Call 888-601-3010 or visit www.mnhs.org/tours/mnrivervalley to listen to stories and reflections about historic sites along the Minnesota River Valley. Learn about the people who lived there and the lasting impact of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Call from the byway, from home, from anywhere. Smart phone users will find archival images, maps, text and links to additional resources. Press the * key on your phone at any time to return to the menu and select another stop. Download the Travel Guide to see a map of the mobile tour and to discover historic sites related to the war.
Stop #1 Introduction
Hear about the Dakota origins, the settlers who moved to Minnesota, reflections about the war from Dakota today and a poem by Gabrielle Tateyuskanskan.
Stop #2 Traverse des Sioux
Listen to perspectives on the treaty signings of 1851 and 1858 and their lasting impact.
Stop #3 New Ulm, Minnesota
Hear descriptions of European immigrant life on the prairie and the legacy 1862 left with the people of New Ulm.
Stop #4 Lower Sioux Agency
Gain insights into the notion of land and home along the Minnesota River Valley and how the war changed this.
Stop #5 Birch Coulee Battlefield
Hear reflections on the spiritual connection Dakota people have with the land and their fight for survival.
Stop #6 Upper Sioux Agency
Hear reflections on the values and enduring strength of the Dakota.
Stop #7 Camp Release
Hear the story of Mazasa and learn about the mounting tensions among the Dakota leading up to the war.
Stop #8 Fort Renville
Learn about Dakota life before the arrival of Europeans and the changes the fur trade brought to Minnesota.
Stop #9 Lac qui Parle Mission
Learn about missions, American Indian boarding schools and efforts to revive the Dakota language.
Stop #10 Wabasa Village
Learn about early Dakota villages and the role of chiefs in community life.
Stop #11 Fort Ridgely
Learn about archaeological findings at Fort Ridgely and hear Dakota people reflect on the site today.
Stop #12 Henderson
Learn about the forced march of the Dakota to Fort Snelling and how the march is commemorated today.
Stop #13 Mankato
Learn about the legacy of the Mankato hangings and how their effects are still felt today.
The tour is funded by a grant from the National Scenic Byways Discretionary Grants Program administered by the Federal Highway Administration.
"A Meeting of the Grandfathers," by Lyle Miller. Painted for the Minnesota History Center's exhibit, "The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862."
The war ended with hundreds dead, the Dakota people exiled from their homeland and the largest mass execution in U.S. history: the hangings of 38 Dakota men in Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862.
2012 marks 150 years since the U.S.-Dakota War. It was waged for six weeks in southern Minnesota over the late summer of 1862, but the war’s causes began decades earlier and the profound loss and consequences of the war are still felt today.
There are many, often conflicting, interpretations of events relating to the war. “The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862” exhibit will include multiple viewpoints as well as historical and contemporary voices. Visitors will be encouraged to make up their own minds about what happened and why, to discuss what they are seeing and learning, and to leave comments.
Descendants of people involved in the war have taken an active role in shaping the exhibit. Exhibits staff members have met with Dakota people from throughout Minnesota, the Upper Midwest and Canada and with settler descendants from the Minnesota River Valley region to solicit research advice and comb through original documents, letters, diaries, artifacts and other historical sources to assemble a narrative of what happened. These meetings with descendants are part of a broader initiative called a “truth recovery” project.
The exhibit runs through Sept. 8, 2013.
The exhibit is included with regular History Center admission of $11 for adults, $9 for seniors and college students, $6 for children ages 6 to 17; free for children age 5 and under and Minnesota Historical Society members. Free for all ages Tuesday evenings from 5 to 8 p.m. Call for special group tour rates, 651-259-3003.
Even 150 years after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, stories of this disastrous time in Minnesota history live on in people throughout Minnesota, the Upper Midwest and Canada. Minnesota Historical Society staff members have recorded dozens of these oral histories from descendants of those touched by the war and they are now available for all to hear and read at www.usdakotawar.org/stories.
“Oral histories capture stories of families in their own words and they give us perspective unlike any other,” said Deborah Locke, project manager. “These histories are personal and heartfelt and the interviewees are passionate about their family’s place in the story of Minnesota.”
Many cultures around the world use oral traditions to remember and relay history throughout generations. Minnesota Historical Society staff conducted interviews in homes throughout the Minnesota River Valley as well as in tribal community centers on Dakota reservations.
Full transcripts and audio as well as selected quotes are available at www.usdakotawar.org/stories. Oral histories from people in Canada and the Upper Midwest will be added throughout 2012. The public will also be invited to share their own personal and family stories related to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 on a "Share Your Story" component to be added to www.usdakotawar.org/stories in mid-June.
This interactive website tells stories of the war, its causes and its aftermath through oral histories, photos, journals, letters, newspapers, government documents and other primary sources from the Minnesota Historical Society’s collections. The site will provide resources for classroom use and also link to resources for deeper research.
Throughout 2012, public programs at the Minnesota History Center and other historic sites related to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 will provide multiple perspectives on the war. Programs will also give voice to Dakota history and identity through a variety of formats including lectures, films, tours and workshops.
Please visit www.usdakotawar.org/events for a list of commemorative events sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society as well as other organizations.
Ten historic markers at Fort Ridgely, the Lower Sioux Agency and the Upper Sioux Agency are being replaced in the spring of 2012. The content of the new signs is reviewed by a Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) historical marker committee, as well as Dakota consultants and the MHS Indian Advisory Committee.
New historic markers at Historic Fort Snelling describe the internment camp and the hangings of Dakota Chiefs Shakopee and Medicine Bottle. A third, to tell the story of the Indian Agency at Fort Snelling, will be added in spring 2012.
An exhibition of contemporary American Indian artists responding to the commemoration of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, sponsored by the Native American Community Development Institute, All My Relations Gallery and the Minnesota Historical Society. The exhibition will be on view at All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis, Aug. 3 through Sept. 28, 2012. "De Unkiyepi, We Are Here" will then be on view at the James J. Hill House in St. Paul, Oct. 13 through Jan. 13, 2013." Funded in part through a grant from the Grotto Foundation.
Visitors can learn about the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and its aftermath in an orientation film, a cell phone tour and on the fort’s new website, www.historicfortsnelling.org.
Detailed information about the Indian Agency and treaties is now available in one of the fort’s buildings. New signage about the Indian Agency will be installed by May 1st. A travelling exhibit titled “Why Treaties Matter: Self-government in the Dakota and Ojibwe Nations,” sponsored by the Minnesota Humanities Center, will open at the fort in May.
An exhibit, "Commemorating Controversy: The Dakota-U.S. War of 1862" will open at Historic Fort Snelling Aug. 1, 2012. This exhibit explores the causes, voices, events and long-lasting consequences of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. It was produced by Gustavus Adolphus College students in conjunction with the Nicollet County Historical Society.
Thousands of digitized maps, photos, letters and government documents relating to Fort Snelling will be available on the Historic Fort Snelling website, www.historicfortsnelling.org.
Three computer models of Fort Snelling will illustrate the fort during three time periods, including 1862. The website will complement on-site interpretation at the fort, offer educational content for students and teachers, and allow everyone to visit Historic Fort Snelling via the web. The models were built by the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia in collaboration with the Minnesota Historical Society.
A multimedia computer lesson will teach students in grades 9-12 about the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 through the interpretation of primary resources. Classes can access the hour-long lesson online or at Historic Fort Snelling in fall 2012.
William Mitchell College of Law and the Minnesota Historical Society have collaborated on an exhibit focusing on treaties and legal matters related to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. The exhibit includes reproductions of documents and photos from the Society’s collections. The exhibit was on view at William Mitchell through March 2012 and will next be on view at the Brown County Historical Society from Aug. 1 through Labor Day, Sept. 3, 2012.
Throughout 2012, Mitchell’s Indian Law Program will educate students and the general public about this important and tragic event in Minnesota history through a series of events, lectures, law review articles and a new course on Dakota Legal History.
Since 2010, workshops offered by the Minnesota Historical Society about the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 have been giving teachers expert content knowledge and resources to help them accurately teach this subject from a variety of perspectives.
Young people ages 9 to 11, including children of Dakota heritage, will take pictures from their lives that will be incorporated into the U.S-Dakota War of 1862 website, www.usdakotawar.org. The children, using disposable cameras, will receive a basic photography lesson and may be interviewed to describe their pictures. A small book of the children's stories and pictures may be published.
Throughout 2011 and 2012, Minnesota Historical Society staff members have reached out to and met with many groups and individuals to gather their opinions and recommendations regarding the commemoration of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Staff has met with tribal councils in Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota, individuals from tribes in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest and residents of Brown and Nicollet Counties.
The Society sponsored the "We Gather Together As One" Dakota nationwide conference in Minneapolis and St. Paul in fall 2011 and also showed, at the Minnesota History Center, "38 Plus 2," a film about the mass hangings in Mankato. Staff will continue to meet with groups and individuals to ensure that multiple viewpoints are represented in the Society's commemoration initiatives.
The July 2012 issue of Minnesota History Magazine will feature William Lass's historiography of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. The article will describe changing perspectives of the war from 1863 to the present, showing that every study of history is influenced by the author's disposition, selection of sources, scholarship and the temper of the time.
"Lincoln and the Indians: Civil War Policy and Politics" by David A. Nichols with a new preface by the author presents the only thorough treatment of Lincoln's Indian policy during the Civil War and the corrupt "Indian System" of government aid that mainly benefitted ambitious whites.
The Oceti Ŝakowiŋ Seven Council Fires digitization project and webpage were developed in consultation with Dakota partners beginning in 2011. It is grounded in nearly 150 years of evolving museum practices in handling and identifying material culture, as well as in the more recent decades of advances in working with American Indian communities.
Out of the roughly 250,000 items in the Minnesota Historical Society's historical artifact collection, approximately 5,500, acquired between 1855 and the present, are American Indian in origin. They have come to the Society through donations by archaeologists, ethnographers, collectors and individuals (or their descendants) whose military or civilian careers brought them to this region during the nineteenth or twentieth century. Especially over the last few decades, the Society has purchased objects directly from artists and makers.
The ultimate outcome of this project was to digitize and review the approximately 1,000 items of material culture associated Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota (all formerly, and sometimes still, identified as "Sioux") and make them available on the Society's online database, Collections Online. In addition to increasing accessibility, especially to people who cannot visit the History Center, the project's explicit goals were to be completely transparent; to share with the public, in an easily understood way, all information about this material culture in the collections; and to solicit feedback from knowledgeable community members in order to present the material in the most accurate way.
To standardize this material, the project team reviewed original accession files and brought each catalog record up to modern museum standards. New digital photographs, also meeting contemporary professional standards, were taken of many of the items. Not all of these appear on this webpage, or in Collections Online, however, because of their culturally sensitive nature. For example, the digital records for canupa (pipestone pipes) that have been used do not contain an image. On these kinds of decisions, the Society operates under the advice of its Indian Advisory Committee.
This project cast a wide net in the interests of inclusiveness and in hopes of gathering more information. It includes both items made or used and possibly made or used by Dakota individuals or communities. Possibly in the preceding sentence is of great importance. Given the goal of publishing records with all available information, staff made no judgments to exclude items based on aesthetics or stylistic techniques. Sometimes the records hold very little information, especially for items that have been in the collections for nearly a century and a half. Simply put, if a catalog record contained the word Sioux or Dakota, as well as any of the cultural division names, it was digitized and included. In the past, the term Dakota was used academically to identify all divisions of the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota, and some museum records may reflect that outdated usage.
Beyond merely sharing collections information, digital technology provides a mechanism for the public to comment directly on an online catalog record. By its very nature, this function decentralizes authority on interpretation. Comments from a knowledgeable public, fostered by technology, remove absolute authority in interpretation from any one source. It is the ultimate goal of this project for visitors to this webpage to be able to learn directly from American Indians about their culture and history.