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What should we call it?
By Tim Post
Minnesota Public Radio
September 26, 2002

Over the years the U.S.-Dakota Conflict in southern Minnesota has carried different labels. When white historians first wrote the story in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the fighting was referred to as the Great Sioux Massacre or the Great Sioux War. It later became the Sioux Uprising of 1862.

The most popular choice these days in to call it the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862. But some say the term "war" is more accurate than "conflict," and want it changed again. Here's how some of the people interviewed for Minnesota's Uncivil War responded to the question: "What name would you give the fighting in Minnesota in 1862?"

  • "I guess it depends on how politically correct you want to be. The Indians attacked, people were hungry, starving, a lot of things happened and that led up to an outbreak, that's basically what it was, an outbreak, or an uprising."
    -- Lee Taylor - Interpreter at the Minnesota Historical Society's Lower Sioux Agency Site

  • "I think right now the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862 seems to be an appropriate term. I think terminology is of utmost importance. The U.S. never officially declared war on the Dakota in 1862. It once seemed appropriate to call it a conflict. But the Dakota people declared war on the U.S. government and its citizens in 1862. So we really need to begin defining it on our terms, not on white peoples', not by the terms of the U.S. government."
    -- Angela Cavendar Wilson - Grew up on the Upper Sioux Reservation, currently a professor of history at Arizona State University.

  • "It might be called a Dakota Outbreak, a Dakota Massacre. Dakota Conflict is a term I've used for years, and continue to use that term more than any other terms."
    -- John Labatte - His ancestors are both French and Dakota.

  • "We tend not to use the term 'uprising'. When you think about the term uprising, you think about people within a nation rising up against that nation as more of an uprising. But what happened here is two independent nations that met. So what the term went to is The U.S. Dakota-Conflict."
    -- Dan Fjeld - Historical interpreter at Minnesota Historical Society's Lower Sioux Agency site.

  • "It's something like the southern view on the Civil War. They prefer to call it The War between the States, or the Yankee Oppression. I think calling it the Dakota Conflict of 1862 is just fine."
    -- Alan Woolworth - Author of Through Dakota Eyes. He retired from the Minnesota Historical Society in 1997.

  • "It should be called The Great White Robbery of the Dakotas, or the Murder of the Dakotas. But I know it's not going to be called that so it should be called The Dakota - Government War."
    -- Gary Cavendar - Dakota spiritual leader in Prior Lake, Minn.

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