January 29, 2012

150th anniversary of US-Dakota War

150 years later, war's wounds still cut deep

Minnesota is divided on how best to commemorate the U.S.-Dakota War, which left hundreds dead and ended in the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

By Curt BrownA 150-year-old loop of rope, knotted into a hangman's noose, sits in a climate-controlled case in the underground archives of the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.

Some say it should be burned, buried or returned to the hands of the Dakota people.

Others argue it should be displayed, like piles of shoes at Holocaust museums, as a powerful artifact to help people confront the grim story of the U.S.-Dakota War, which erupted in Minnesota in 1862 and ended with the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

The noose, and just what to make of it, is one sign of the historical reckoning looming this year as Minnesotans wrestle with how to mark the 150th anniversary of one its ugliest, yet often overlooked, episodes.

"This will be a very challenging year--the wounds are still deep," said Republican state Rep. Dean Urdahl, a longtime history teacher whose Grove City home is three miles from where the war broke out. His great-great-grandfather buried some of its first victims. "It was our state's greatest tragedy."

Dozens of commemorative events are planned, from a major exhibit at the Minnesota History Center to programs in classrooms across the state and cellphone tours along the Minnesota River, where the war raged for six weeks. Yet, in the shadow of it all are deep rifts over how to best observe the war's sesquicentennial.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Annual Ride for Mankato 38 and Dakota Music Tour.

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