History center plans program
about Dakota Uprising of 1862
Tuesday, April 01, 2014 4:31 AM
"I have always been interested in history and 'old things,' ever since I was a kid. In pursuing that interest, I began to collect photographs from the 1860s in Minnesota," said Curtis Dahlin, who grew up on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Indian Reservation in northeast South Dakota.
Even though Dahlin is of Scandinavian descent, without any native ancestors, he is an expert on the topic of the Dakota Uprising of 1862, also known as the U.S.-Dakota War. He will present a special program at the Fillmore County History Center (FCHC) in Fountain on Saturday, April 26, beginning at 1 p.m.
Dahlin explained his interest in the events of that time in Minnesota's history grew from a simple fascination with old photographs a little more than 12 years ago to a full-fledged passion for researching that era.
"Among the photos I collected were those of the Sioux, as they were called then, and the Chippewa, Fort Snelling, Minnehaha Falls, et cetera," he said. "I came to know a number of other collectors in the Twin Cities."
In 2001, they self-published a book titled "Joel E. Whitney, Minnesota's Leading Pioneer Photographer."
Dahlin explained the book contained all of the photos they could find that were taken by Whitney in the 1860s. After that book was completed, they looked around to see what other project they could take on as antique photo collectors.
"I looked at the photos I could quickly find of the Dakota Uprising and concluded that there were enough there to do a book on them," he added. "But, what was envisioned to be a group project quickly became my project as I had just retired and this freed up my time to pursue it. Given my interests, history is important to me. The human experience is something we share with all the generations that have preceded us."
Dahlin has written and self-published 13 books, 10 of which are on the Dakota Uprising, and one on the Civil War as it affected Minnesotans.
His titles include "Dakota Uprising Victims: Gravestones & Stories," about the white victims of the uprising; "The Dakota Uprising: A Pictorial History," featuring 275 period photographs of people and places of the uprising; and "Stories and Final Resting Places: Notable Friendly Dakota and Mixed-Bloods on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Indian Reservation," published in 2010, showing the gravestones of these individuals and relating their stories.
Dahlin has also filled volumes documenting the Minnesota state monuments to the uprising, the military deaths on the Sibley and Sully expeditions into Dakota Territory in 1863, one based on newspaper clippings throughout the Civil War and another about the aftermath of the uprising and more.
Additionally, he participated in producing the seven issues of "Minnesota's Heritage," writing some articles for it and commenting on others. "I also contributed an article for 'Trail of Tears: Minnesota's Dakota Indian Exile Begins,'" he added.
While researching, Dahlin was most surprised by the amount of material that is available on the subject.
"I am continuing to study the subject, but not as intensively as I did for over 10 years," he admitted. "I am dedicated to trying to determine the facts, as far as they can be determined. I try very hard to be fair and unbiased, knowing that each of us comes with bias to one degree or another. I want people to understand what took place. It is ultimately all about understanding."
He continued, "This tragic event, which was the most significant in Minnesota's history, resulted in the eviction of most, but not all, Dakota from Minnesota. The state was hugely divided at the time."
Dahlen explained, "The whites intensely hated the Dakota for killing some 650 of their fellow man - men, women and children. In contrast, up to 100 Dakota warriors were killed by the time the war ended at the Battle of Wood Lake on Sept. 23, 1862. Perhaps no Dakota women or children were killed. And the Dakota obviously hated the white man, as they demonstrated by killing so many. Unfortunately, it is still a subject of great controversy, with hard feelings on both sides. We as humans have long memories."
Dahlin's presentation at the Fillmore County History Center, suited for "mostly adults and those who are curious about the subject," will illustrate the conflict and the feelings that the people involved in the uprising experienced.
"This is a fascinating subject, the largest clash between the whites and the Indians since the nation was formed in 1776," Dahlin said. "I have studied the subject long enough so I know it very well, and have interesting stories to relate. Most people do not know much - if anything in some cases - about the subject. One reason for this is that it is still a subject of great controversy, even after 150 years have passed."
Dahlin explained he will relate how different people viewing the same event can, and sometimes do, come to completely different conclusions. He said a part of what audience members will learn is the role soldiers from Fillmore County played in these events.
"This will not be the prime focus of the presentation, but it will be included," he said. "I am looking forward to coming down and discussing the subject (of the uprising). I am happy to take questions from the audience."
Curtis Dahlin will share his presentation on the Dakota Uprising at the Fillmore County History Center, 202 County Road 8 and Highway 52 in Fountain, on Saturday, April 26, at 1 p.m. For more information, one may call (507) 268-4449.