They were fighting for their lives.

Mr. Beussman talks about Dakota and settler life in 1862 and his opinion of events surrounding the War.

Things to think about: 

Audio Chapters

DL: Do you think those early settlers were aware of the history of the community, and were they aware of the fact that they were displacing so many Dakota people?

RB: I can’t answer that.

DL: You mentioned that they were warned, so they must have had some sort of relationship.

RB: I have been told that many of the Dakota were noticing that it was either feast or famine. If they had a good hunt they could eat, and eat, and eat their fill. And if they didn’t have a good hunt, or if the berries were drying up, or whatever, they would go very, very hungry. But they noticed that the settlers came in and they had a cow and they had some chickens and they always had food to eat. And so I was told that many- I shouldn’t say many- I was told that some of the Dakota in this area were looking at these people and saying: How do you do that; what can I do?

History books tell me that there were religious leaders who were trying to convert the “savages,” -- I hate that word -- but I’m just using it because that’s the way they’re referred to in many books. The religious leaders were trying to convert these people to Christianity. Right or wrong; that’s not for me to make a decision; if it was right that we should be converting everybody to Christianity- that’s not my place to make that decision. Is Christianity the best? Is somebody else’s religion just as good, or better -- that’s always been a problem of mine. What is the number one religion, or is there not one number one religion- are we really all striving for the same thing in different paths?

DL: What’s your opinion of the war?

RB: Which one.

DL: The Dakota War.

RB: Many of our people had to leave Germany because of oppression and many problems. This is how our country was started with the settlers -- people were either persecuted by religion, or for whatever reason, and so they came to this country because they were told nobody lives here. That’s exactly what the German settlers in Chicago and in Cincinnati were told: Once you cross the Mississippi; nobody lives there. They didn’t know.

...... if the so-called white people would have been more honest and would have kept their treaties, if the Native Americans had not been pushed into a corner, had they been given the proper food and nourishment that they were promised- it could have been a whole, whole, whole different way of life, for them; for us.

DL: You mentioned reasons why it’s a good idea to commemorate the Dakota-U.S. War. What’s the best way to do that?


RB: The best way is to say these are the facts as we have them; this is what happened. Why did they happen? Because the Natives were pushed into a corner. They were starving, they had no food, they could buy nothing. Some of the agents were not honest people. I think most people living today in New Ulm will understand that, would understand that, and basically do understand that no, it’s not right to kill, but yet they were fighting for their lives.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Robert Beussman Interviewer Deborah Locke made in New Ulm, MN | Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. They were fighting for their lives. June 22, 2024.

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