As others see it: Keep war's scars in sight
Is there a statute of limitations on shame and guilt? We ask this question because, 150 years after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, Minnesotans are conflicted about how they should view this bloody episode in our state's history. There's no denying ...
Is there a statute of limitations on shame and guilt?
We ask this question because, 150 years after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, Minnesotans are conflicted about how they should view this bloody episode in our state's history.
There's no denying that the series of events and policies that led to the war were shameful. The U.S. government made a habit of breaking its promises to the native American tribes as the frontier was settled, and even when the government tried to fulfill its obligations, it did so incompetently, trusting the wrong people and allowing corrupt Indian agents to enrich themselves as the natives watched their children starve.
When a proud, desperate nation is told that its people should eat grass or "their own dung," it should come as no surprise when they take up arms.
As for the actual fighting in the Dakota War -- well, it was frontier warfare. There was unspeakable suffering and many innocent victims. The best thing that can be said about this conflict is that it was relatively brief.
But after the hostilities ended, the horrors for the Dakota actually worsened, through state-sanctioned policies that were little short of ethnic cleansing. The Dakota were treated as vermin, with bounties on their scalps, hunted as fair game by roving bands of young Minnesotans who apparently had nothing better to do.
It was the ugliest time in our state's history. ...
Minnesota can forgive itself for what happened in 1862, but only if it doesn't forget. That's a generational requirement. Just as every child in America must study the causes of the Civil War (no, it wasn't just slavery), so too must Minnesotans make sure that our understanding of the U.S. Dakota War doesn't peak and then wane.
History, after all, is not static -- it evolves with our understanding.