Some facts on the US-Dakota War

To the editor:

I would like to correct a few statements in Mr. Mack’s letter to the editor in The Journal on Feb. 6:

Dr. Charles Eastman, a Dakota man, wrote a series of books about the Dakota people in the early 1900s. There has not been any impediment to Dakota people expressing themselves orally or in writing.

According to an 1861 Census, there were 6,338 Dakota men, women and children. Fewer than 600 took up arms willingly. Many were forced to fight against the whites.

Yes, many settlers were warned by Dakota. This does not diminish the fact that more than 650 innocent white men, women and children were killed by Indians; some in the worst way imaginable. Compare this to some 145 Dakota who were killed during the war.

The mass-murder of more than 650 whites comes closer to genocide than what happened to the Dakota. Chief Little Crow’s position on the war does not affect whether the Dakota committed genocide or not.

Dr. Asa Daniels, St. Peter, wrote that at least as many whites died after the war from injuries and epidemics as died during the war. No one can prove that more Indians than whites died after the war.

The 38 Dakota hanged in Mankato were implicated in at least 99 civilian murders. The Dakota who were moved to Fort Snelling included more than 40 younger men. They were not forced-marched. Fort Snelling was not a prison camp. They were not all exiled from the State. Only one person, a baby in Henderson, was killed along the way.

No Dakota died of starvation in the camps unless they refused to eat. No one died of hypothermia. About 102 died in the Fort Snelling camp due mainly to disease. Disease also killed many whites at the same time. All of the people in the Fort Snelling camp were innocent.

Bounties were placed on Dakota scalps because hostile Dakota were returning and killing whites. Five bounties including one for Little Crow were paid. Little Crow’s soldiers’ lodge also offered bounties on white scalps during the war.

Minnesota was not originally the land of the Dakota. The Dakota arrived in southwestern Minnesota about 1700. They did not write treaties.

They killed other Indians to obtain this land.

Chief Little Crow was not a farmer. He had a house. If he had a field, his wives tended the crops. In 1862, there were about 250 Dakota farms or roughly 17% of the population. Those who went to war generally opposed and harassed the farmer Indians.

The settlers were not land thieves. They were not part of treaty negotiations. The treaty system was too complicated for general criticisms. It would take a book.

To heal, people need to hear the truth about all sides of the Dakota War. This history needs to be as accurate, as balanced and as respectful as possible.

John LaBatte

New Ulm

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