Prof suggests ‘ethnic cleansing’ followed War of 1862

NEW ULM – A University of Oklahoma history professor known for writing about the American Indians of the Great Plains and the Southwest, discussed his latest book and related issues Thursday at the New Ulm Public Library.

Gary Clayton Anderson said his latest book -“Ethnic Cleansing And The Indian: The Crime That Should Haunt America”- is an objective view of history that has not been written about yet.

“The U.S.-Dakota War has been viewed as a regional, national and international event,” Anderson said. “The London Times wrote about it. There are little known aspects of Dakota culture like soldiers lodges, originally used for hunting, they housed discontented men on reservations.”

Anderson said Indians killed 500 white women and children in the U.S.-Dakota War, often with hatchets, because Indians traded away their rifles. “There is no other way to put it, they massacred people including 52 people in Milford (Township, Brown County). The killings turned into a terrible war in which Indians and troops misbehaved,” Anderson said. “Remember the Indians were starving. Their first attack was on traders and agents. There was plenty of corruption against the Indians, and they knew it. Lots of traders and agents skimmed money at the Indians’ expense.”

Anderson said Indians wanted to push settlers out of the (Minnesota River) valley and take their land back, which led to two ethnic cleansing chapters. The issue led to trials, executions and mass deportation of Indians to other states, which would be considered war crimes today, he said.

“Most U.S.-Dakota War books concentrate on the battles,” Anderson said. “I might make a few people mad at me with my books, too bad. The war was at a pretty chaotic time. Roads were full of wagons of white people fleeing. Lots of soldiers’ muskets blew up when triggers were pulled. Most of the better Springfield rifles were in Virginia where the ‘real’ war was going on. White people were short of bullets too.”

Anderson said most Minnesotans in 1862 wanted to execute all 303 Indians sentenced to death before President Lincoln reduced the number to 38.

“Had (Gen.) McClellan won, we’d have two nations today,” Anderson said. “Using military commissions like General Sibley did for 40 trials in one day and convictions of hundreds of Indians in several weeks was disobeying the General Order that military commissions are used only on military members and illegal under military law, according to a JAG (Judge Advocate General).”

He added that Sibley mellowed later in life and Indian women gave birth to his last two children.

Anderson said most of the Indians sentenced to death were never told what they were charged with or that they could remain silent. “If they thought an Indian fired a gun in a battle, they were to be executed until Lincoln pardoned most of them.”

He said 100,000 Indians were deported to other states 150 years ago, loaded on railroad cars not unlike the Jews were by the Nazis, but the Indian death count did not compare to 6 million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis.

Some of Anderson’s other books include “Sitting Bull and the Paradox of Lakota Nationhood,” a revisionist examination of the Lakota Sioux Medicine Man; “Little Crow,” and “Through Dakota Eyes: Narrative Accounts of the Minnesota Indian War of 1862.” He is also studying the Great Plains Wars of 1830 to 1890, ending with the Massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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