After we left Farmfest last week, Bluestem photographer Eric Adams and I rambled over to a DFL fundraiser near Lucan, then stopped at Fort Ridgely State Park at dusk to check out the old fort.
Wishing he owned equipment that could shoot at better speeds for low light photography, Eric snapped the following picture of the moon rising behind a monument.
Later in the week, I visited several other historical sites connected with the 1862 treaty conflict. It seems right to do so in August when the war between Dakota and white settlers was fought, including the Lower Sioux Reservation and the Birch Coolue Battlefield.
I saw few people at any of the spots, despite the proximity of the crowds coming to Farmfest or the approaching anniversary of the war itself.
The empty battlegrounds might provide a gentle reminder of the importance of settling conflict through civic engagement and the democratic process, rather than through anger.
Memories from Minnesota's on war frequently inform the way I look at contemporary troubles; not surprising, given how much of my family on both sides were among some of southern Minnesota's first white farmers.
I remember driving home from the Cities a couple of years ago, listening to the shocked outrage of people on public radio talking about the murder and mutilation of American civilian contractors in Fallujah. What kind of people could do that? People like those who once lived in the place where I not rest my head:
Little Crow's body was transported back to Hutchinson where it was again mutilated by the citizens. His body was dragged down the town's Main Streetwhile firecrackers were placed in his ears and dogs picked at his head. After their celebration, the town disposed of the body in an alley, where ordinary garbage was regularly thrown.
I do not think that remembering the actions of irate pioneers justifies equally barbaric actions on the part of modern Iraqis; rather, that the memories of an old local war that was brutal for both sides ought serve as an cautionary tale when we talk to each other in passionate anger.
Whatever the current tensions may be, this is a good time to visit south central Minnesota's historical sites, from the Jeffers Petroglyphs and the ruins of Farther and Gay Castle to the battlegrounds of the 1862 war.