US-Dakota War

View item information

Dakota Conflict Monument at Lake Shetek, Shetek, Minnesota.

The US-Dakota War ended six weeks after it began, after US Army reinforcements were called in and the Dakota forced to surrender. Over three hundred Dakota were convicted by a military tribunal for the rapes and deaths of settlers during the war, and sentenced to die; their trials, some of which took as little as five minutes, were conducted in English, with no representation. After Minnesota Episcopal Bishop Henry Whipple wrote to President Lincoln suing for leniency for the Dakota, the number of people sentenced to death was reduced to thirty-eight. They were hanged in a public square in Mankato on December 26, 1862 – to this day, the largest mass execution in American history.

It is only very, very recently that the dominant culture has been willing to hear the Native side of the story with regard to the final breakdown of communication that led to the 1862 US-Dakota War. Memorials to the Euro-American settlers and soldiers who lost their lives during the six week long conflict dot the southern third of the state, but there are no monuments to the Native dead. Indeed, it was only in 1972 that the city of Mankato removed a plaque that lauded the mass execution of 38 Dakota men for their participation in the war. In 1992 the city renamed the site of the execution Reconciliation Park.