Introduction

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Portrait of Toleuka (Dakota, Crow Creek).

The fight for the land came to a head in the mid-19th century in Minnesota, culminating in the US-Dakota War of 1862. While this conflict started and centered around the southern Minnesota city of Mankato – deep in Dakota lands – the conflagration spread to engulf Ojibwe lands as well, threatening the lives of every Native group in the state.

The reasons for the War are clear – Dakota bands in Minnesota were left to starve in the face of an increasingly uncaring and hostile Federal government. Relations between nations finally broke down in August of 1862, when a government trader Andrew Jackson Myrick refused to sell food to the Dakota at the Lower Sioux Agency. When the Dakota pleaded with him that their people were starving, Myrick reportedly replied, “…then let them eat grass or their own dung.” The unfortunate result is that there is distrust and enmity between Native and non-Native residents of the state of Minnesota to this day.