The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 27, 2012

Our View: Move forward with U.S.-Dakota war, peace history

The Free Press

— Mankato's commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the largest mass execution in U.S. history proved to be one of the most solemn and at the same time enlightening moments in local event history.

The 150th anniversary was notable because diverse people came together to create a new, respectful and interesting memorial, and at the same time opened up a chapter of quiet history to the inspection of learned people and eager students.

Mankato, New Ulm and St. Peter and their respective counties can move forward from here with an opportunity to keep class open, to enhance the narrative and provide many points of view on the events of U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

We sometimes overlook the rich history that comes from the events that first appear dark and in the shadows. We've been somewhat reluctant to promote this history as a result. But as we heard the story of the war unfold, we found many encouraging signs. There were leaders on both sides who tried to prevent the bloodshed and who tried to settle differences without violence. Their success and failures enlighten for the future.

All of southern Minnesota has the unprecedented attention of a U.S. president, arguably one of the country's most important presidents. That's history to behold and study. As such, southern Minnesota is part of a larger U.S. history.

The history of a people's forgiveness is another nugget we may be taking for granted. There are great lessons in how that forgiveness came about, who gave it voice and what obstacles they faced. More great lessons for us now.

The recounting of events by the Minnesota Historical Society was nothing short of spectacular. The main exhibit in St. Paul was moving, but the outreach of historians through self-directed tours through southern Minnesota also instructed our understanding. We'd like to see a short narrative at the memorial site of events that led up to the war and subsequent executions.

We call on the Minnesota society but also historical societies in Brown, Blue Earth and Nicollet county to embrace these histories now given more attention and expand them for education throughout the region. We call on schools everywhere in Minnesota to incorporate this important part of history into curriculums.

Let's not let the 150th anniversary of these events be the end of the story and the study. Let's make them the beginning.