Revisiting a War that Changed Minnesota and the Upper Midwest Forever

Tue, 2012-03-06 03:34 -- amy.danielson

Media Contacts
Julianna Olsen, Marketing & Communications: 651-259-3039,
Lory Sutton, Marketing & Communications: 651-259-3140,
Amy Danielson, Marketing & Communications: 651-259-3020,


ST. PAUL (March 2012)—Throughout this year, the Minnesota Historical Society will offer many new ways to learn about the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, how it shaped Minnesota and the Upper Midwest, and how its bitter consequences are still felt today.

“No series of events in Minnesota history is as important as the chain of events that led to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and its terrible aftermath,” said Stephen Elliott, Minnesota Historical Society director and CEO.  “These shocking events are central to the story of Minnesota. They produced historical traumas that still echo in those living today.”

With these new initiatives, funded in part by the Legacy Amendment, the Society intends to encourage discussion and reflection about the war, its causes and aftermath.

Initiatives include:

"The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862" exhibit 
Opening June 30, a new exhibit at the Minnesota History Center will offer visitors the opportunity to view documents, images and artifacts relating to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

Exhibit development is one aspect of the “Truth Recovery Project,” a process through which exhibit staff members are meeting with descendants of those touched by the war. Meeting participants are taking an active role in shaping the exhibit by discussing the significance and interpretation of artifacts and primary sources from the Society’s collections. 

The final exhibit will incorporate multiple points of view on the war, its causes and its aftermath. Visitors will be encouraged to look closely at the primary sources in the exhibit, to consider the Society’s longstanding role in shaping public perception of these events and to draw their own conclusions about what happened and why. Throughout the exhibit, visitors will have opportunities to add their own comments and reactions to the ongoing interpretation of this critical point in Minnesota history.

U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 Website:
This interactive website will tell stories of the war and its aftermath through oral histories, photos, journals, letters, newspapers, government documents and other primary resources. The site will also provide resources for classroom use. The site will debut in phases throughout this year.

Oral History Project
Society staff members are recording dozens of oral histories from Dakota elders and settler descendants to be entered into the Society’s permanent collection. Full transcripts and audio versions will be available to the public at

Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway Mobile History Tour
In May, the public will hear multiple perspectives and stories told by descendants of those touched by the war in this media-rich cell phone tour of significant places along the Minnesota River Valley. The tour will also be available online and by phone from any location.

Additional Initiatives
Other new initiatives related to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 include publications, educational tools, interpretive signage at historic sites related to the war, a children’s photo project and public programs. For an updated list, visit

The Society encourages all to take advantage of these new opportunities for a deeper understanding of this tragic and important chapter in our state’s history.

“If we are to move forward, we must look back to learn,” Elliott said. “To understand this painful legacy is to better understand ourselves and where we are today.” Many projects and programs related to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 are made possible by the Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on November 4, 2008.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. Its essence is to illuminate the past as a way to shed light on the future. The Society collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing.