This is a Tale of Two TeePees: one ongoing and the other historical -both in the confines of The City of Lakes aka Minneapolis in the native Ojibwa/Dakota tongues.
The past is prelude so we’ll start there. A controversy is boiling about the use of the term “concentration camp” to describe a forced encampment of Dakota at Fort Snelling back in the 1860’s. After the Dakota War ended the government relocated a large population of Dakota near the Mississippi river bottoms outside the fort.
It was a brutal winter and may people died (white and native). Still, the Minnesota Historical Society saw fit to describe the site as as “concentration camp” in it’s historical exhibit, once again reinforcing the maxim the “they who control the past control the future”:
In “Local exhibit examines prison system’s roots” (Nov. 23), the Star Tribune described a new exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society on the incarceration of American Indians. A few days later, I spent some time viewing that exhibit. While I found it to be interesting, it was also very troubling as it contained misleading information.
There is one overarching focus in the exhibit, and that is the internment camp at Fort Snelling, where Dakota dependents were held the winter of 1862-1863. This camp was established in the aftermath of Minnesota’s U.S.-Dakota War. As I am very familiar with the U.S.-Dakota War but not with later aspects of incarceration, I will limit my comments to the time of the war.
The exhibit refers to the Fort Snelling internment camp as a concentration camp or an incarceration camp. The name concentration camp conjures up images of Nazi camps. This camp was not even remotely similar to the Nazi camps. It was actually a compassionate response by the white authorities.
After the Dakota had killed many hundreds of whites, some very brutally, and held prisoner many women and children, the whites in Minnesota were totally enraged against them, and many wanted revenge. The white military authorities prevented this by taking the Dakota dependents to the camp at Fort Snelling. They were fed soldiers rations, given medical care and protected from vengeance-seeking whites.
Had the Dakota dependents been left to fend for themselves, huge numbers would have been killed by the whites or starved to death, as they did not have food laid up for the winter. None of us today would want those things to have happened.
The exhibit makes the point that many Dakota died in the camp. It is correct in that, although the number of deaths is open for debate. While many Dakota did die in the camp, many people in the white communities also died. Disease took a toll on both communities, as it did among Civil War soldiers. But the exhibit conveniently chooses to present just one side of the story.
While the camp was certainly not a happy place, and most Dakota would likely have preferred not to be there, it did save their lives. It was a rough time, with few good options available to the authorities. Calling the camp a concentration camp is a flagrant misrepresentation.
Which brings us upstream in time and place to the present Native Encampment of the concrete banks of the Hiawatha Avenue highway just south of downtown Minneapolis.
The camp is home to hundreds of homeless and or drug addicted people. It is a complete mess exacerbated by the paralyzed political correctness of the city’s political class and is chronicled at Powerline blog:
Heading downtown Minneapolis several times a week, we watched a so-called homeless encampment grow on a small strip of land along Hiawatha Avenue just before it funnels traffic downtown onto Seventh Street. A tribute to the broken-windows theory of policing, the encampment grew up virtually overnight. Bordering a subsidized Native American housing complex, residents of the encampment reflect the Indian tilt of their neighbors. At one point we saw teepees join the tents.
As the encampment turned into a shithole, municipal authorities jumped to it. They moved four port-o-potties onto a fringe of the strip. That didn’t do anything to clean up the detritus of addiction that littered the grounds. Between September and November four residents of the encampment died of overdoses. The Star Tribune quoted the father of one of the deceased: “It’s a drug house without walls and everyone knows it.” Yet the encampment continued to grow, spilling over the small strip of land on which it originated. It was something like an attractive nuisance.
Long after the encampment had become a disgusting eyesore and menace to public health, the authorities came up with a creative solution of a sort. They installed a green mesh screen to render the encampment less visible to passing traffic.
As the weather has turned toward winter, the encampment has become a fire hazard. Chris Serres reports in the Star Tribune: “Two large fires have broken out at the camp in the past two weeks, destroying about two dozen tents. In both cases, there were reports of propane cylinders used to heat tents exploding, though no one has been seriously hurt.”
Typical of the progressive mindset, present problems are to be conveniently shielded from prying eyes while past “sins” are paraded for political gain.