how the U.S.-Dakota War unfolded.

The Milford State Monument along Brown County Road 29 west of New Ulm commemorates the deaths of 52 settlers who were killed in the area. Located along the eastern edge of the Lower Sioux Reservation, Milford had the highest war death rate of any single township.

Urdahl’s talk was a refresher course for me, a native of Redwood County located at the geographical center of the War. I’ve always been interested in the conflict and even penned a term paper on “The Sioux Uprising of 1862,” as it was labeled when I was a high school student. My maternal ancestors lived in the New Ulm area in 1862 and were warned by friendly Indians to leave; the families fled to the safety of nearby St. Peter.

“We find throughout the war, friendly Indians warning people to leave,” Urdahl said.

That, and much of what this historian said, I already knew. You’ll find it written in books. But some of what Urdahl shared I had forgotten or never heard such as…

  • A drought in 1861 left the Dakota near starvation and relying on government food. (I didn’t recall the drought as preemptive to the desperate situation among the Dakota.)
  • In late July 1862, some 5,000 Dakota gathered at the Yellow Medicine Agency ready to storm the warehouses. Agents eventually released the storehouse of grain to the hungry Dakota, thus averting the start of the war for several weeks.
  • The settlers at Acton were challenged to a target shooting contest by the Dakota before they were killed.
  • The Dakota were intent on attacking New Ulm because they thought the town was built on reservation land. The reservation covered a 10-mile by 150-mile area along the Minnesota River.
  • From 500 – 800 Minnesotans were killed/died during the six-week war, only 75 of whom were soldiers. “The rest,” said Urdahl, “were Swedish, German and Norwegian immigrants who didn’t know what was going on.”
  • Although there is not an accurate count on the number of soldiers who died in the Battle of Birch Coulee, the count of dead horses stands at 90. “They could replace men, not horses,” Urdahl said.
  • When Fort Ridgely was under attack, fort leader Lt. Thomas P. Gere was coming down with the mumps.
  • During the final battle at Ft. Ridgely, doors on both ends of the surgeon’s quarters/headquarters were opened and a cannon ball fired down the hallway toward the stables where the Dakota were stationed.
  • A Confederate officer was reportedly spotted in Little Crow’s (Dakota leader) camp. Some speculate that the Confederacy played a role in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, thus diverting soldiers from the Confederate front by keeping them in Minnesota to fight the Dakota.
  • Little Crow lived in a brick house at the time of the War.

Trader Andrew Myrick refused to grant the Dakota credit, remarking, “Let them eat grass.” After an attack on the Lower Agency, Myrick was found dead, his mouth stuffed with grass.

The message on a marker near the Lower Sioux Agency reads: 75 feet north stood the building in which upwards of 100 Sioux Indians were tried by court martial, convicted and sentenced to death Nov. 1862.

As I listened to Urdahl’s presentation, I wondered how Native Americans would react to the information he shared. What perspective would they offer? Would they disagree with him, challenge his facts, voice their opinions? How would they feel?

“There are still very hard feelings on both sides,” this descendant of Norwegian immigrants told his audience. He occasionally gets e-mails from angry descendants of settlers killed during the U.S.-Dakota War.

Growing up in Redwood County decades ago, I was well aware of the animosity between whites and the Dakota passed down through the generations. I know the bad feelings still linger on both sides.

But perhaps in this 150th anniversary year, we can all (white and Dakota) strive to overcome, to understand and to, finally, forgive.

Words on a marker in Reconciliation Park in Mankato where 38 Dakota were hung on December 26, 1862. This stands as the largest mass execution in American history. Initially, 303 were sentenced to death. President Abraham Lincoln approved the deaths of 39 and granted a last-minute reprieve to one other.

FYI: All of the above monument images were photographed within the past several years.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faribault area auctions offer historic Native American artifacts & western memorabilia May 2, 2012

Dakota beaded moccasins exhibited at the Rice County Historical Society Museum in Faribault, shown here only as an example of a Native American artifact and not on the auction here Saturday.

TWO HISTORIC COLLECTIONS will go on the auction block in the Faribault area this weekend during back-to-back sales that likely have collectors of High Plains Indian artifacts and western memorabilia pretty excited.

Starting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 5, at the Elks Lodge, 131 Lyndale Avenue North, Faribault, a large collection of Native American artifacts from a private collector will be sold. The sale bill reads in part:

This sale consists of a complete lifetime collection of High Plains artifacts from two states and covers all time periods from Paleo to historic and everything in between. There will be more than 3,000 artifacts in frames sold by choice and complete frame, including many boxes of artifacts sold as a lot. Found on private land in North Dakota and Minnesota from 1940 to 1965, the artifacts are from the following cultures and time periods: Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, Copper Culture, Fur trade era, Civil War era, and Indian War era.

Now, before I continue, I must tell you that Helbling Auctioneers LLC of Hankinson and Kindred, North Dakota, is the auctioneer. Although my husband is a Helbling originally from the Mandan/Bismarck area of North Dakota, he is unaware of any family relationship to auctioneer Bob Helbling.

However, it was the Helbling name on an auction ad published last week in The Redwood Falls Gazette which initially attracted the attention of my mother who phoned me about the auction.  Redwood Falls is located between the Upper and Lower Sioux Indian Reservations and within the geographical area where, 150 years ago, the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862 erupted. I expect residents of that region, including New Ulm, will be especially interested in the Native American artifacts from Minnesota.

But what about Faribault area residents, museum curators, and local and state historians?

Faribault’s connection to the fur trade and Native Americans stretches back to its founding by fur trader Alexander Faribault, the son of a French-Canadian fur trader and a Dakota woman. Faribault traded with Native Americans in the area. Later he would be involved in negotiating land treaties between the government and the Dakota.

Indian artifacts found on-site and displayed at Indian Island Winery near Janesville. This photo is published here for illustration purposes only. These items are not on the weekend auctions.

So I would think, and I’m no historian, that the trade beads, arrowheads, stone tools, copper spears, knives and much more being auctioned Saturday would be of great interest to Minnesota historians. I don’t consider it a coincidence that this auction is occurring during the 150th anniversary year of the U.S. – Dakota War of 1862 when interest in that event, and Native American artifacts, is particularly high.

If it works into my schedule, I’m going to check out the auction—to see all that history, how much these artifacts sell for and who those buyers will be.

On Sunday, May 6, another auction, this one beginning at 11 a.m. at 10230 40th Street West, Webster, which is to the northwest of Faribault nearer to New Prague, features a collection of western memorabilia and antiques offered by Tom Doroff, aka “Tom Horn” – “Buffalo Bill Cody,” according to the Winter Auction Service bill. Those nicknames alone are enough to attract my attention to this auction.

Among the more interesting items (in my opinion) up for sale: 20-foot Teepee poles with Teepee liner, Thunderbird Hotel Indian artifacts, handmade Old West grave markers, wooden saddle rack, helmet with horse hair tail and steer horns, very old cactus skeleton and the upper half of a bison skull (8,000 BC) verified by the University of Minnesota/Bell Museum of Natural History.

So there you go. If you’re interested in Native American artifacts, western memorabilia, antiques/collectibles and/or history, you may want to head over to Faribault on Saturday and then over to Webster on Sunday for these two particularly unique auctions.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW the listing for the Native American artifact auction by Helbling Auctioneers on Saturday in Faribault.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW the listing for the western memorabilia and antique auction on Sunday by Winter Auction Service in Webster.

The Loyal Indian Monument at Birch Coulee Monument near Morton honors Native Americans and features strong words like humanity, patriotism, fidelity and courage.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling