The Dakota War in retrospect

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Dakota war in Minnesota. Over the next nine months we'll hear more about what led to the conflict that ended in December 1862, when 38 Dakota Indians were hanged in Mankato. It was the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

As we head into the somber commemoration of the Dakota War this year, we thought it appropriate to call in historian Annette Atkins to help us learn more about Minnesota's first governor, Henry Sibley, his times, and the events that laid the groundwork for the war.

Atkins said the "really painful" chapter in Minnesota history began with two treaties drawn up in 1851 between the government and the Dakota in what the Dakota erroneously assumed to be good faith land-for-money swaps.

"Those treaties in 1851 were really a disaster, from so many points of view. One outrage of those treaties was that, at the concludion of the signing of those treaties, the Indians were led from one signing table to another signing table," Atkins said. "And at that table, where many of them thought were just another set of treaty papers, were in fact what have come to be called the traitor papers, in which they were pretty effectively swindled out of much of the money they had agreed to receive."...

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