The US-Dakota War, 150 Years Later

Mankato, Minn.,– 38 Dakota Indians were killed in 1862 after the US-Dakota War. This war is the topic for the public radio station This American Life’s podcast titled “Little War on the Prairie.” This podcast is even more important as it is the 150th anniversary of the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

Minnesotan man John Biewen and Minnesota State University, Mankato teacher, Gwen Westerman explain to us the true events of this historical event.

Facts about the war:

  • December 26, 2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the war.
  • It was the largest mass execution in U.S. history, yet it is relatively unknown.
  • The execution method was a hanging which took place in downtown Mankato.
  • After five settlers were killed by Dakota men, the conflict grew and more support of the war was the outcome.

Biewen and Westerman go on to explain the the war was not something that abruptly happened and that many circumstances led to the actual war.

Dakota men from the US-Dakota War. Photo Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

What led up to the war?

  • Thomas Jefferson encouraged the Native Americans to become so indebted to traders that their only option would be to sell their land.
  • Mistreatment and blatant lies led the Native Americans to damaging situations. For example, the treaty for the Traverse des Sioux was intentionally translated with important information left out.
  • Many people had their land taken away from them and were still in a large amount of debt.
  • The Native Americans were offered little to no help from the majority of settlers. One man allegedly said that they should eat grass instead of offering credit for food.

Dakota people held at Fort Snelling. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

These are only a few of the problems that led up to the war. The war lasted for 36 days and resulted in the death of many innocent people on both sides. It is important to note that not everyone was for the war and there are many cases of Native Americans protecting the people they knew.



1 Comment

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One response to “The US-Dakota War, 150 Years Later

  1. Nice writing and tagging, Celia.
    You need to give HTML links to John Biewen and Dr. Gwen Westerman, however. You can not just bold their names; that is not enough for online journalism.
    Good use of sources and citing them for the images, however.
    Finally, don’t get all “mushy’ at the end. Keep it objective. +9/10

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