LaBatte seeks to dispel myths

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt The Brown County Historical Society’s week-long commemoration of the U.S.Dakota War of 1862 continued Wednesday with a presentation from independent author and historian John LaBatte.

NEW ULM — The Brown County Historical Society’s week-long commemoration of the U.S.Dakota War of 1862 continued Wednesday with a presentation from independent author and historian John LaBatte.

LaBatte spoke at the Brown County Historical Society Annex on the relations between the white settlers and Dakota before the war in late August 1862.

LaBatte has ancestors on both sides of the conflict. Two of his grandfathers were sentenced to hang in Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862, but were among those pardoned by President Abraham Lincoln.

“If not for President Lincoln, I and descendants of 264 Dakota would not be here today,” LaBatte said. “Lincoln is blamed for hanging 38, but we don’t hear the other side.”

LaBatte attempted to dispel myths about the conflict. He feels there are many incorrect statements about the war that are unbalanced and disrespect the white settlers.

LaBatte presented first-hand accounts from settlers prior to the war that hint at a friendly relationship with the Dakota people. Legally Dakota were restricted to reservations at the time, but this was not enforced. He presented accounts of Dakota people freely mingling with the white settlers in town and trading goods. Other records showed the Dakota people would frequently wander onto the land of settlers and enter homes seeking food.

In his research, LaBatte could find little information of white settlers mistreating the Dakota people. He did find accounts from settlers who had friendship with the Dakota and even incidents of Dakota warning their white friends before the fighting started. In over 20 accounts white settlers reported being warned or saved by a friendly Dakota from hostile natives.

LaBatte closed his presentation by showing an image of the Anton Gag painting “The Battle of New Ulm.” The painting was recently removed from the State Capitol amongst charges it was inaccurate and disrespectful to the Dakota people. The main charge was the Dakota in the painting were depicted without shirts.

LaBatte believes the Dakota critics of the painting are using inaccurate information to argue against the painting. LaBatte believes the painting should be put back in the Capitol or returned to New Ulm.

A collection of essays and opinions written by LaBatte is available on his blog “The Dakota War of 1862: Essays and reviews by John LaBatte.”

The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 commemoration will continue Thursday.

At 1p.m. in the Springfield Public Library Dave Martinka will present photos from the war.

At 7 p.m. the New Ulm Public Library will host speaker Glenn Wasicuna. Wasicuna is a fluent first language Dakota speaker and instructor at Minnesota State University-Mankato. He will discuss Dakota culture, customs and worldview.

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