Students explore primary sources from different participants in the United States–Dakota War of 1862. They include a Dakota chief and a soldier in the US military. Students read and summarize the opinions found in the sources, and then compare the sources to analyze the different perspectives about the war.
This lesson is part of "Great States: Minnesota | Unit 6: United States–Dakota War" which contains an exploration of how the actions and points of view of the Dakota, the settlers, the Minnesota government, and the US government influenced the causes and results of the United States–Dakota war.
188.8.131.52.3: Explain reasons for the United States–Dakota War of 1862; compare and contrast the perspectives of settlers and Dakota people before, during and after the war.
- Tell students that they will be using some primary sources to compare different perspectives of the settlers and Dakota people on the United States–Dakota War of 1862. Explain to students what a primary source is: a first-hand account of an event, such as a document, recording, artifact, photograph, or another original piece. The primary sources they will be exploring are interviews and opinions from different participants of the war.
- Distribute the Primary Sources of the United States–Dakota War handout. Have students begin by reading segments from a newspaper interview, which was conducted in 1894 in which Chief Wamditanka (Big Eagle) discussed his motives for going to war. You may want to give the students background information about Wamditanka: He was born in 1827, near the Minnesota River. He became chief in 1857, and led his community in the United States–Dakota War of 1862.
- Ask the students to summarize Wamditanka’s feelings about assimilation and his motives for going to war.
- Next, have the students read an excerpt in which 1st Lieutenant Clark Keysor describes his feelings about the Dakota people during the war. Ask the students to summarize Keysor’s feelings about the Dakota people.
- Describe the feelings of Chief Wamditanka and 1st Lieutenant Clark Keysor about the war. All sides felt they were justified in their motives for war.
- Chief Wamditanka – white people wanted them to give up their lifestyles and be more “Western,” but the American Indians wanted the freedom to live as they pleased and use the land the way they wanted; American Indians wanted to push the white people out while they were busy fighting the Civil War.
- 1st Lieutenant Clark Keysor – had prejudices that he could not get past while dealing with American Indians, so he could not trust them.