This year marks 150 years since the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, a war that changed Minnesota forever. The chain of events leading up to the war, and its terrible aftermath, are central to the story of Minnesota, producing historical traumas that still echo in those living today.
On Friday, November 23, This American Life, the popular radio program hosted by Ira Glass and distributed by Public Radio International, will broadcast an episode examining the war that resulted in the forced exile of the Dakota people and the hanging of thirty-eight Dakota men.
The program’s website notes:
“Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen says, nobody ever talked about the most important historical event ever to happen there: in 1862, it was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hanged after a war with white settlers. John went back to Minnesota to figure out what really happened 150 years ago, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it much after.”
Gwen Westerman, a Dakota scholar and artist, is one of the people interviewed for this episode. She is the co-author of the book Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota with Bruce White. The book examines the history of the Dakota people and their deep cultural connection to the land that is Minnesota — and is a celebration of the Dakota in the past, present, and future.