The more they let them in, the more they wanted.

Mr. Blue relates the stealing of Dakota land to current events and discusses the history of Dakota treaties and settler land encroachment.

Things to think about: 

What were the differences between Dakota and European immigrant views of land?

Audio Chapters

DL: If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for the Dakota people today?

DB: That they had their original reservation back. It was a fact that this treaty was for outside the 20-mile radius plus, from the South Dakota border down to New Ulm. I would like to see their homeland given back. Not given back – what the hell, it’s theirs, and by the virtue of the so-called Forfeiture Act, which I mentioned earlier, which doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Because the Dakota battled for their rights, their land was taken away. What did we do with Japan? We gave them back their land. What did we do with Germany? We gave them back their land. What did we do with Iraq? We gave them back their land. And not only that, we are rebuilt those countries [after the war]. And that’s what we’ll do with Afghanistan, and I’m sure if we get into some kind of a war with Iran we’ll do the same damn thing there again too. But when it comes to the Dakota: zero.

Well, prior to that the government made a treaty with the leaders, to supposedly purchase at least one-third of Minnesota which was occupied by the Dakota at the time. And so anyway, they made treaties, and ten miles on both sides of the Minnesota River were reserved that the Dakota didn’t sell because they wanted to retain that as their homeland. And that goes on as far as New Ulm to the South Dakota border, where the Minnesota River pretty much begins.

Anyway, that was reserved for the Dakota, their home base, or homeland. What happened – now there’s always two sides to everything. You flip a coin and you don’t get heads all the time – there’s two sides. The land, in particular along the Minnesota River Valley, is very fertile in particular for farming. But there was also a lot of lumber in the valley. Of course with moisture from the river, there was all kinds of lumber that people, particularly from Europe, were accustomed to living in; houses were built out of lumber. Dakotas were not that attuned to that -- they lived wherever they could, in their teepees, though sometimes they built little shacks too; that’s true enough. But they’re not going to destroy a whole forest to do it.

So what happened there was, and again, there’s two sides to every issue – when the skirmish began, it was based on the farmers and the lumber people and people who were after mineral rights. They saw ten miles on both sides of the Minnesota River that had all this potential, and who owned it? The Dakota. So they started screaming to the State at that time, whatever form of government there was, and the State in turn screamed to the Feds about all the fertile land and all it’s doing is just lying there idle. The treaty stated that 20 miles of the land was retained by the Dakota from the South Dakota border, down to New Ulm. So they made a pact between the State and the Feds that okay, when they sold the land, when they treatied with the government, what they did is, they had agreed every year to make a payment to purchase the land. They thought they could develop it. Which is very true; the white folks are prone to development – there’s no question about that.

So they wanted it, and they started crowding into the reservation. And of course the Dakota at that time thought, well, okay, it’s no big deal, but you have to understand, that’s our land. Well, the more they let them in, the more they wanted.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Dean Blue Interviewer Deborah Locke, Made in Granite Falls, Upper Sioux Community, MN | Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. The more they let them in, the more they wanted. May 29, 2024.

Viewpoints: All viewpoints expressed on this website are those of the contributors, and are not representative of the Minnesota Historical Society.