Predictable Push Back: D.J Tice’s Stale Arguments Against Reinterpreting Fort Snelling

Historic Fort Snelling

Star Tribune columnist D.J. Tice offered predictable and flawed push back against needed truth telling at Fort Snelling.

Tice’s opinion piece — Fort Snelling: New Vision, Old Wounds — focuses on plans to renovate and reinterpret the Fort, plans which would give a prominent place to acts of injustice and cruelty that were part of Minnesota’s founding and whose legacy continues today. Plans would bring forward stories about the brutal concentration camp below the Fort that held Dakota women and children following the Dakota War of 1862, a camp where hundreds died. It would talk about the Dred Scott case and the fact that Scott was held at Fort Snelling.

This new narrative would challenge the political correctness of a prior age.

Tice uses several common arguments to push back against such truth telling.

  1. The Plan is Too Critical of the Past: Tice mixes the Fort Snelling debate in with recent efforts to remove Confederate statues in the south and to restore the name Bde Maka Ska to Lake Calhoun. He wraps them under the broad heading of the “new censorious spirit” of our age. (Censorious, according to Merriam Webster, mean hypercritical, fault finding, or carping. It’s basically a put down for those seeking change.)
  2. The Plan Needs More Historical “Balance”: Tice seems to argue that it’s okay to add some stories of past injustices, but apparently we shouldn’t overdo it. History needs to be balanced.
  3. The Plan Victimizes Veterans: Tice cites retired National Guard Gen. Richard C. Nash, raising concerns that the fort’s military history will be pushed aside and replaced with more painful stories.  This “zero-sum” thinking raises the fear that adding to the historical narrative unfairly diminishes the Fort and veterans’ stories.

Tice’s closing paragraphs argues for a blame-free and “balanced” historical narrative:

One might wish for an approach to history in which the very purpose is to try — not so much to condemn or to justify — but to understand the passions and motives of all peoples of the past. Yet maybe a truly balanced view of history has always been too much to expect.

It is, though, what Minnesota should strive for.

Tice’s narrative doesn’t go for balance. He prefers emotionally charged words, such as “censorious,” “score-settling,” “reproachful,” and “villainous whites and victimized minorities.” Continue reading

The Fort Snelling Redesign: Will the Project Live Up to Promise?; Vizenor Speaks Out

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The Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) is seeking $34 million in state bonding money during the upcoming legislative session for what is expected to be its largest building project in the past quarter century: The Fort Snelling Redesign.

Fort Snelling 1844 (Photo from Wikipedia)
Fort Snelling 1844 (From Wikipedia)

It’s still early in the porcess. If MHS gets state funding, and if it raises another $12 million privately, the revamped Fort Snelling experience will be done by 2020, the Fort’s bicentennial.

The Historical Society is taking its design plans on the road to get public input. It wants to tear down the current visitors center, add an outdoor amphitheater, and rehab one of the old cavalry barracks to make an expanded visitor center and event space. Continue reading