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Stefan Oster, center, his son Jacob, left, and Stefan's sister Christina Oster, of Gottenburg, Sweden, are shown Sunday at the Old Log Church where they attended a service as part of the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War. Their family members were involved in the conflict in what is now Monson Lake State Park. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)

Remembering the victims of the U.S.-Dakota War but forgetting the conflict

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news Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

NEW LONDON -- It was 150 years ago today that 13 early settlers in the Norway Lake and Monson Lake areas were killed in the prairie farmland in what is now northern Kandiyohi County and the eastern edge of Swift County.

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The 13 members of the Lundborg and Broberg families were some of the earliest white settlers killed in the U.S.-Dakota War that left deep scars in pioneer families and in Minnesota's history, and forever changed the Dakota people and their culture.

This past weekend, descendants of the Lundborg and Broberg families gathered at Monson Lake State Park, which was originally established as a memorial to the settlers, to remember their ancestors but to forget the conflict.

Nearly 150 close and distant relatives, including many who had never met each other but were tied together by history, spent Saturday at the park.

The group included Christina Oster, her brother Stefan Oster, and Stefan's 18-year-old son, Jacob, who traveled from Gottenburg, Sweden, to attend the anniversary event. Some of their Lundborg ancestors settled here, and were victims of the conflict, while others remained in Sweden.

"I feel a connection to this place," said Christina Oster.

On Sunday, some of the Lundborg and Broberg clan attended the annual anniversary program at the Old Log Church, presented by the Norway Lake Lutheran Historical Association, which commemorated the 150th anniversary of the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War with stories of the complicated history of the conflict.

Some of the stories, which had been handed down through families or were part of legal documents, were firsthand accounts of settlers who survived the war.

The horrific details of the settlers' demise were set alongside the plight of the Dakota people at the time.

Paul Lundborg, a retired pastor who grew up in Minnesota but now lives in Olympia, Wash., said he did not learn of his family's tragic place in history until he was nearly 40 years old.

Since then he has studied the stories and has learned a great deal about his ancestors, specifically his great-great-grandparents who settled in the Norway Lake and Monson Lake areas and found themselves in the middle of the war.

During a sermon Sunday at the Old Log Church, Lundborg spoke passionately about the importance of remembering the past and the people of the past, but also the importance of forgetting conflicts and the importance of reconciliation.

In later comments he said learning about his family history and the Dakota War has become a "delicate art of remembering and knowing when to forget."

He said it's a "strange mix of how the past is something that informs us, it makes us stronger to know who we are, but we have to be careful with the past and not let it overcome us."

Lundborg expressed grief that, after 150 years, the Dakota War still has the power to unleash anger and hatred in Minnesota.

"That is not helpful for reconciliation," said Lundborg.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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