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January 24, 2008

Picturing Fort Snelling

Filed under: Podcasts and Slideshows — Matt Anderson @ 7:33 pm

Brian Szott, Curator of Art, looks at changing views of Fort Snelling seen through artwork and photography of the 19th and 20th Centuries. (6 min. 46 sec. / 17.5 MB)

Additional images of Fort Snelling can be seen in the Visual Resources Database. More about Fort Snelling artist Seth Eastman can be found under History Topics, and at the exhibit page for Seth Eastman: Artist on the Frontier.

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10 Responses to “Picturing Fort Snelling”

  1. Anthony Smith Says:

    Excellent look at the history of Fort Snelling through art and images. Curator Szott is interesting and easy to follow. I also enjoyed the fact that the podcast did not overwhelm me with an unnecessary art history lesson, but rather maintained focus on the Fort and how the depiction of it spoke to what was happening during the period.

    The scene where Curator Szott pulls out the 1888 panoramic piece from storage followed by a close up analysis of the different scenes within this image was my favorite. The scene contained quality information yet kept it brief and to the point – exactly what one wants from this type of podcast. I wish they would have done this close up analysis on similar images during the video and I hope MHS uses this technique in the future.

  2. Mona Smith Says:

    The point of view is so clearly that of the dominant culture. The Dakota people merit one phrase, “site of the Dakota internment.” Other phrases reveal the point of view; “fort’s splendid past,” “flexes military muscle.”

    The Dakota view is invisible. The people from whom the land was “purchased,” the people who regard this area as maka cokiya kin (center of the earth) are nearly non-existent. Is it not time to begin ALL stories of this area with the indigenous?

    Ed Eberhardt reply on January 9th, 2010:

    I spent one of the most memorable years of my life at Fort Snrlling–1943-44. I came back to live here after the war and was shocked to see the way Native Americans were treated
    (my best buddy overseas was a Menominee). BUT I also saw the way the Dakota treated the Ojibway as though they were subhuman. Why not talk about that continuing(?) relationship and its history. Are we not ALL brothers?

  3. David Halseth Says:

    Maybe it’s time to stop feeling sorry for the mistakes of the past and embrace Ft. Snelling as a perfect way to preserve the past and learn from the past. Maybe it’s time to work together to preserve the Dominant Culture’s History conected to the Fort and the (so called) “Invisible” Culture’s History together? History isn’t always pretty, clean, or tasteful. But it’s history and it needs to be shared with out the injection of current political slants, agendas and correctness. Let the visitor/ listener/ reader make up thier own minds.

  4. Brian Szott Says:

    I think Ms. Smith makes an important point. Fort Snelling’s past is certainly not a splendid one for all people–past or present. From the Tower of London to Guantanamo Bay, military facilities, by their very definition, have complex and often troubling histories—all of which deserve to be told.

    Allow me to clarify my particular point about the Fort’s “splendid past.” Late nineteenth century landscape artists–in particular those peering through the tinted lenses of the Romantic Movement–viewed the Fort somewhat one-dimensionally. I speculated whether these artists did so with a hint of nostalgia because Fort Snelling after 1880 had already begun to slip into decline.

    Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    Brian Szott
    Curator of Art

  5. Mistory Says:

    I like Fort Snelling I went last year with my class.!

  6. spencer johnson Says:

    I really enjoyed this little video presentation of the forts changing face. I have made it a hobby to collect various imiges of the fort through its changes and to try to understand the life of the common soldier stationed there through its history. the fort is an Icon of Minnesota History and I hope every Minnesotan makes a point to go visit there. Spencer Johnson Hastings Middle School Socil Studies.

  7. JoJo Says:

    While Fort Snelling is a major part of Minnesota’s history. It is also a part of our history in which most people would rather try to forget about. Yes, this fort is the earliest \American\ settlement in the area and was the beginning point for Americans in this state. However, we were not the first people who settled on this spot, we were not even the first white people to be there. The French and the British had traded on this land long before Zebulon Pike decided it was a perfect place to set up a military fort. What is not told about Snelling, purposely or not, is that this was the place where the Dakota believed they were born, and where many died. During the Dakota war, Native men, women and children were imprisoned here. They were treated horribly (which isn’t surprising because all Native American’s were treated horribly then) and starved, causing many to die near the area they believed to be most sacred. In modern terms, Fort Snelling at that point in time would be known as a concentration camp.

    Shane Fite reply on January 27th, 2011:

    It is one thing to critique, even abhor, circumstances, events and aftermaths of history. It is quite another to re-write, partially emphasize, or take events out of context, ie., Dakota prisoners internment likened to the term “concentration camp” of 80 years later. If you want a more apt comparison then compare it to a contemporary event like the internment of Federal prisoners at the Confederate prison in Andersonville or the treatment of southern sympathizers and supposed co-conspirators of John Booth’s.
    Horse theives were hung regularly.
    Would we hang a horse theif today? Absolutely not and appropriately so but in that day stealing a horse was at best stealing livlihood and at worst would cause a man’s death.
    If you look at historical events through a modern lens you run a significant risk of missing all context, rewriting history and losing the lesson.

  8. Jane Skinner Peck Says:

    I would like to speak to the controversy about “rewriting history.” Those of us who read history from many sources soon discover that there is no single correct view of history. It is true that generally the winners write history books. However, life is very complex and there are always many sub-cultures present at any event. Now that we begin to look at some of the other views offered at the time of these events, we see that this is a way to enrich history, not to rewrite it.



An Ounce of Preservation: A Guide to the Care of Papers and Photographs