Governor takes a necessary step in denouncing a predecessor.
The sun sets over Little Crow's grave in First Presbyterian cemetery north of Flandrau, where a dream catcher adorns a 12-foot-high stake behind the tombstone on July 9, 2012. On a crisp September day in 1971, Little Crow's remains were brought in a copper box to a small cemetery north of Flandrau, S.D., overlooking the Big Sioux River valley, for burial. The tombstone that marks his grave has three dates on it: his birth year, estimated as 1818; the July 3, 1863 day of his death in Hutchinson and, finally, the day he was buried, Sept. 27, 1971.Flandrau, S.D. (DAVID JOLES/STARTRIBUNE) The Dakota War of 1862 (also known as the Sioux Uprising) followed years of broken promises to the Dakota people and an explosion of white, immigrant population in Minnesota. It began on August 17 and lasted for six weeks. As many as 600 - mostly white settlers and soldiers - were killed. It ended on Dec. 26, 1862, with the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato - to this date, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Following the war, about 1600 Dakota and mixed-race people were marched from Fort Release to their winter internment site near Fort Snelling. Up to 300 died that winter. In the spring of 1863 most of those remaining were exiled from the state to reservations in the Dakota territories.
Gov. Mark Dayton issued the right words Thursday on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the start of the U.S.-Dakota War in Minnesota: "I am appalled by Gov. Ramsey's words ... and I repudiate them."
Those are the words that many Dakota people were hoping to hear from Dayton this week as the state confronts the darkest chapter in its history with fresh eyes. While those words alone won't bind up all the old wounds, they needed to be said for healing to continue. In an eloquent statement he wrote himself, Dayton said them very well.
He did well to tell Minnesotans what many may not know -- that in September 1862, Alexander Ramsey, the state's second governor and the dominant political figure in Minnesota's first half-century, ordered the extermination and/or forced deportation of all Dakota people, whether or not they played any role in the Minnesota River valley uprising by starving Dakota warriors that summer. The suffering that resulted from Ramsey's order continues to this day.
Dayton invited those who feel the pain of the Dakota War most acutely -- the descendants of murdered white settlers and of the exiled Dakota -- to help the rest of the state understand the need for reconciliation. "I ask you especially to help lead us to better attitudes and actions toward others," he wrote.
It's a call we hope many are ready to heed.