Watch Dakota documentary before judging

To the editor:

In response to Jan Klein’s letter to the editor:

It is nice to see that people are still engaging in Minnesota’s history and trying to understand its relationship to our lives today. For that, I commend you and your organization. I should note that I speak as a descendent of German immigrants who settled in the Milford area during the 1850’s.

First, I respect your perspective. However, after watching the production, I wholly disagree with your assessment that it had a “pervasive bias” and “seemed like propaganda”. Rather than offer my interpretation of the documentary, I would like to encourage anyone interested to watch it themselves.

That being said, there is a statement you made that is rather concerning:

“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.”

I would caution you in making such declarations. The history of American expansion, manifest destiny, imperialism, exploitation and genocide in relation to the Dakota people cannot be so easily overlooked. It seems that these issues with regards to Minnesota’s past and present are only beginning to be addressed and such statements are not in accordance with larger historical contexts.

It is arguable that such an assessment of the forced march of 1600+ Dakota people to be ‘interned’ at Fort Snelling (where many died of disease, exposure and malnutrition) and later forcibly exiled from the state of Minnesota was NOT “for their safety and their security”. Despite my perspective, Dakota people themselves are the best judge of this. Let us be careful of interpreting history as the ultimate beneficiaries Dakota homelands, from what amounts to genocide based on international standards as stated in Article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

This response is not meant in disrespect to your views and sediments. However, framing these events in such a way as to victimize the beneficiaries of such historical travesties is not in the best interest of reconciliation or healing. Of course, innocent lives were lost and great suffering was endured by many during this time. This is important to remember with respect to all who suffered regardless of the outcome. Certainly, those settlers who died were not beneficiaries of anything per se. However, their descendents, by and large, were and are. These factors are important to consider with regards to Minnesota’s past and present.

Jason Mack

New Ulm

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