Many sides to US-Dakota War story
To the editor:
In response to Matt Boisen’s letter on Feb. 3.
Dear Mr. Boisen,
I am writing in response to your letter regarding the suffering of settler’s during the US-Dakota War. I appreciate that you share your individual perspective, which is important for achieving common understanding. However, I have several points of disagreement with you on this issue. First, you should know that I too am a descendant of the settlers from this area. I descend from Peter Mack, who also lived on a farm near the Milford Township like your ancestors.
My first point of disagreement with your letter is that you seemed to word it as though you are representing the perspective of all descendants of settlers, in which case, you certainly do not. Therefore, please use the term I, me or my family rather than we as in all Minnesotans. Secondly, please remember that the descendants of the Dakota people have only recently been able to express themselves openly about the events of Minnesota’s past. For over 100 years, the Dakota people’s suffering was ignored and their perspectives repressed. Therefore, the grievance of settlers has historically taken precedence over that of the Dakota people. Part of the significance of recent events is that the Dakota people can be heard, which is paramount to healing.
Further, I would ask you to understand that what we call “war” is often much more complex and messy than simply “an armed conflict between two parties”. As an example, many Dakota people were against the war. In fact, out of 7,000 Dakota people in the area, less than 1,000 actually took up arms against settlers. Many of the Dakota actually helped and sheltered the settlers. Just as your family has stories of what happened, so does mine. Peter Mack and his family were friends with some local Dakota people and when the attacks began they were warned by their Dakota friends to flee to safety. Thus, I am here not because of the “terrorism” of Taoyateduta as you say, but because of the kindness and compassion of the Dakota people. Hence, there are many more than “two sides” to this story and your ‘us vs. them’ mentality is insufficient.
Additionally, be very careful who you are trying to pin genocide on. Taoyateduta was against fighting the settler’s and only took up arms out of pressure from a small group of Dakota who could take no more abuse. Despite the fact that many settlers were killed during the short war, many more Dakota were later killed as a result of the retribution sought by Minnesotans. Thirty-eight Dakota were hung in Mankato while another two were later hung at Fort Snelling. One thousand-seven hundred Dakota women, children and elders were forcibly marched to prison camps and then exiled from the state. Many people were killed along the way while hundreds more died from starvation, disease and hypothermia while in prison camps. Most of these Dakota people were innocent and actually had helped protect settlers during the war. However, they were persecuted purely on the fact of them being Dakota. There was also a $200 price put on the scalp of any Dakota person brought to the Governor of Minnesota. Let us not forget that Minnesota was originally the land of the Dakota, yet they were persecuted and forcibly removed from the state. Now, you tell me with sounds more like genocide.
Also remember that Taoyateduta was a farmer and living in a house, as were many Dakota people at the time of the war. So your argument apparently blaming me Dakota for their “distaste for American-style farming” is, at least in part, unfounded. Lastly, although the settler’s were not exactly “land thieves,” please understand the conditions of how they came to be here. If you read the history of the Treaties that did give this land to the United States, you will see that many illegal and immoral things happened on the side of the United States in gaining the land we know as Minnesota. Hence, it is rightfully so that by 1862 many Dakota felt hopeless by all the injustice that had happened to them. These are factors that I hope you will consider when making a claim about how “we” feel.
I am not writing this to create more polarization, for I share your desire for healing. Further, it is true that immense suffering was felt by many during this time. In no way do I intend to belittle me suffering of our ancestors. However, it is very important to dispel inaccurate notions and reveal that there are MANY sides to this story, not just two.