Reprint from:  News:  August 17, 2001

The 1862 Dakota Uprising

The weather was cool and rainy as I left the Mall of America that morning heading west.  My destination was the small town of Windom in southwestern Minnesota, because my grandfather (my mother's father) had been born there in the 1890s and I wanted to see it.  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 hoped to do some family research there.  


Above:  Little Crow was a 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.

On my way to Windom, I stopped in the pleasant town of New Ulm, settled in 1854 by German immigrants (I'm just guessing here, but they were probably from Ulm).  New Ulm is also one of the oldest towns in southern Minnesota and, interestingly, is one of the few towns in America 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.  The Sioux had moved onto a reservation, as they promised, but the U.S. government failed to uphold their part of the deal by not providing them with food and provisions.  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's residents retreated to Mankato, abandoning New Ulm to the Dakota Indians who burned down most of it.  However, the settlers returned a few months later, after the uprising had been suppressed, and rebuilt New Ulm into a beautiful town, which it remains today.


I had read about the Dakota Uprising in the book, "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" when I was a kid.  The story about the uprising captivated me and ever since I've wanted to see New Ulm.  As I discovered, it's a wonderfully quaint town and has a lot of charming, old buildings.  I spent an hour visiting the New Ulm Museum, learning more about the uprising, then I headed to a nearby state park along the Cottonwood River late in the afternoon, where I camped for the evening.  And in honor of the German settlers, I even cooked up some bratwurst for dinner.  But then I do that every night.



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 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.



Above left:  An old gas station in New Ulm with 15 cents-a-gallon gasoline.  Fill 'er up!

Above right:  Many small towns in the Midwest have quaint, humorous celebrations, like Buttered Corn Day in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota.  But it's August 16-19, so shouldn't it be Buttered Corn DAYS?