This day in history, Feb. 21, 1863, Congress passed a law — pushed by members of Minnesota’s delegation — to expel the Winnebago people from the state. The Act was fueled by fear, prejudice, and greed; it resulted in land theft and the deaths of more than 550 Winnebago people.
The Winnebago (also called Ho Chunk) were expelled from Minnesota in the wake of the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862, a war in which the Winnebago did not participate. Yet Minnesota’s leaders were so eager to free up the Winnebago’s reservation lands for settlers to farm that they expelled the Winnebago before they officially expelled the Dakota.
This is a horrifically ugly chapter in Minnesota history. It includes the little known story of the Knight of the Forest, a secret Klan-like group that formed to expel all indigenous peoples from the state.
Dedication for restoring the name Bde Maka Ska set for Saturday.
Belated Apology: In 1862, Dr. William Mayo stole the remains of Cut Nose, one of the 38 Dakota men hung in Mankato following the U.S. Dakota War. One hundred and fifty six year’s later, the Mayo Clinic apologizes.
Indigenous Food Tasting Oct. 8
Mindful direct action training set at Common Ground Meditation Center Saturday.
Water protectors face felony trespass charges as they try to stop DAPL in Louisiana, an example of how states are trying to stifle protest with stiffer penalties.
The genocide of Dakota people and the history of the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862 has rightfully been getting more public awareness in our state, but a terribly overlooked part of our history is the atrocious treatment of the Winnebago people.
Yes, the Winnebago used to have a reservation in Minnesota. That history is invisible.
The Winnebago (also known as Ho Chunk) had been forced to relocate several times, as business and settlers moved west and wanted their land. In 1855, they got resettled on a reservation in Minnesota near Mankato, just years before the 1862 Dakota-U.S. War. While they did not participate in the fighting, the war became the excuse for state leaders to remove them to get access to prime farm land.
At the urging of the Minnesota delegation, Congress passed a law exiling the Winnebago from Minnesota before they passed the law exiling the Dakota.
The City Pages story notes that the Knights of the Forest started just after the post-war hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, on Dec. 26, 1862. According to the story:
Among the thousands in the audience that day, some viewed the spectacle through the windows of Mankato’s Masonic Lodge across the street. A week later, a group gathered in secret to form the “Knights of the Forest.” They had a singular goal: “To banish forever from our beautiful state every Indian who now desecrates the soil.”
Two years before the first meeting of the Ku Klux Klan, a secret society of white terrorists had sprung up in Minnesota.
Yet where in this country do we have a museum focused on the trauma of slavery and its legacy? And where in Minnesota do we have a museum dedicated to remember and acknowledge the trauma suffered by the Dakota and Ojibwe nations, their dispossession of lands, languages and cultures, and their legacies?
It was not until late 2014 that a museum opened that was solely dedicated to telling the trauma and horrors of slavery: the Whitney Plantation just outside New Orleans.
The trauma suffered by African Americans and Native Americans differs from events like 911. They are not born of a single event, but span centuries and many, many events. In the case of Native Americans, they include: broken treaties, epidemics, language loss, suppression of Native religions, boarding schools, and more.
How do we tell those stories in a way that gets beyond a retelling of historical facts and really gets to the horror of what happened and how that pain continues today?
For slavery, consider the photograph of Peter (above). He was brutally whipped by slave masters. The photo is disturbing, and abolitionists used it as a visceral way to educate people about the truth of slavery. More recently, the images of the open casket funeral of Emmett Till, a young black boy brutally killed in 1955 in Mississippi. His crime was looking at white woman and the image of his mutilated body shocked the nation.
The brutality suffered by Native Americans can be a difficult story to show. There are some images that might stick in peoples’ minds, such as photos from the 1891 Wounded Knee Massacre. But Native Americans were generally pushed off their land, their suffering hidden from sight. Images of a treaty signing or a boarding school don’t evoke the true devastation that occurred.
This day in history, Feb. 21, 1863, Congress passed a law to expel the Winnebago people from Minnesota. Like many acts of injustice, it was fueled by fear, prejudice and greed.
The fear came from the recent Dakota-U.S. War. While the Winnebago (also called Ho-Chunk) had not participated in the fighting, that didn’t stop rumors that they had. The greed came from the fact that the Winnebago were sitting on prime farm land coveted by white settlers. The prejudice and hatred against Indians was part of the country’s fabric. In this case, that prejudice was institutionalized further through a Mankato-based secret group called Knights of the Forest. It was similar to the Ku Klux Klan, but its story much less known.