Minnesota History: Building A Legacy

Legacy Funds Create New Access to Critical Chapter in Minnesota History: The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862

“A Meeting of the Grandfathers,” by Lyle Miller

“A Meeting of the Grandfathers,” by Lyle Miller, painted for the Minnesota
History Center's exhibit, “The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862”

Many Minnesotans say that while growing up, they didn’t learn much about the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862— even though it was pivotal in shaping our state and who we are today. With the help of Legacy funds, the Minnesota Historical Society has created many new, compelling ways to help students, teachers and the general public learn about the war, its causes and its aftermath, during the war’s 2012 sesquicentennial and beyond.

Inside the “U.S.-Dakota War of 1862” exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, visitors examine evidence, hear heart-wrenching stories and learn about the broken treaties and promises that led to this disastrous chapter in Minnesota history. The exhibit incorporates multiple viewpoints as well as historical and contemporary voices. Visitors are encouraged to make up their own minds about what happened and why, to discuss what they are seeing and learning, and to leave comments.


“The history of the U.S.-Dakota War is complex and compelling. We hope the exhibit inspires visitors to learn more, do their own research and uncover the truth for themselves.”
~ Senior Exhibit Developer Kate Roberts


An interactive, multimedia-rich website, usdakotawar.org, reveals stories of survival, resilience and healing while using primary resources, oral histories, maps, multiple perspectives and interactives to tell the history of the war, its causes and its aftermath. The public is invited to join discussions and also to post their family history related to the war in the “Share Your Story” section of the website.


“This comprehensive website will help people everywhere in Minnesota and beyond learn, in a new way, about an incredibly important time in state and U.S. history. Because the site uses video, audio and interactive tools, we’re confident it will engage middle and high school students with this history.”
~ Rose Sherman, Chief Information Officer for the Minnesota Historical Society


An oral history project features dozens of personal, family stories told by descendants of those touched by the war. Society staff conducted interviews in homes in the Minnesota River Valley and in tribal community centers on Dakota reservations. The oral histories have been added to the Society’s collections and are available for all to hear and read at usdakotawar.org/stories.


“Oral histories capture stories of families in their own words and they give us perspective unlike any other. These histories are personal and heartfelt and the interviewees are passionate about their family’s place in the story of Minnesota.”
~ Deborah Locke, Oral History Project Manager