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Authors present their works, discuss Dakota War issues

August 22, 2012
By Fritz Busch - Journal Editor , The Journal

NEW ULM - Authors involved with 150th commemoration events of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 told of their works and took some stands on issues Tuesday afternoon at Turner Hall.

New Ulm resident John LaBatte, who is part Dakota, said he sought to dispel a number of "myths" regarding discussion and media reporting of events of 1862.

"I am insulted by reports that Fort Snelling was a concentration camp," LaBatte said. "Remuneration and repatriation are not the right words to describe what should be done now either. Education and understanding are the right words."

Other "myths" LaBatte said he wanted to dispel are that the Dakota were forced to live on reservations and trade with fur traders on reservations, and that Germans and Indians hated each other.

LaBatte called for balance in reporting what happened 150 years ago.

He will discuss the causes of the U.S.-Dakota War from 7 to 9 p.m., today at Turner Hall.

"It's much more complicated than most people think," LaBatte said.

Corinne Marz, a Dr. Martin Luther College graduate with area roots including Dakota and French ancestors, said she extensively read microfilm at the Minnesota Historical Society and r many books about the U.S.-Dakota War before writing her own books including "The Dakota Indian Internment Camp at Fort Snelling, 1862-1864."

"Far too many Dakota, about 1,400, were exiled from Minnesota. About 200 were released from Fort Snelling due to their non-involvement in the war," Marz said. "Dakota were protected from 'hooligans,' which is probably a nice word, at Fort Snelling after the war. They went to Mendota and St. Paul during the day, fished and did laundry in the river but stayed at Fort Snelling at night."

Don Heinrich Tolzmann of Cincinnati, the author and editor of many books on German-American history and culture, said Flora Township in Renville County where his family settled was the deadliest place to live in 1862 with 221 settlers killed in the U.S.-Dakota War, 39 in Flora Township alone.

"It was relatively safe in Fort Ridgely and New Ulm, but on the frontier, there was no defense, just survival," Tolzmann said.

Mike Keigan of Aitkin County, said he learned about the often unheard, unusual stories before writing "Heroes of the Uprising."

His accounts included an 11-year-old boy carrying his one-year-old brother from Lake Shetek to Mankato, and a 14-year-old boy who stopped and faced attacking Dakota while on the run to save the lives of his brother and father.

Loren Boutin, who wrote about Cut Nose - who led Dakota warriors before he was hung Dec. 26, 1862, in Mankato - said the grave of Cut Nose and other Dakota graves was dug up and the bodies were sold to be used for medical research.

Boutin said most of Cut Nose's skeleton remains in a Mayo Clinic museum in Rochester while other parts of his body were buried on the Lower Sioux community near Morton.

John Christgau read from his book "Battle of Birch Coulee" about 17-year-old Robert K. Boyd, who wanted to fight in the U.S. Dakota-War so bad, he ran away from his southeast Minnesota home and wound up at Fort Ridgely. Christgau said Boyd's duties included burying dead settlers whose bodies were strewn on the prairie. Boyd found himself in a fierce battle at Birch Coulee in which he was hit by three bullets. He sought safety by crawling into a deep hole as bullets flew around him.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at



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