I believe in understanding on both sides

Mr. LaBatte talks about why the the U.S.-Dakota War should be studied from both Dakota and Settler perspectives.

Audio Chapters

JL: I believe in understanding on both sides, understanding why the Indians went to war, understanding why the whites were so angry. Nobody talks about the Dakota Indian warfare. This was traditional warfare and it was very brutal. It wasn't like the white warfare where they tried not to hurt women and children. The Dakota warriors declared everybody an enemy. And their tradition was that the battle would continue in the afterlife so they were mutilating bodies, cutting off hands, poking out eyes. It was very brutal warfare. This is what made the whites so angry and why there were thirty-eight Dakota hanged at Mankato. This is why Indians were removed from the state. People will blame Ramsey for being against the Indians, but Ramsey was a politician -- he was reflecting the wills of the citizens of Minnesota. The people of New Ulm did not want any Indians moved back to the reservation, even friendly Indians. They didn't know the difference back then. They were all guilty. And today there's still some people making them all guilty and I don't like that.

DL: It's interesting that you said that the Dakota people were fed along the way, on this march to Fort Snelling. We've heard different accounts of that. We've heard of tremendous hardship on the way to Fort Snelling -- and beyond. That there were many, many deaths, there was a great deal of illness.

JL: There was a measles outbreak, I believe, at Camp Release. There's an interesting aspect. A Dakota Indian person can claim, “that's my oral history. I know there were a lot of deaths because I was told by my ancestors.” I have come to wonder whether this was a farce, and just how much of this oral history actually occurred. I can say that there was at least one missionary along with the Indians going to Fort Snelling. These soldiers defended the Indians at Henderson with their lives. One story, I believe it was someone who later became Reverend Charles Crawford. One of the citizens of Henderson was about to shoot a rifle at him. Colonel Marshall, who was in command, knocked the gun down with his saber. Crawford would later become a minister at a church up at Sisseton. The soldiers weren't there to punish the Indians, they were there to protect them. Sibley sent the majority of his army with this group to Mankato, he sent only three companies to Fort Snelling. They weren't force marched. The Dakota Indians were strong people. They had wagons, if you look at the inventory of wagons at Fort Snelling. If they chose to ride, they could ride. To me, there's an element in the Dakota group, and maybe in the Ojibwe, maybe in all Indian communities, who want to embellish the situation, make it worse, to get more sympathy. Maybe some actually believe what they are saying, but there's no proof that there was any more than that one baby killed in Henderson, who died along the way. I don't remember the number of people that died at Fort Snelling, but even that number has been embellished.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator John LaBatte Interviewer Deborah Locke made in New Ulm, MN | Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. I believe in understanding on both sides July 23, 2019. http://www.usdakotawar.org/node/1071

Viewpoints: All viewpoints expressed on this website are those of the contributors, and are not representative of the Minnesota Historical Society.