Archived Story

Editorial: Slow the memorial process

Published 9:02am Wednesday, April 4, 2012


As the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War approaches, the issue has been mostly divisive, particularly in the Mankato area.

It shows the complexities of what brought two vastly different cultures to war and the differing views and emotions that remain today.

Some of the public debate has hinged on who was most to blame for the war that took the lives of thousands and resulted in the largest mass execution in U.S. history when 38 Dakota were hanged in Mankato.

But there have also been more nuanced, if not less complicated debates taking place, such as whether certain artifacts should be displayed or what types of markers should be erected.

The Mankato City Council has landed in the midst of disagreement over a proposed memorial by the Dakota that would list the names of the 38 Dakota along with a poem. It would go in Reconciliation Park near the library.

A poem originally proposed for the marker raised concerns for being anti-Christian and inaccurate. A new, more innocuous poem was quickly written to replace it.

But some have raised questions about whether the whole memorial process should be slowed.

It seems a good idea.

The war, although short and widely unknown outside southern Minnesota, has been described by the head of the state Historical Society as the pivotal event in state history. Taking a more comprehensive look at the best way to memorialize events in Mankato and Blue Earth County is necessary.

No one would argue there shouldn’t be a marker and information on the Dakota who died. But so far, that’s been the only real focus of Mankato and Blue Earth County.

Creating one or more markers/memorials that note the deaths and sacrifices of settlers and Indians — and provides as much context as possible — seems the best way to mark this important anniversary year.

The council and those involved should consider a process to bring together representatives of various groups and local governments who could devise a more uniform and comprehensive approach on how Mankato could best memorialize one of the most far-reaching historical events in state history.

— Mankato Free Press, March 25