160 Years Later: The Dakota War of 1862

The Dakota War is one of the most widely misunderstood and misrepresented chapters in Minnesota history. As we near the 160th anniversary of this conflict, we want to dispel some mistruths.

Below is a hand-picked list of American Experiment’s top writings on the Dakota War of 1862.

John Phelan: “Minnesota’s Civil War”

From the spring issue of Thinking Minnesota, Phelan sorts fact from fiction surrounding the infamous Mankato executions.

The truth behind the 1862 hanging of 38 Sioux men in Mankato — the largest-ever mass execution on American soil — is more complex than revisionists want us to believe.

Katherine Kersten: “Weaponizing History”

From last fall’s Thinking Minnesota, Kersten maps out the Minnesota Historical Society’s unfaithful retellings of multiple historical events, including the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

A scandal is unfolding at one of Minnesota’s oldest, most venerable institutions. It’s the untold story of how a small, committed cadre of activists have commandeered MNHS’s resources and prestige to make it the vehicle of a destructive, self-serving political agenda.

John Hinderaker: “Painting of 1862 Dakota War Removed From State Capitol”

In December 2016, the Minnesota Historical Society decided to remove this “controversial” painting from the Capitol. Hinderaker reported on their justifications and strongly objected.

This reasoning is incomprehensible. The painting depicts an actual episode in the 1862 conflict.

John Hinderaker: “Is Truth the First Casualty of Art?

A 2017 sculpture at the Walker Art Center depicted seven government-sanctioned hangings, including the infamous 38 in Mankato. It was scrapped after protests.

Lost in the shuffle is the true story of what happened in 1862. All participants in the current controversy take it as given that the hanging of 38 Sioux warriors was, somehow, an outrage. The truth is far different.

Tragedy deserves an honest retelling and remembrance. Share this page with anyone interested in learning something about our state history.