Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reflective Summary

I started this inquiry by asking "How did the Dakota Conflict change Minnesota?", and as many twists and turns that I took I am comfortable that I can answer this in a non-historical manner by using my wife's family history as the back drop. I found a lot of conflicting information about the conflict, no pun intended. For appearance sake there seem to be two sides to this story, the European settler/U.S. Government point of view and the Dakota point of view.

If we focus on the Settler/U.S. Government point of view we look at the conflict from the perspective that the Dakota declared war on the U.S. and the settlers and killed many innocent people. Some will go as far as saying that these people were murdered and therefore the U.S. Government was justified in their actions of hanging the 38 Dakota in Mankato.

If we focus on the Dakota point of view we look at the conflict from the perspective that the Settlers and U.S. Government were taking advantage of the Dakota to the point of treating them inhumanely by not distributing food and necessities when it was clear that many Dakota people were starving to death. It only seems natural that the Dakota would lash out against the government and its representatives in a manner that seemed to some justifiable considering the circumstances, and the 38 Dakota were the people who were actually murdered.

But, I think a third perspective is missing and is necessary to answer my question about how did the conflict change Minnesota and I will attempt to explain it by asking and answering questions using my wife's family history as a backdrop.

My wife's grandmother and great-grandfather lived near Mendota, MN, where Henry Sibley's main residence and business ventures were located. Where would they have lived had the conflict not occurred? If the conflict had not occurred, my wife's family would have most likely lived in other parts of Minnesota or where ever the Dakota moved to, had they continued to cede land to the U.S. Government. But, that isn't what happened.

My wife's ancestors were considered mixed blood Sioux. And, from what I can determine based on the information I found, they were kind of the forgotten people and also victims of the conflict. As mixed bloods,  it seems they were not considered to be members of the Dakota at the time. They were the product of what historians classify as a business relationship. Many of the fur traders from France and Canada 'married' the daughters of tribal elders and chiefs to establish relationships with the tribe to build trust and friendship so the trader would be allowed to do business with the tribe. In essence, so both would prosper. But, it created a group of people that were not really members of the tribe, nor were they members of what would become western civilization. The Dakota didn't recognize them as Indian, and the U.S. Government and settlers didn't recognize them as white. They were frontiersmen and pioneers who made way for the waves of settlers who would come west in hopes of finding land to settle down on and make out a life of farming and cultivating new communities.

Before the conflict, it appears my wife's family worked for the fur trading companies and may have contracted with the U.S. Government too. After the conflict, their services were no longer needed. After the conflict they did not have a tribe to belong to or a city to move back to. The frontier was becoming settled and the Dakota were being relocated to South Dakota and Nebraska, which reduced and eliminated their opportunities to trade and do business. And, since Francois and Joseph Robinette were killed at the Lower Sioux Agency, the opportunity and need for work disappeared. As a result, it appears that my wife's family moved to Mendota and [continued] to work for Henry Sibley.

For my wife's family, the migratory lifestyle ended. There was no longer a need to travel with the Dakota, because the Dakota were removed from Minnesota and placed on reservations in South Dakota and Nebraska.  My wife's family moved to Mendota and 'settled' in one location as they then worked for Henry Sibley, who continued to be influential in the growth of Minnesota.

The Dakota Conflict of 1862 changed Minnesota by creating a situation where the U.S. Government could more quickly take control of the land by using 'justifiable' force instead of the slow process of negotiating and persuading the Dakota to allow whites to move into the territory, create villages and cities, and change the landscape for reasons that conflicted with traditional Dakota life. In my opinion, the Dakota Conflict of 1862 allowed Minnesota to be settled more quickly, and had it not happened who knows how different it may look today.

Family Connections to the Dakota Conflict of 1862

A KSP643 Inquiry Project.

I intend to use this slideshow as a visual to enhance the oral story I will tell my kids and family about the Dakota Conflict of 1862 and how their family history is involved.

Personal Connection to Inquiry

The biggest difference in my approach toward inquiry for this project compared to how I normally approach inquiry projects involves the initial brainstorming of questions. My inquiry projects usually start with a question or two that I am trying to answer, but they are typically just the jumping off stage in my inquiry. My 'big questions' typically don't drive the entire inquiry like it did in this project. I usually refine and change my question as I look for answers and when I find answers I may not be answering the exact question I started with. In this project I worked to find answers to my question and not morph my question into something that may or may not have resembled it. This was my most challenging aspect of this project, because as I was finding information that was interesting but not necessarily answering my big question, I wanted to go in different directions and abandon my original question to make way for the new questions I was asking as I found a lot of 'other' information. I'm glad that I didn't loose site of my original question, because I feel like I actually found my answer. And, I have many new related questions that I can continue to explore for answers.

Friday, March 12, 2010


How did my project go? I found this project difficult to get started. I feel this way, because it took me a bit to select a topic and then I questioned whether it was the topic I really wanted to do. I found my topic a bit overwhelming at times because I wasn't finding the information I wanted to help me narrow in on my question. And, because I didn't feel I was finding what I was looking for, it was a struggle to blog about what I was finding. Once I found the key pieces of information I found it much easier to blog and organize the information and my thoughts.

For me, the fact that I got frustrated and felt overwhelmed made this experience very valuable, because it reminded me about how my students may feel when they struggle to find answers to questions in my classes. My students often want the quick answer or give up easily when they get confused. The process of asking questions, finding answers, and reflecting along the way reminded me that before we get to that 'a-ha' moment that we will probably feel confused, that feeling confused can lead to good things.  I want to take this experience into my classroom. I think that my students can benefit from a similar activity to this. I plan to integrate similar activities into my lessons.