Unless you have something better to offer, then you cannot judge people

Mr. Ross uses Fort Snelling to describe peoples' understanding of the U.S-Dakota War, and in a larger way, painful events remembered.

Things to think about: 

What does Mr. Ross mean by "generational memory"?

Audio Chapters

DL: Fort Snelling?

DR: That is a place that should be left alone. Maybe the park is okay but there is immense, immense sadness there. It’s a place that should be remembered. If you stay there long enough, it really wouldn’t matter which side of the history you’re remembering, it would still be sad. So many bad things happened there that even minor changes there to me are desecration.

DL: Why are those stories papered over? Because I’ve read the history of Fort Snelling from many different writers and there isn’t any understanding of what the Dakota experienced at that camp. Where did those stories go or did they never come out?

DR: Well, it’s something people don’t want to remember. Unfortunately the ones that suffered through it had no way to forget. That carried down through the generations. It’s a generational memory that the Dakotas can’t forget. I heard one non-Indian, a state employee, was feeling bad about it but made an odd statement: “Well they put the Indians all there to protect them.” Protect them from what? They said, “Well would you rather have had them scattered out all over the prairie?” My reaction was, “Well that’s where they came from before you brought them over here.” But this person could not accept the fact that people were so cruel. She could not bring herself to think that the purpose was something other than to protect the Indians. So it’s something that one side does not want to remember or look at and the other side can’t forget.

Here’s a short version of a long story. This is a personal occurrence and it has something to do with the question you’re asking. I met this old man way up in northern Minnesota. One day he said, “Grandson wait, today I want to talk.” The way he said that was he was going to talk and I was going to listen. So this was a half a day experience if not more.

He said, “One day I thought I was someone special, way, way above everybody. I could look at a person and say look at that person. Look at the way he lives his life. He shouldn’t do that. Or look at these women, or look at this woman, the way they treat themselves, the way they treat their bodies. That’s wrong, they shouldn’t be doing that. Or look at this man, the way he treats women. He shouldn’t be doing that. I was very special. I could see that. I could point at people and say what they were doing and know that it was wrong. Look at these people the way they bring their children up. That’s wrong, they shouldn’t be doing that.” He said, “I was very, very special, very important. Then one day, I was looking and I could see all the people pointing back at me, ‘Look at this old man, who does he think he is to tell us how we should be living our life?’

Since that time I’ve been trying to live my life according to what the Creator wanted me to be. I think I’m finally that man or at least as close as I’m going to get and I’m going to die.” That was the end of his story. It seems like an abrupt stop. Probably 30 years later, I’d almost forgotten about him, [when] that voice just came like it was alive again around me, the same story.

After all that time I thought I’d forgotten but I’d learned some things. Truly he was only speaking of the hazards of life; warning me, saying: be careful. Unless you have something to offer, in this case truth, unless you have something better to offer, then you cannot judge people. If you give them something better and they refuse it then maybe you have the right to criticize them. This is where we’re at with some people not wanting to see the truth. Do I have the right to criticize them? Probably not because right now I have nothing better to offer them. Those memories are strong on both sides after hundreds of years. Some people want to forget or look at a picture and hope it changes. I have nothing to offer them because that’s within them. That’s their generational memory. That’s something that the Creator caused to bring forward in time so that they would not forget. In the same manner the memories of the Dakota come generation [after] generation [after] generation so that we don’t forget. The reality is that it happened. What we do with that is our own choice.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Dallas Ross Interviewer Deborah Locke made at Granite Falls, Upper Sioux Community, MN | Sunday, May 1, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. Unless you have something better to offer, then you cannot judge people April 23, 2024. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/1101

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