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Remember past, understand it, move on

August 19, 2012
The Journal

There is still a federal law on the books that bans Dakota Indians from living in Minnesota, a holdover from the US-Dakota War of 1862. It was passed in 1863, but has not been enforced for a long time. This year, with the 150th anniversary of the war being observed, woudl be a good time for Congress to repeal that law.

On Friday, a symbolic homecoming ceremony was held on the Minnesota/South Dakota border. A procession of Dakota horseriders and walkers came to the border where they were met with "Welcome Home" signs and greetings from Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. Governor Mark Dayton declared a day of Remembrance and Reconciliation. He repudiated the words of then-Gov. Alexander Ramsey, who called, after the war, for the Dakota to be "exterminated or driven from the state." Dayton said he was "appalled" by Ramsey's words.

We wonder, however, what Dayton might have said were he governor of the state back then. It is easy for us to judge, 150 years later, but no so easy to understand the context of the times, to understand the fear and anger at the time. It was the September 11 attack of its day.

The fear and anger colored US policy toward the Native Americans for generations. We still see vestiges of it 150 years later. We should study it, understand it, and vow to put aside hatred and anger as we move forward in the years to come.



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