I’ve been told that maybe if I was not on the so-called “winning side”, I might have a different view

Mr. Sveine talks about inter-cultural relationships today, and reflects on the aftermath of the U.S.-Dakota War.

Things to think about: 

What are some of the after-effects of the U.S.-Dakota war that impact people today?

Audio Chapters

DL: If you were a Dakota person, do you think it would be easy to live in New Ulm today?

TS: It’s difficult for a born and bred white man to try and get into some other culture’s head. I like to think that if anything is written on my gravestone it will be, “He hated bigotry.” Which is kind of a crazy thing: that you hate hatred. So I like to think that I would be very welcoming; it would not matter one ounce to me if a Dakota moved next door to me; if my boy married a Dakota woman- that would be a non-issue to me. It would be interesting, in fact, to more readily learn from a different culture.

But would a Dakota person moving here feel that way? We did a thing called the “Reconciliation”; I believe it was the year 2000, very near that. And I can tell you the long story of how that came about, but I don’t know that it’s necessary. The point is that a great deal of the Dakota community came from Canada and the Western states as well, to New Ulm, Minnesota. And there were guys telling us--and they’re probably 3-5 generations away from that as well: “We were raised to think of New Ulm as a bad town.” This is where two battles took place and then after the battles as Sibley is bringing the so-called guilty 303 people through, how the New Ulm people attacked them. I believe two people died from their wounds as they passed through New Ulm.

And so I can see where a Dakota person might not think it’s the nicest place to live. And I struggle with the: But my family lived through it. Their farms were ruined. One of the brothers was killed two years previous, and you now know, there’s a connection to that. I’m over it. How come they’re not over it? And I don’t mean that in a sad, judgmental way; I mean it literally as a question, I mean it as an open question: why aren’t they over it? What reasons? What way of their thinking and living, understanding of time and that sort of thing do they have different than I, that doesn’t allow them to get over it, as it were? And you know how I feel. I commemorate history whenever I can, so I don’t mean that in a negative way.

I’ve been told that maybe if I was not on the so-called “winning side”, I might have a different view. My people were not banished from the state, forced to live in bad conditions in South Dakota, taught in schools where they were encouraged, if not forced, to abandon their culture. I realize that I come from a whole different background that way, and so “getting over it” isn’t the right term, of course. But I think a Dakota person would be welcome now, to come back to the very question you asked. I think a Dakota person would be welcomed in New Ulm. I can’t believe there would be any prejudice against them, and if there was, it would be so minimal, as would probably be applied to any minority in any situation.

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

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