U.S.-Dakota War To Be Topic Of Public Presentations

A series of four public programs titled “The U.S.-Dakota War in North Dakota: A Sesquicentennial Discussion” is scheduled to be presented across the state.

The programs are organized by the Center for Heritage Renewal at North Dakota State University, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. Local organizations host the programs in individual communities, which are scheduled for Fort Yates on Friday, March 22; Watford City on Saturday, March 23; Ellendale on Friday, April 5; and Devils Lake on Saturday, April 6. All programs begin at 7 p.m.

“This is a good time to reconsider the events that occurred 150 years ago and shaped Indian-white relations on the northern plains for generations to come,” said Tom Isern, NDSU University Distinguished Professor of History and director of the Center for Heritage Renewal. “These programs not only review historical facts about the U.S.-Dakota War, but also examine the circumstances, actions and values of all sides in the conflict. And then we ask, ‘what does this mean to us as people of North Dakota today?’ ”

Richard Rothaus, CEO of Trefoil Cultural and Environmental and research associate of the NDSU center, is the lead scholar for the program series. Joining him as presenters are Tamara St. John, archivist for the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, and Dennis Gill, a respected elder in the Sisseton-Wahpeton community. Dennis Cooley, NDSU professor of philosophy, will moderate the programs, in which audience discussion is encouraged.

The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862-64, which began with serious violence in Minnesota in 1862, moved into Dakota Territory with the siege of Fort Abercrombie in 1862 and spilled onto the Dakota plains in 1863-64. Actions at Whitestone Hill in 1863 and Killdeer Mountain in 1864 are only the best-known events in a sustained and costly war that involved both Dakota and Lakota peoples, as well as the citizens and armed forces of the territory and nation.

Hosts of the programs and local contacts include:

  • Sitting Bull College – contact Mark Holman at 701-854-8024 or markh@sbci.edu, with program in Science and Technology Center room 120/101
  • Pioneer Museum of McKenzie County – contact Jan Dodge at 701-570-2493 or jdodge@co.mckenzie.nd.us, with program in Watford City High School Media Center
  • Historic Ellendale Opera House – contact Jeanette Robb-Ruenz, at 701-535-0442
  • Lake Region Heritage Center – contact Kristin Wood at 701-662-3701 or lrhc@gondtc.com

For general information about the program series, contact Tom Isern at isern@plainsfolk.com or at 701-799-2942, or visit heritagerenewal.org/dakotawar.

NDSU is recognized as one of the nation’s top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.