I found the birch trees and I knew that was home

Mr. Beane discusses growing up, learning about Dakota history, 1862, and his family's connection to Minnesota.

Audio Chapters

DL: What did you learn about Dakota history while you were growing up? WB: Very little basically what was taught us in school. My parents never spoke of Dakota history. My grandmother would tell me some when I would ask her but wasn’t something that they talked about every day. I think our family might be a little more unique than some of the other families here because of our Dakota and white ancestry. I’ve learned we are descended from Dakota Chiefs. We are descended from fur traders. We are descended from military men that were at Fort Snelling. So there is this interaction of all of these people in Minnesota. So I have this intermingling of the white ancestry and the Native American ancestry. So as far as when the Dakota War comes along, I have compassion for both sides. On my mother’s side we’re descended from Chief Cloud Man. He was at Lake Calhoun. One of his daughters married Seth Eastman and one of his daughters married Mr. Toliver. We are also descended from a Chief Penishon in Minnesota and then that Chief Blue Cloud I was telling you about on my father’s side. DL: What about the traders? What traders were you related to? WB: Hazen Mooers. That’s Oliver Mooers’ grandfather. He’s buried at Fort Ridgely. There’s quite a large monument for him there. Going back further… Well the Faribault family, we’re descendents from the Faribault family also – Jean Baptiste Faribault. Also Joseph Ansee, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that name. He was a fur trader very early in Minnesota. On my father’s side we’re descended from Robert Dickson who was a fur trader and Indian Agent in Canada that was in Minnesota. I felt very emotional when I went to Fort Snelling. I was very upset at the time because they didn’t recognize the Indian community that surrounded Fort Snelling. The other time where I felt a lot of emotion when I went back to Minnesota, we went to Red Wing, Minnesota. I think I mentioned my niece lived at Prairie Island which isn’t too far from Red Wing. She took us over there for the day just to look around at the shops and look at the surrounding area. They took us up on the bluff that overlooks the city and the Mississippi River. I was almost overcome because it was such a beautiful site. I said at the time, I looked at the river and I said to my niece, I said, “I envy you so much that you are back here in our homeland and we’re living out on the prairie and this is actually our home here.” Mendota also I’ve been there and I felt very emotional being there. But that was kind of a mixture because of the Faribault House. Our Faribault ancestral home is there. Jean Baptiste Faribault’s home is there. Also the Dakota people considered that as the center of the world – Mendota, where the rivers meet.

DL: Did you ever hear of the U.S.-Dakota 1862 War growing up? 

WB:Yes, from my grandmother.

 

DL:What did she say?

 

WB:She really didn’t say a lot about it. 
She was pretty much the historian for our family and she would give
speeches.  Because she was knowledgeable
about Dakota history she would give speeches for different organizations and
programs.  I have copies of her speeches
that she wrote down.  They were just kind
of matter of fact.  It wasn’t something
that was real emotional.  It wasn’t until
later when I started reading the Dakota history myself and learning about it
that I felt an attachment to both sides, to both the white and the native
because my background is both.

 

DL:Which side do you think you understand the best?

 

WB:Well when we moved away from Flandreau, although my parents worked at an Indian
School, we pretty much lived in a white community as non-Indians and then later
when I got out of school and traveled different places and worked I really
didn’t consider myself Native American. 
I just considered myself a person. 
You know when you get in a big city and you have all these different
nationalities, I didn’t even think about my background at that time.  It wasn’t until later in life when my
grandmother passed away and we went to see her. 
She was living here at the time and we came back here to see her.  Of course we didn’t know she was going to
pass away.  She was a hundred at the time
but still very active, still very independent. 
At that time she said, “I want you to have some things.”  I didn’t know what she was talking
about.  She said, “Go in the bedroom,
there’s a box in there.”  I went in there
and got the box and it was all of her speeches, all of her historical papers
about the Dakota people, all of her books, all of her photographs.  She had put it all together and she wanted me
to have it.  I was very touched by
that.  Because of that, I’ve done a lot
of research on our Dakota ancestry now and our Dakota history and have a good
understanding of it.

 

DL:What is that history?  What have you
learned on your own as it pertains to your own family?

 

WB: Our family might be a little more unique
than some of the other families here because of our Dakota and white
ancestry.  I did put together a booklet
and the Minnesota Historical Society has it, on part of our family.  It’s called ‘An Anglo Dakota Family’.  I dedicated it to my grandmother because she
gave me the information to start, for me to continue with it basically.  It’s hard to sum up in just a phrase or a few
words what I’ve learned because we are descended from Dakota Chiefs.  We are descended from fur traders.  We are descended from military men that were
at Fort Snelling.  So there is this
interaction of all of these people in Minnesota.  Minnesota is where all of this was taking
place.  Even on my father’s side this
William Beane – Chief Blue Cloud, I was telling you about, his father was
Jonathan Beane who was an Indian Agent later on the Missouri River but he did
surveying in Minnesota.  So he’s in the
Minnesota history books meeting Sibley and Toliver at the time when he was in
Minnesota.  So I have this intermingling
of the white ancestry and the Native American ancestry.  So as far as when the Dakota War comes along,
I have compassion for both sides

 
DL: What’s a good way to commemorate those events?
 
WB: Hmm.  Well I guess because I’m media savvy, I think in terms of more than celebrations or powwows or you know things that only take a short period of time.  I think of more creating something that lasts which is either a book, a video.  You know that type of thing.  To me that’s more effective to acknowledge it and to let the generations learn about it.
 
I had dreams when I was, I guess when I was in my teenage years, of running through the woods barefoot and there were birch trees.  At that time I hadn’t experience that and I didn’t even know where the birch trees were.  It wasn’t until later that I grew up and started going into Minnesota, I found the birch trees and I knew that was home.

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. I found the birch trees and I knew that was home July 23, 2019. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/2209

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