The U.S. Dakota War of 1862 - Exhibit and Truth Recovery Project

Mon, 2012-03-12 06:15 -- amy.danielson

Starting in July, visitors to the Minnesota History Center will have the opportunity to examine evidence from the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Inside a new exhibit, visitors will find documents, images and artifacts from the Society’s collections.

  • Accession records will accompany artifacts for those visitors interested in learning how the Society acquired them.
  • Commentary from descendants of those touched by the war will provide multiple viewpoints.
  • Throughout the exhibit, visitors will be encouraged to draw their own conclusions about what happened and why and will be invited to add their own observations to the exhibit.

The war, its causes and its aftermath had a profound impact in shaping Minnesota. Historical trauma created by the war still echoes in those living today.

“The impact of historical trauma passes from generation to generation,” said Dan Spock, director of the Minnesota History Center. “This trauma still resonates with the Dakota and with descendants of settlers in the Minnesota River Valley.”

Staff has dubbed the process used to create the exhibit the “Truth Recovery Project.” It is inspired by Healing Through Remembering, a group that deals with the legacy of conflict in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

“A full truth recovery process would look at the causes, nature and extent of a conflict, recording ‘what happened’ but also who did what to whom and why. In conflictual societies where competing versions of what happened often exist, a truth recovery process seeks to increase society’s understanding and potentially acceptance of the facts.”

– Conversation Guide on Dealing with the Past, Healing Through Remembering

The Truth Recovery Project involves meetings between exhibits staff and descendants of those touched by the war. Sessions are being held with Dakota people from throughout the Midwest and Canada, with residents of Brown County, Minn., where much of the fighting happened, and with many others who are interested in the exhibit and its contents.

The term “truth recovery” may imply that there is a single truth about what happened before, during and after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. In fact, there are multiple, often conflicting, interpretations about what happened, why it happened and who was responsible.

“We are committed to an open, transparent process in developing this exhibit,” said exhibit developer Kate Roberts.