A resolution seeking repeal of the 1863 federal law that banished Dakota Indians from Minnesota can promote healing and teaching, supporters of the move said today at the State Capitol. The measure was passed unanimously by the Legislature this month and signed by the governor.
A state resolution asking Congress to repeal an 1863 act that banished the Dakota Indians from Minnesota can foster teaching and healing nearly 150 years after the bloody war that erupted between the tribe and white settlers, a representative of the state's Indian communities said today at the State Capitol.
"I do believe it is an act of symbolism and an act that says a lot today about the healing of past wrongs that were committed," said Annamarie Hill, executive director of the state Indian Affairs Council.
After the Dakota Conflict of 1862, which killed hundreds of whites and Indians, President Abraham Lincoln signed an act that removed four Dakota bands from Minnesota. The act provided each Indian with 80 acres of land outside the state, apparently as an inducement to farm; most of them wound up in Dakota Territory or in Canada.
Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, sponsored the resolution after finding out that the statute was still on the books. It came to his attention as chairman of the state's Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, marking the 200th anniversary of the Civil War president's 1809 birthday. The resolution passed the Legislature unanimously and was signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
"It is past time for this law to be repealed," said Urdahl, who has written two historical novels about the war. "This is a much-needed symbol of reconciliation as we near the sesquicentennial of the conflict in 2012. Let the healing grow with the repealing."
Urdahl said that many Dakota still carry deep resentment against Lincoln, who was responding to the calls of some Minnesota leaders to exterminate the tribe. Given a list of 303 Dakota to hang for their role in the conflict, Lincoln winnowed down the list to 38. But the mass execution at Mankato remains the largest in U.S. history.
"Lincoln said a couple things -- that I won't hang men by the hundreds and I won't hang men for votes. He was trying to get it right, but they still got it wrong," Urdahl said.
Urdahl said that he has been in touch with U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson to discuss putting the resolution before Congress. Peterson's western Minnesota district includes two Dakota reservations and some of the battlefields.
Kevin Duchschere • 651-292-0164