Remembrance in Stone
Whitestone Hill was designated a State Historical Site in 1904. On this date in 1909, a crowd gathered at the top of the hill to commemorate a new monument. The monument was carved from Vermont granite. At the top of the tall column, a soldier forever stands with his bugle to his lips. The column is surrounded by twenty granite headstones, one for each soldier killed 46 years before. The event began with a military bugle call. Congressman Thomas Marshall delivered the official address. He asked those present to remember that they stood on ground “made sacred by the blood of the soldiers of 1863.”
The Dakota Uprising was a heartbreaking event in Minnesota, but the following years extended the tragedy to the Dakota Territory. In the summer of 1863, General John Pope sent a force into the Territory to end the hostilities. The troops of General Alfred Sully came across a large gathering of Dakota at Whitestone Hill. They had come together to prepare for winter. While some of them had probably participated in the uprising, most had not. Some had even risked their own lives to protect settlers during the violence.
Sully attacked the camp on September 3. He lost 20 men, at least some of them to friendly fire. It is estimated that as many as 300 Dakota were killed. Most of the Dakota dead were women and children. Sully spent the next two days destroying everything the fleeing Dakota had left behind. They burned all the lodges as well as tons of buffalo meat. They destroyed everything from weapons to cooking pots to children’s toys. The Dakota who escaped were left destitute for the coming winter.
The 1909 commemoration made no mention of the Dakota casualties. Marshall’s speech focused on the necessity of supplanting the native culture with white civilization. Over the years, a more balanced evaluation has evolved. In 1942, a small memorial was added to the site to acknowledge the loss of Dakota life. By 1976, the committee that planned a commemoration was determined to honor all those who were killed. And today, 150 years after the event, descendants of Native participants have taken an increasing role in determining how Whitestone Hill is remembered.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Barth, Aaron L. “Imagining a Battlefield at a Civil War Mistake: The Public History of Whitestone Hill, 1863 to 2013.” The Public Historian, Vol. 35, No. 3 (August, 2013) 72-97.
Chaky, Doreen. Terrible Justice: Sioux Chiefs and U.S. Soldiers on the Upper Missouri, 1854-1868. Norman: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2012.
Clodfelter, Micheal. The Dakota War: The United States Army Versus the Sioux, 1862-1865. McFarland and Company, Inc., Publishers: Jefferson, NC: 1998.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. "http://thpo.standingrock.org/programs/display.asp?program_id=THPO&pg=White%20Stone%20Hill" http://thpo.standingrock.org/programs/display.asp?program_id=THPO&pg=White%20Stone%20Hill Accessed August 1, 2014
State Historical Society of North Dakota. "http://www.history.nd.gov/historicsites/whitestone/index.html%20Accessed%20August%201" http://www.history.nd.gov/historicsites/whitestone/index.html Accessed August 1 , 2014