From: Richie Swanson
The last day of the Dakota Homecoming, Winona Daily News ran a full-page ad ensuring Winona of its “rock solid” commitment to the community. But Chris Hardie, executive editor, revealed terrible disconnection, writing a lopsided story about the 1862 conflict.
Hardie repeated a bias of 19th century newspapers. He detailed in depth the survival of his fourth-great-grandmother and deaths of ancestors, settlers near Willmar. WDN detailed only white tragedy, failing to balance the account of Hardie’s family with any particular Dakota tragedy.
WDN might have run an in-depth story on Winonans reaching out to Dakotas. It lost opportunities to conduct in-depth interviews with Dakotas visiting town, to help our community learn how Winona’s first people were starved, murdered and displaced.
Hardie oversimplified the treaty payments that helped instigate the 1862 conflict. He made an excuse for our government, “attention and money diverted to the Civil War.” He didn’t detail ruthless treaties as thoroughly as family history.
Jefferson already had a plan to dispossess Indians when he commissioned Pike to explore the Mississippi, 1805. Jefferson planned to expand fur trade and burden Indians with so much debt they would cede lands. Minnesota icons like Sibley, Ramsey and Joseph Brown got rich, and Christian institutions got money designated for Indian education while native culture became illegal.
In WDN’s ad Hardie also boasted about Lee Enterpise’s association with Mark Twain. This was tasteless during the Dakota Homecoming. Twain gave the world its most famous stock Indian villain. He characterized Injun Joe as a deceptive coward. He achieved the psychological wish of many 19th century Americans, killing the savage, placing him forever out of sight. He also derided Indian culture while steam-boating through here in Life of the Mississippi.
“Because America refuses to reject its colonial past, it continues its acts of destruction, murder, rape, and theft,” wrote Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Dakota scholar, in Why I Can’t Read Wallace Stegner.
WDN didn’t totally deny colonial excesses. Its overworked reporters and openness to writers like me deserves appreciation. But as for the homecoming, reports of its editor’s commitment to our community were greatly exaggerated.