A deadly ending and beginning

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This Sunday, September 23rd, marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Wood Lake. It was the final and decisive clash in the US – Dakota War of 1862.

It marked the beginning of a deadly round up of Dakota people for trial and banishment from the state.

The above photo, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society was taken by Adrian John Ebell in October or November of 1862. It captures a scene somewhere in southern Minnesota as federal troops, volunteers and vigilantes rounded up Dakota.

Some of them would be tried by a military commission for war crimes. Others would be sent to a concentration camp near Fort Snelling to await exile from Minnesota.

Hundreds died there, hundreds more perished when they reached the Nebraska and Dakota territory.

The war’s official death toll was put at about 500, including hundreds of white settlers.

The outcome of the war was predicted by the Dakota leader, Taoyateduta (Little Crow). He had traveled to Washington, D. C. years earlier and had seen the numbers of white people that could be arrayed against any foe.

The September 23, 1862 Wood Lake battle ended the war, a conflict started by Dakota desperation as they starved while the food promised them remained locked in warehouses.

A longer lens shows the conflict was also caused by the, “Indian system.”

This was the strategy devised at the highest levels of the federal government to craft deceitful treaties with American Indians. The Indian system led to massive fraud and corruption in trade with the Indians that enriched mostly white people at every level.

Sunday marks another anniversary, 207 years ago.

According to the Minnesota Historical Society on September 23, 1805, Lt. Zebulon Pike, of the U.S. Army, met with a party of about 150 Dakota at the confluence of the St. Peter (Minnesota) and Mississippi Rivers.

Pike’s commanding officer, Gen. James Wilkinson, wanted a site for future military posts in case of war with Great Britain. Pike made a deal with two Dakota leaders for roughly 100,000 acres of land; enough for the U.S. government to build a trading post and fort.

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