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Author Archive: "Scott W. Berg"

Why We’re Drawn to Tragedy

The story of the Dakota War of 1862 — a six-week clash between Dakota warriors and white soldiers on the Northwestern frontier that left hundreds of settlers dead and culminated in the execution of 38 Native Americans on the day after Christmas, the largest mass execution in United States history — is grim. Its troubling outcome reverberates all the way up to the present, especially for the descendants of the thousands of Dakotas who were forced out of Minnesota in the war's aftermath. And though whites in 1862 claimed victory (and quickly claimed vacated Dakota lands), many had seen their neighbors or family members murdered and their communities ripped apart, while later generations of Minnesotans have gradually come to understand that thorny issues of indiscriminate revenge and insufficient justice remain difficult to reconcile with origin stories too-often scrubbed clean of most difficult, and important, questions .

Anyone writing a book like 38 Nooses must, at some point, ponder our endless appetite for tragedy. I've chosen, after all, to make myself the bearer of much bad news. Still, from the earliest days of my archival research on the subject, ...


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