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The Dakota Uprising  (New Ulm)

(Reprint from News: August 17, 2001)

August 15, 2001


The weather was cool and rainy as I left the Mall of America that morning heading west.  My general destination was the small town of Windom in southwestern Minnesota because I knew that my grandfather (my mother's father) was born there in the 1890s.  I had never been to Windom and, honestly, didn't know much about my grandfather or his father or HIS father, all of whom lived in the Windom area in the 1890s and all of whom died many years before I was born, so I planned to do some research there.  


On my way to Windom, I stopped in the town of New Ulm, settled in 1854 by German immigrants -- I'm just guessing here, but they were probably from Ulm.  Anyway, New Ulm is also one of the oldest towns in southern Minnesota, and it's one of the few towns in the U.S. that was sacked by Indians during the Indian wars of the 1800s.  Back in the early 1860s, the Sioux Indians, or "Dakota" as they call themselves, were angry that the American government had failed to live up to their promises of an earlier treaty, which had forced them onto a reservation.  It's the same sad story that was repeated in every part of the American West during the 1800s, with the American government failing to fulfill its promises to the Indians.


By 1862, much of the U.S. Army had been sent east to fight in the Civil War.  Realizing this, the angry Dakota Indians staged an uprising, killing homesteaders throughout southern Minnesota, including many in New Ulm.  The town residents retreated to Mankato, abandoning New Ulm to the Dakota Indians who then proceeded to burn down most of it.  The Dakota were pretty confused by some of the settlers' belongings, including ladies undergarments, and, quite seriously, walked around the smoldering town while proudly wearing corsets, petticoats, and other unmentionables on their heads.  However, the settlers returned a few months later and, equipped with a fresh supply of ladies undergarments, rebuilt New Ulm into a beautiful city.  


As a kid, I read about New Ulm and the Dakota Uprising in the book, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" which captivated me, and I'd wanted to see this town ever since.  As I discovered, it's really a quaint town and has a lot of charming, old buildings.  After spending an hour visiting the New Ulm museum, I headed to a nearby State Park along the Cottonwood River where I camped that night and, in honor of the German settlers, cooked up some bratwurst for dinner.  But then I do that every night.


   1-6354_Little_Crow.jpg (39076 bytes)   

Above left:  After surviving the Mall of America, I headed south.  This is a bank in St. Peter, Minnesota that apparently also serves pizza (and "chickin" wings).

Above center:  Little Crow was the Sioux warrior who led the Dakota Uprising of 1862 in southern Minnesota.  The uprising was in retaliation for the U.S. Government's failure to abide by a treaty, which had promised food distributions to the Sioux.

Above right:  During the Dakota Uprising, the Sioux sacked the town of New Ulm, Minnesota.  New Ulm recovered, though, and today is a prosperous and beautiful town.



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