Bias seen in tpt documentary
To the editor:
This letter is in response to an article posted in the Journal on December 22 about the upcoming TPT production called: “The Past is Alive Within Us” that was aired on December 26. There were so many things about this production that were disturbing to me as a descendant of several who were killed in this war: the fact that more than 650 whites were killed when the video states 400-600 (this number included 100 children and over 40 women); there was no mention of the New Ulm, Fort Ridgely, Birch Coulee, Redwood Ferry and Wood Lake battles; there was no mention of the friendly Dakota who risked their lives to save the lives of whites; and the lack of information on the aftermath of the settlers was appalling; those who lost their loved ones, their homes, their possessions, and for many their futures deserved some mention. Many children were left as orphans after witnessing the brutality of their parents’ deaths. Most widows had to find new homes. There was nothing said about those taken captive and released after six weeks and the trauma they must have experienced. It should also be stated that Fort Snelling was NOT a concentration camp. The Dakota were sent there for their safety and their security. They were fed there and protected from the angry whites who saw their lives plundered. What was the government to do with these people? Leave them on the prairie without food and protection? These are all significant historical details that the producers chose to leave out.
There were strange sequences that did not seem to fit the purpose of this production which was “designed to build a better understanding of historical interpretation and encourage critical thinking.” (per the website’s mission). The 1491 humor section added nothing and was in poor taste, the Chippewa artist’s drawings were offensive and certainly not politically correct, the scenes in front of the Lincoln Memorial were most inappropriate, and the criticism of Lincoln’s actions by hanging the 38 was not fully explained: war has consequences and these 38 were found guilty if they had committed murder and/or rape. I also felt too much footage was devoted to “the walks” and the Dakota gatherings. Not one word was said about how the settlers’ descendants memorialized their fallen during their 150th commemorations and there were many activities. That information was given to TPT several times along with photographs, when I was interviewed as co-founder of Family and Friends of Dakota Uprising Victims.
We expected so much better from TPT, especially when they took nearly two years to produce this documentary. They chose to air a program with what I see has a pervasive bias; they fell far short of meeting their mission with a program that turned out to be a PR statement for the Dakota and to me seemed like propaganda. Minnesota taxpayers who approved Legacy funding deserved better, and if reconciliation is a goal for all of us, productions like this do not help this process.
Jan Klein, Co-Chair
Family and Friends of
Dakota Uprising Victims