Tag Archives: US-Dakota Wars

Memory and Remembrance in New Zealand

Explaining the various locations of the Dakota, Nakota and Lakota on the northern Great Plains, North America, to the Kiwi and Aussie attendees at the New Zealand Historical Association biennial conference on November 21, 2013, at University of Otago, Dunedin, south island New Zealand. A New Zealand scholar later said he was fascinated by this because he'd never seen such a map. This meant to me that another global knowledge-transfer had been achieved. This map comes from Mark Diedrich, "Mni Wakan Oyate (Spirit Lake Nation): A History of the Sisituwan, Wahpeton, Pabaska, and Other Dakota That Settled at Spirit Lake, North Dakota" (Fort Totten, North Dakota: Cankdeska Cikana College Publishing, 2007), 47.

Explaining the various locations of the Dakota, Nakota and Lakota on the northern Great Plains, North America at the New Zealand Historical Association biennial conference on November 21, 2013, at University of Otago, New Zealand.

Before I head off to another day of conference papers this morning, I thought I’d do a short recap of the session I attended and presented in yesterday afternoon, representing North Dakota State University and the Center for Heritage Renewal here at the University of Otago, the southern-most university in all the world.

Each presenter has 10-15 minutes to work with, and this is always the challenge of presenting: it’s how to communicate a rather complex idea to an audience — in this case on the other side of the world — using the allotted time parameters. My talk must have resonated with the other attendees and presenters, including George Davis and John Moremon (we chatted a bit after the talk).

I got what I came for, too: my goal was two-fold, the first to present a case-study history on one US-Dakota site of memory and mourning on the northern Great Plains (complete with the history of “official” and counter-official remembrance), and then ask Maori and Kiwi scholars to direct me to various sites of remembrance that resulted from the 19th century British-Maori wars. Of the latter, these conversations are continuing, so I’ll round out this blog post so I can get to those said conversations today.

My presentation was followed by George Davis, who considered the remembrance of ANZAC Day memorials, or how memory groups conceive of the physical and mental landscapes, in this case relative to the First World War. And the final presenter came from Aussie John Moremon, who considered how the Aussie and New Zealand government helped (or didn’t help) WWII veteran Calvin Coghill’s relatives through the grieving processes after finding out that Calvin had been killed in action in the European Theatre. Geoff Watson chaired our panel discussion, dutifully keeping all of us within our time limits.

George Davis explains the symbolism of the memorial wreath of ANZAC day.

George Davis explains the symbolism of the memorial wreath of ANZAC day.


New Zealand and Samoan World History

The University of Otago's Library.

The University of Otago’s Library.

Yesterday I was one of the 17 participants in a seminar-workshop hosted by the University of Otago’s Center for Research on Colonial Culture, this directed and led by Tony Ballantyne, with discussion also led by Maya Jasanoff. The day started with short introductions, and I found that I was only one of two from North America, the rest consisting of two highly trained squads of sharp New Zealand and Pacific Island historians. I assured one New Zealander/Kiwi that North Dakota and New Zealand are similar in that when someone visits either North Dakota or New Zealand, they aren’t just stopping in and on their way to a final destination. It makes a person living in either place feel important when distant company shows up. The Kiwis decided that was true, and we moved on to other topics.

One of those topics concerned different ways to write or consider writing history, and in a global historical context. I mentioned something about that yesterday, but it was even more important to hear what others thought and bounce around ideas. My research trajectory is concerned with how the US-Dakota wars have been officially and un-officially remembered for the last 151 years. I was particularly drawn toward scholars who look at how indigenes have acted and managed the 18th and 19th imperial struggles in in this neck of the world.

 

A section of the University of Otago campus.

A section of the University of Otago campus.

Louise Mataia, for example, is looking at how Samoans carved out an identity in the overlapping worlds of American and British “controlled” Samoa. This invariably brings up the issue of how European and Euro-American powers from the Atlantic World attempted to map and impose imperial interpretations on the Pacific islands. There are boots-on-the-ground Samoans, and then there are map-makers in some board room in London and Washington, DC who claim, with their maps, that they know what’s going on a half-world away. This conversation invariably leads to the name Benedict Anderson, and it’ll be great to keep up with Louise to see which directions her dissertation takes.

Memory, or what we have remembered, is often about politics and power, and figuring out why we have remembered stuff today requires us to chart why and how it was remembered yesterday, from one generation to the next. This in turn not only invites scholars to consider what historical maps might tell us about the past, but also how local museums and the history of theatre have informed, or attempted to inform, various audiences: before the invention of radio and television, ideas were often transmitted via theatre and live performance, this through plays and opera.

I better charge off to this morning’s conference, so before I end this blog post, I’ll have you know that Molly and Matthew are tracking down bungie jumping, and they mentioned something about a scenic jet boat tour. The photos below are from our scenic drive yesterday evening out to an albatross breeding sanctuary.

Albatross Sanctuary

An Albatross Sanctuary just outside of Dunedin, New Zealand.


Humanities Updates from the Northern Great Plains

CHRBefore this morning gets away from me, I thought I’d provide two humanities updates taking place in the great state of North Dakota, central North America. The first is a link-reference to the progress of our Punk Archaeology manuscript; and the second concerns the official press release from NDSU’s Center for Heritage Renewal on our continued Dakota book discussions. Of this latter, the discussions bring together the public and scholars to consider the Dakota Conflict and the subsequent punitive campaigns from 1862-1864, and where we, Native and non-Native relations, are today.

For more details, check out the uploaded hand-bill image to the left. Of this, the most recent discussion took place this Sunday past at the Opera House in Ellendale, Dickey County, North Dakota. This brought out a variety of topics, and the most attentive-grabbing and engaging at all of these events is that of Native historians and knowledge-keepers and scholars. After Tamara St. John, a Native historian and genealogist, spoke at this event, an attendee remarked on how (and I’m paraphrasing) they are starved for this kind of information.

For those of us up to our elbows in the history and historiography of the US-Dakota Conflict and Wars, we understand and often wrestle with accurate and precise and appropriate terminology, definitions, and so on. When we chat about this stuff with non-specialists, one of the most common remarks I have heard is this: “How come we weren’t taught any of this — attempted genocide, attempts at cultural destruction, attempts at forced assimilation — in our public education here in North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota?” I’m uncertain. But I do always insist on using attempts and attempted when talking about genocide, cultural destruction and assimilation. I do this because the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota, the Seven Council Fires, are alive and well today. We are pushing ahead as well with these discussions, and every time we have another conversation and chance to talk about this, legitimate history is happening. And if that is happening, so is that large, amorphous thing we call culture and the humanities.

When it comes to the public school systems, I’m sure there are plenty of politics behind all of the curriculum decisions from yesteryear and now. Perhaps that is something we in the future can consider, and perhaps in the future bring before various departments of public instruction in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. That would be at least one long-range goal to consider.

Nonetheless, the next discussion will be held at 2:00PM (CST) on November 10, 2013, at Sitting Bull College,  in the Science and Technology Center Room 120/101, Fort Yates, Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota. And here is a photo from the discussion from last Sunday.

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Weekend Line Up

Before logging off and hitting the northern Great Plains segment of Eisenhower’s Interstate system this morning (a grand piece of Federal infrastructure reform from the late 50s and 60s), I thought I’d give a line up as to what is in store for this weekend. Molly and I will first be heading from Fargo up to Minot, North Dakota. We’ll stay with Jessica Christy (Molly’s good friend and my cousin), and I may even have a chance to get over to Walt Piehl’s cowboy poet bar, The Blue Rider. At least for a beer or two and some conversation with, perhaps, fellow Frenchman Todd Reisenauer. Both Christy and Piehl are professors of art at Minot State University, and both are artists from and for the northern Great Plains.

Molly and I will return to Fargo on Saturday, and then on Sunday it is back out on the road to Ellendale, North Dakota (west from Fargo to Jamestown, then south on Highway 281 for about an hour). We are heading to Ellendale to begin and continue another public conversation that considers what happened 150 years ago with the US-Dakota Wars, and where we want or ought to go with the conversations today. These events are sponsored by North Dakota State University’s Center for Heritage Renewal, and the North Dakota Humanities Council, and they bring together a variety of professionals, Native historians, and the public. Gotta run now, but a follow up at some point next week on all this.


The Killdeer Mountain Battlefield Landscape

Basin Killdeer Proposed Route

The Bismarck Tribune’s graphic of the proposed route through what essentially is the Gettysburg of the Northern Great Plains, the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield from 1864. Historical actors involved included Sitting Bull, Inkpaduta, Gall, Sully, among others.

This morning a story broke in The Bismarck Tribune on a proposed transmission line route directly through the core area of the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield. North Dakota State University’s Center for Heritage Renewal, led by Professor Tom Isern, responded with the following media release:

Aug. 30, 2013

Media Advisory

The Center for Heritage Renewal at North Dakota State University is preparing a submission for the North Dakota Public Service Commission hearing in Killdeer on Sept. 4. The subject is an electrical power transmission line and substation proposed to be built, by Basin Electric, in the core area of the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield. The topic has been covered by North Dakota media, starting yesterday.

The Center for Heritage Renewal was established to identify, preserve and capitalize on the heritage resources of North Dakota and the northern plains. One of the center’s objectives is to assist state agencies, private organizations and the people of the state and region in generating prosperity and quality of life from heritage resources. Another objective is to provide expertise and action in the fields of historic preservation and heritage tourism.

The center recognizes the efforts of Basin Electric to support regional development but is concerned that the environmental impact statement for the project takes no cognizance of the historical significance of Killdeer Mountain. 

The center has signed a contract with the National Park Service to survey and study the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield, which the park service has identified as a significant Civil War-era site in North Dakota. The contract is with the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service.

Killdeer Mountain was the chosen ground on which Dakota and Lakota fighters, including Inkpaduta and Sitting Bull, confronted the Northwest Expedition, commanded by General Alfred Sully, on July 28, 1864. This was the largest military engagement ever to take place on the Great Plains of North America, and a crucial episode in the Dakota War of 1862-1864.

University Distinguished Professor Tom Isern, founding director of the center, observes, “Killdeer Mountain is the Gettysburg of the Plains. It is, arguably, the most significant historic site in all of North Dakota.”

Isern is available to discuss this issue. He can be reached at 701-799-2942

More to come…


Directions to Whitestone Hill, North Dakota

The approximate location of Whitestone Hill.

The approximate location of Whitestone Hill.

I’ve decided that very few people know the location of Whitestone Hill in southeastern North Dakota. This decision came to me after hearing the “Where is that?” response to my remark, “Whitestone Hill…” It is now 2013. This location, Whitestone Hill, is important since it is a site where the U.S. Army brought total war to a domestic encampment of northern Great Plains indigenes in early September of 1863. We are almost upon the 150th year of remembrance. So we need to make ourselves more aware of these sites, primarily because our history — whether we know or like it or not — informs us about how things are today. It is also the stuff that disparate groups identify with. This is why we sometimes hear things like, “History is about identity.” This is true. If we don’t know about Whitestone Hill, then we don’t know why things are the way they are today.

So people can more readily find Whitestone Hill, over the lunch hour I decided to scribble out a map, and also scan a DeLorme topo map of the location specifics. I’m blogging about it now, and I figure that if folks ask me, “Where is that?” instead of me gesturing in the air about the relative location of Whitestone Hill to Jamestown, Aberdeen, Edgeley or Ellendale, I can just send them this link. Above is a rough sketch of the approximate location of Whitestone Hill that I prepared while eating squash and cauliflower curry soup over the lunch hour.

A DeLorme map of the Whitestone Hill location.

A DeLorme map of the Whitestone Hill location.

If you’re on Eisenhower’s Interstate 94, just head south from Jamestown, North Dakota on Highway 281. If you’re in Aberdeen, South Dakota, head north on Highway 281.

If coming from Jamestown, drive about 40 or 50 minutes south until you hit Edgeley, North Dakota. From Edgeley, head west on ND Highway 13, and this eventually turns into south-bound Highway 56. Travel south of Kulm about 10 or 11 miles to 88th Street SE. Travel east on 88th Street SE for four miles, and then turn north (by this point you’ll see “Whitestone Hill” signage to direct you to the site).

If coming from Aberdeen, South Dakota, drive north to Ellendale, North Dakota, and head west on ND Highway 11. Travel west on Hwy 11 for about 20 miles, and turn north onto ND Highway 56. Drive 10 miles north on Highway 56, and turn east on to 88th Street SE. Drive the four miles east, and turn north at the Whitestone Hill signage.

Note: even though the signage on the DeLorme map reads “Battlefield,” and even though during your approach you will start seeing “Whitestone Hill Battlefield” signage, do not be tempted to call it that unless you are ready to define what is meant by that. Even then, it is not a good idea.

 


Dakota War Bibliography

As we lean closer to the first week of September, 2013, individuals invested in history and indigenous genealogy on the northern Great Plains are considering numerous ways to look at the Dakota Wars of 1862-1864. There are a couple books out there that I found worthwhile to put on my shelf, so I thought I’d share them. The first is John Fabian Witt, Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History (Free Press, 2012). The prologue of this work is succinct and to the point. It opens by placing the reader next to the imagined historical place (perhaps sitting just to the right and behind him) of Francis Lieber, one of Lincoln’s closest military advisers. Witt says to imagine yourself in the modest room of a boardinghouse in Washington, D.C. on Christmas Day, 1862 (the day before the largest mass execution in United States history took place in Mankato, Minnesota, when 38 Dakota were hanged). In Witt’s words,

At a small desk lit by an oil lamp, an aging professor works late into the night. From a distance, the man seems to be a serene oasis of calm amid the mud and the tumult of wartime Washington in winter. But if we look more closely, the illusion of peacefulness gives way to something unsettling. Below a shock of pewter hair, the man’s eyes are dark hollows. His face is drawn into a perpetual scowl. A high white collar and black silk cravat cannot quite hide the old battle scars on his neck. The man’s bearing betrays newer, less tangible wounds as well. In the past week, he has learned the gruesome details of the death of one son fighting for the Confederate Army in Virginia and sent another to fight of the Union in occupied New Orleans. A third son lost his right arm earlier in the year.

Lieber would eventually go on to draft the rules of war for Lincoln, a code that, in theory, was to protect prisoners and forbid executions and assassinations. It also announced distinction between combatants and non-combatants. The four forbidden acts, according to the rules of war, were “torture, assassination, the use of poison, and perfidy in violation of truce flags or agreements between the warring parties.” (Witt, 2012: 2-4). Witt also reminds us that armies could virtually do anything for “securing the ends of the war.”

Now jump to Whitestone Hill just over 9 months later, and a segment in Paul Beck’s latest work, Columns of Vengeance: Soldiers, Sioux, and the Punitive Expeditions, 1863-1864 (U of Oklahoma Press, 2013; and since it is in my car rather in front of me, I’ll paraphrase). As General Alfred Sully directed his U.S. Army riflemen toward a Bison hunting encampment of Dakota, Lakota and Nakota, a Native emerged with a flag of truce. This Native draped himself in the flag and started slowly walking toward the advancing soldiers. But a Dutchman opened fire and cut him down. Witt’s legal work and Beck’s battle narrative help us consider the disparities between the legal theory laid down in Washington, D.C., and how events actually play out on those fields of battle. It all looks so neat and tidy from the board rooms. Today those individual decisions made 150 years ago are still contended with throughout the United States. It is a fallacy to think they will ever be resolved, or that some kind of closure will come. It will be remembered indefinitely, and in an infinite number of ways.

War, no doubt, is horrific and terrible. It is why in 1866 John Stuart Mill, while chair of a committee that looked into how Governor Eyre repressed the Jamaican mutiny, said “a great display of… brutal recklessness generally prevails when fire and sword are let loose.” To put it mildly, Mill was highly unimpressed with Governor Eyre. And he understood what happened when political philosophy failed (that is typically realized just after the bullets start flying).

Philosophically, if we are going to put ourselves in the shoes of Lieber (and we should), we also have to put ourselves in the shoes of the indigenous mothers and fathers of the non-combatants who fell before the U.S. Army rifle and sword during the punitive campaigns throughout Dakota Territory (and in southeastern Idaho, Sand Creek, Colorado and beyond). Perhaps the most effective treatment of the Plains indigene ways, at least in the second half of the 19th century, comes by way of Jonathan Lear’s Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation (Harvard University Press, 2008). Some thoughts and a Lear excerpt linked to here. I’ve yet to crack open David Williams, A People’s History of The Civil War: Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom (W.W. Norton, 2005), but that will come.


The Ethics of Plains Indigenes

Radical HopeHere on the northern Great Plains, we are increasingly considering what the Dakota Wars from 150 years ago meant then and what it means today. A piece of scholarship I stumbled across while visiting the bookstore of Pompey’s Pillar in eastern Montana (where, famously, an Anglo-American incised his graffiti on some tall rock) is Jonathan Lear, Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation (Harvard University Press, 2006). Lear uses the historical documents from Plenty Coups, a Crow leader who helped his people navigate the turn of the 19th century. What makes Lear’s monograph interesting is how he uses his training in philosophy and ethics to approach a previously unexplored topic of the Crow.

Throughout this book, the Dakota/Lakota/Nakota are mentioned, and how they and the Crow were ferocious enemies in the 19th century. Lear looks at this philosophically, though, and says,

One of the ironies that comes to light is that groups of people can be bitterest of enemies in real life, yet ontologically they are on the same side; and a real-life ally can turn out to be one’s ontological nemesis. The Crow and Sioux were bitterest of enemies… Still, their standoff sustained a world in which battles, planting coup-sticks, and counting coups all made sense. One has only to read Chief Sitting Bull’s pictorial autobiography to see that he was every bit as much concerned with counting coups as Plenty Coups was. And yet, with the United States as an ally — a questionable and unfaithful one to be sure, but still an ally in many ways — the Crow moved into a position in which their world fell apart. (Lear, 2006: 50-51)

The rearrangement of this way of life came to an end due to the advanced encroachment of Euro-Americans who, among other things, obliterated the bison food source of the Plains indigenes. Lear doesn’t just stop with the known history of how the bison were wiped out, though. Instead, he expands and explains how the bison food source was a serious component of the Crow’s cultural and ethical telos. Bison had been incorporated into nearly every element of the Crow way of life, and Lear gives excellent examples by unpacking phrases that Crow used for dinner. For example, Lear notes that there was no such thing as simply cooking a meal. Instead, the cooking of a meal had a greater social-psychology behind it. The phrase cooking and eating dinner was inextricably bound to “the cooking-of-a-meal-so-that-those-who-ate-it-would-be-healthy-to-hunt-and-fight.” (Lear, 2006: 40) See how the telos — the psychological extension of an immediate act providing a base for the future — is connected to the food, and that the food comes largely from the bison? Yes, of course. And so when Euro-Americans — whether Sully at Whitestone Hill, or Euro-American riflemen — obliterated the bison, it struck not only at that food source, but at the very culture of Plains indigenes. In short, read this book.


Mankato, Minnesota: 150 Years Later

Today, December 26, 2012, marks the 150th year since the largest mass execution in United States history took place in Mankato, Minnesota. This execution has been remembered and suppressed for a variety of reasons, but it seemed reasonable to post and pass on at least two pieces of public history. The first is a story put together by This American Life, entitled, “Little War on the Prairie.” Here is a link to the transcript, and another link to the recorded radio program here. It aired on November 23, 2012, and I first heard it while driving back to Fargo from having Thanksgiving in Bismarck and Valley City.

Photo by David Joles of the Associated Press.

Photo by David Joles of the Associated Press.

What is often missing from stories such as these is a kind of non-discussion about what followed this hanging. For example, it wasn’t just as though the hanging happened, and Governor Ramsey clapped his hands together and said, “Well, that’s taken care of…” Instead, it marked the beginning of annual punitive campaigns that the United States Government launched against the Sioux — against every combatant and non-combatant, or every man, woman, elder and child — throughout Dakota Territory. When we look back on it, the 19th century kind of looks like a racist primer for the industrial genocide that characterized much of the 20th century, at least the first half. The world eventually had a post-WWII convention to consider all of this. It’s sobering to think about.

In the 1860s, Total War campaigns against the Sioux were organized by General John Pope, and he in turn charged generals Henry Sibley and Alfred Sully with carrying them out. Today there are namesakes of “Sibley” and “Sully” scattered all throughout North Dakota. These names were ascribed to the landscape, and they resulted from that earlier US-Dakota War that roared up and down the Minnesota River Valley in August-September of 1862. Below is another piece of public history called “Dakota 38 [+2].” It is excellent, and the documentary was put together in 2008.

This year’s riders are just getting to Mankato, as they do every year. Here is another piece on this from the Mankato Free Press.