You'll find memorials to slain settlers and battles in locations all over western Minnesota. This sign, spotted near the Belmont Park north of Jackson in 2005 while geocaching, and subsequent research sparked my interest in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. (Bluff Country Reader photo by Lisa Brainard)
You'll find memorials to slain settlers and battles in locations all over western Minnesota. This sign, spotted near the Belmont Park north of Jackson in 2005 while geocaching, and subsequent research sparked my interest in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. (Bluff Country Reader photo by Lisa Brainard)
There's never a dull moment.

That's all I can say about having an incredibly full range of diverse hobbies, activities and interests.

As you've read here, they include - in no particular order - hiking, camping, backpacking, wildflower identification, rock hounding, walking trout streams, canoeing, bicycling, geocaching, gazing at the skies and meteor showers, Indian wars history, archaeology, paleontology, online research, trains, reading, taking pictures, writing, rock art, South Dakota, frontier forts, the Apostle Islands, Boundary Waters and... well... that's what I can think of at this time.

Yeah, sometimes I think I have ADHD onset as an adult (and, of course, as shared by advertising on the Internet) - but, again, there's rarely a dull moment.

When spring, summer and fall turn busy, I am tormented by just what to do - and when. What might I miss by committing to one event, if another event of more interest is announced or discovered later?!?

It's a question of prioritization, as you've likely guessed. Even that can get murky at times.

Dakota War

But for 2012, one interest has clearly risen to the top, as it should. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War (also termed conflict, uprising and massacre) of 1862. Many commemorative activities are planned to take an in-depth look at the event. Quite a few I expect to be one-time-only events.

So this will be the best time for years and years to look at background and the battles, which occurred all along the Minnesota River valley in the western part of the state. Incidents that occurred during the war stretch from near the Iowa border to much farther north at Fort Abercrombie on the Red River. I still need to read up on the latter.

Plains Indian Wars

I first learned of what is now called a "war" in 2005. On a geocaching trip between Jackson and Windom, I ran across a small memorial near Belmont Park in Jackson County. Since then I've come to believe one thing: The Plains Indian Wars, which are usually thought to have occurred in the 1870s and ended with the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890, actually started in Minnesota in 1862.

I say that because the Dakota Indians were later banished to South Dakota and Nebraska after the war. Also, the U.S. Cavalry pursued what it thought to be escaped Dakota Indians into North and South Dakota, although in actuality they were pursuing other tribes that included Sitting Bull and his people. Sitting Bull was involved in the Plains Indian Wars including Little Bighorn - which also included Crazy Horse - and his people later were taken to Wounded Knee. While that's a very brief overview, you can see it all goes back to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

Facebook page

Since I wanted to keep tabs on as many upcoming events related to the 1862 commemoration as I could, I did what any rational fan of the Internet in 2012 would do: I created a Facebook page called "U.S.-Dakota War (Conflict, Uprising) of 1862."

Recently I'd joined Facebook pages dealing with Little Bighorn, as well as the Bozeman Trail (in Wyoming) and Plains Indian Wars. I tried to get a discussion going on the battles of 1862 in Minnesota, but they converse mainly on the subjects of their pages.

Then I had one of those moments where a light bulb came on over my head (you've seen that in the cartoons!): I just needed to create a page specific to 1862.

I checked and there was one page related to the war, but it had few followers and didn't allow comments. To my mind, I wanted interested people to express their ideas, comments and concerns. I discovered it's really easy to set up a Facebook group.

Slate of activities

With that, I started searching online for events this year, as well as a full slate of activities going on near the anniversary date. The first attacks occurred on Aug. 18, 1862.

I was not disappointed! Already many events are scheduled, including that expected full slate at New Ulm in August. Or if you'd like to leave the driving and finding the sites to someone else, as well as enjoying special, expert speakers on the war, try a tour with John Grabko's Historic Adventure and Travel Tours. I took a shorter version of his current trip last fall and it was wonderful.

Just now I searched the Minnesota Historical Society's website to discover the organization, as expected, is also featuring the war this year. I must get that link posted to the Facebook page.


I look forward to not just listing events, but hope there are also discussions on the war on the page. Right now I'm reading a book called "Indian Massacre in Minnesota" written in 1864 by Charles Bryant and Abel Murch. As you can guess by something written so close in time to the sad even, it's a bit prejudicial in its content. Yet, it did take a good look at reasons behind the war on both sides. The book is 504 pages.

It recently occurred to me that I wish I had a good map of the areas in Minnesota where incidents took place, to get a better grasp on how things unfolded. For example, the book spoke of white settlers in one area holing up and hiding on an island in Cedar Lake. I have yet to take a good look at a map to see that location and for some reason, I really want to. (Then again, oops, I missed listing "maps" in my activity list that opened this article.)

So, I'm hoping you'll want to take part, learn more about the war, discuss it, and find a good listing of Dakota war commemorations and tours. Please feel free to join the Facebook page "U.S.-Dakota War (Conflict, Uprising) of 1862." You'll find it at

OH - and P.S. - my second priority for 2012 is rock hounding.

Lisa Brainard is the news editor for the Republican-Leader and Chatfield News. She writes for the Phillips Bluff Country Publishing group of newspapers, which also includes the Spring Grove Herald, Bluff Country Reader, News-Record, and Spring Valley Tribune. She can be reached at: She also photographs many scenic landscapes in her travels near and far, in addition to taking numerous newspaper photos.