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Editorial: Pain of Dakota-U.S. War continues: The time is here to work for healing

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Today is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the U.S.-Dakota War, a conflict between the Dakota Nation and the nation of the United States, including the young state of Minnesota.

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The U.S.-Dakota War anniversary is not a time for celebration for either nation. It deserves and needs to be a time of remembrance and of healing and reconciliation.

The war that broke out on Aug. 17, 1862, resulted in fear, pain, turmoil and change for the Dakota Nation and Minnesota.

The war was ignited when a conflict arose between a group of Dakota men and a settler group at Acton in Meeker County. In the end, three men and two women of the settlement were killed and the Dakota party fled back to their camp near the Minnesota River.

The seeds of the conflict had been planted long before 1862, however, as the Dakota were suffering.

A corrupt system of Indian agents or traders had long profited from and taken advantage of trade with the Dakota bands in Minnesota. The individual Dakota had no legal recourse when they were wronged, and this built distrust and resentment.

In addition, the U.S. annuity payment to the Dakota was delayed in 1862 and hindered efforts of the Dakota to purchase food and equipment to feed their families. Ironically, the shipment of gold arrived in St. Paul on Aug. 16, one day prior to the onset of the Dakota War.

In west central Minnesota and across the nation, there are descendants of Dakota and descendants of Minnesotans who fought, suffered, died and/or survived the outbreak of this war and the resulting ramifications. There are descendants of Dakota in Minnesota and across the nation, who did not fight, sheltered Minnesotans, worked for peace, died and/or survived war and suffered the resulting consequences.

The war was tragic for both sides of the conflict. There were detestable acts committed by both sides in the time of war and afterwards.

The Dakotas' suffering continued long after the war's end, including the removal from their homeland, cultural extinction efforts, education indoctrination and language banishment.

Minnesotans of the era suffered through the war from the fighting, fear, flight and death. Descendants of the hundreds of Minnesotans killed during the conflict still feel the pain of their family's loss.

Descendants of the Dakota 38, who were tried and hanged at Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862, still feel the pain of their family's loss. In fact, one of those executed, a man named Chaska, had actually worked to save, protect and release Sarah Wakefield and her two children, who were among the first captives in the conflict. Despite Wakefield's testimony to his bravery and role in her rescue, Chaska was still convicted and executed.

Gov. Mark Dayton has ordered all state flags to be flown at half-staff today in honor of the American soldiers, Dakota people and Minnesota settlers who lost their lives in the Dakota-U.S. War.

Today members and exiles of the Dakota Nation and the state of Minnesota are participating in events at the sacred quarry at the Pipestone National Monument in Pipestone. The ceremony will mark this symbolic return of the Dakota Nation's exiles to their Minnesota homeland and celebrate the tribal survival through 150 years of exile and hardship.

The time is come for all to welcome the Dakota Nation home to the land of their forefathers. Let the healing and reconciliation begin.

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