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Minnesota Historical Society Reflects on 150th Anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862

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This year marks the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and the Minnesota Historical Society is encouraging discussion and reflection about what it dubs “a tragic time in Minnesota’s history.”

“The war, its causes and its aftermath had a profound impact in shaping Minnesota as we know it today,” the society says on its website,

The site is a storehouse of information about the history of the war and events going on this year to commemorate it. There’s even a discussion forum to create open dialogue about a number of topics like Dakota history, treaties, causes of the war, aftermath of the war and oral histories.

The historical society has also collected dozens of stories from Dakota people throughout Minnesota, the Midwest and Canada and has posted the interviews on the website.

“Oral history is a way for many cultures from around the world to remember and relay history throughout generations. Ancestors have passed down oral history for thousands of years and no one oral history is more valid than the other,” says the website. “They are the personal feelings and oral history of each person interviewed. They are all honored and respected in a good way, with a good heart.”

To further its goal to reflect on the affects of the war, the society has also created an exhibition at the Minnesota History Center, which will run through June 30, 2013.

A number of other events will be going on throughout the year. Today begins the Legacy of Survival, which celebrates how the Dakota have held onto their culture.

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On August 19 there will be an observance of the war at Ness Norwegian Lutheran Church, 24040 520 Avenue in Litchfield, Minnesota from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Dakota representatives will lead a ceremony of healing and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and State Representative Dean Urdahl are scheduled to speak.

There are a number of events all the way through November. Check here for a full listing.

Minnesota Historical Society staff members are grateful to have had the opportunity to learn about this war and its aftermath.

“As a historical institution and as staff members, we are much the better, too, for our experiences in developing this year’s projects, many of which will have enduring value. We are deeply grateful to all who have given their time, shared their histories and views, and bared their emotions. This is much more than a year of remembrance and reflection. This is a journey into a shared future of continuing dialogue,” says Stephen Elliot, the society’s director and CEO on the website.

“Early on, someone suggested that the war was so tragic that we should not revisit it and its pain. Many others, though, recognized the enormous educational opportunity of tackling this work and pitched in to help. This war bore terrible consequences for the Dakota Oyate (Nation) and for the survivors of settlers who were killed; it inevitably shaped Minnesota, yet many know little about it. That is sad. The war is of enormous historical and current importance to all.”

Related article:

Legacy of Survival Brings Exiled Dakotas Home