I thought: this deserves way more than that

Mr. Sveine discusses how Mankato commemorates it's role in the U.S.-Dakota War.

Things to think about: 

What are other examples of commemorative historical sites that do or do not do justice to the events they represent?

Audio Chapters

DL: Have you ever been to Mankato to the execution site?

TS: Oh many times. I lived in New Ulm and commuted to Mankato State for five years, so I’ve been there many times.

DL: Did you experience any particular emotion at the time?

TS: The first time I went I was a young adult, I was probably 20 years old, and I was indignant. I wasn’t outraged, but I was upset because at that time, in roughly 1975 or ’76, as I recall, it was essentially a foot-and-a-half by a foot plaque in a metal frame next to a gas station. And I thought: this huge event, while Mankato might not be proud to be the site of the largest mass execution in American history, it’s not a great thing that you put on your tourism brochures- “Hey, come visit us”. So they’re probably not proud of that, but nobody living there did that, so I think you’ve got a hundred years distance in there. But I was outraged that this huge event is all but forgotten, acknowledged by a little sign, happenstancely next to a gas station. I thought: this deserves way more than that. Custer’s Last Stand is a national park or a national monument, I believe.

DL: Is there anything at all there now?

TS: Well, now there is, Reconciliation Park. I was living in Rochester at the time, so I wasn’t attuned to things happening back in New Ulm and Mankato. But I can’t tell you the year exactly; perhaps 1990-ish; somewhere near there, the site of the hanging was memorialized in a place called Reconciliation Park. There is an approximately 10-foot tall, pretty big limestone carving of a buffalo. I would, personally as a history guy, a person involved in tourism- I’d like to see that marked with telling what the sign is, because a year ago my wife and I hosted a German lady to stay with us. She actually worked at the Chamber of Commerce and stayed with us for a brief time and I took her around on little local tours. I was taking her to this, telling her the significance of this site, and there were two young ladies there, perhaps 20 years old, really posing and taking cell phone pictures. And I said, “Ladies, do you know what this is?” “Oh, no, it’s just a cute place to take a picture of this big buffalo.” I said, “Oh, well, it is that. But it’s also extremely significant.” And I went on to tell them the story and they were, “Wow, why don’t they have a sign here, telling us that?” Exactly. So I hope someday that can be marked. I know it’s not a place of pride for the white people, and it’s probably nothing that the Dakota necessarily want to get too involved in, but I would think they would not want that lost in their heritage, I should imagine.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Terry Sveine Interviewer Deborah Locke made in New Ulm, MN | Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. I thought: this deserves way more than that April 18, 2024. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/1123

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