Let sleeping dogs lie

Mr. Runck reflects on how the U.S.-Dakota war should be commemorated.

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DL: Do you think it’s a good idea to commemorate the events of the 1800’s?

RR: My opinion, the way it’s being commemorated, is no. I think there’s too much injury involved, unless the entire war was reviewed and brought out into the open. Too many people are trying to hurt people. Nobody should be hurt from this thing. Let sleeping dogs lie; don’t bring them back to life. I’m bringing sleeping dogs back; I haven’t brought all the dogs out, but I brought some out. I’m basically not happy with bringing this thing back to life because it’s being misunderstood.

RR: I’m basically not happy with bringing this thing back to life because it’s being misunderstood.  People can’t understand who we were fighting in World War II.  Who were we fighting in World War II?  My god, we were fighting the Germans; of course, I remember this because I was a kid.  We had a warden for Milford Township, and he comes to my dad one day, it was about 10 or 11 in the morning. He comes down and he’s got his big broad-brimmed cap on his head and he says to Dad, “Well, we got information the Germans might come down from Canada.”  There were some Germans up in Canada that were going to come here, and they had a prisoner of war camp.  And he says, “They might come down here to the valley prisoner of war camp and the first thing they’ll do is cut the telephone wires.”  And he said, “They might land out here,” because there was an airport over here. He said, “I want you to come up and tell me the Germans have come.”  And he tells my dad, “I think you should arm yourself.” My dad had an old 12-gauge shotgun, the barrel got caught in a corn binder, the barrel is bent sideways; you could fire it once and it fell apart.  My dad told him to go to hell.  (laughing)   But I asked his widow later on about it, and I said we were told this.  And she said, “Rich, we had to do everything they told us, even though it didn’t make much sense to us.  We had to carry down the command.”  And that shows what happens in war, the blasting of the bombs makes you paralyzed so you don’t see the whole thing.  And I think writers are still doing it; they’re still fighting the same thing, they’re still fighting the war.  The Indians are fighting their side. I’ve got Indian friends.  They come and say, “Rich, why don’t you write?”  I say, “I don’t want to write.”  And so you’ve got this over here, Indians over there, then people in between.  You’ve got historians who can make money off fantasizing the stuff, somewhat blow it out of proportion. Get back to the basics!  Anything written more than ten years later, forget it!  Go back to basic crap and put it out in publication and rewrite the whole thing.    You wanted honest opinion; you got it.  You can use none of it, you can throw it away; I don’t care what you do; you can trash the whole tape, I don’t care.  But if you want my opinion, this is my opinion.   

DL:  So you’re saying, let sleeping dogs lie.  Don’t bring up the past because it’s too hurtful and it’s inaccurate.  Everything’s inaccurate. 

RR:  Not everything’s inaccurate.  It just has to be presented in an accurate manner.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Richard Runck Interviewer Deborah Locke made in New Ulm, Milford Township, MN | Friday, April 1, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. Let sleeping dogs lie June 22, 2024. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/1109

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