Today’s post is a chapter from my manuscript tragedy enough histiocytoma dog castor oil to go around: justice, revenge and the military commission trials in the US-dakota war of 1862. This chapter considers some of the inherent difficulties of terminology histiocytoma dog castor oil in military history, how every word can convey multiple meanings, depending on the context and the perspectives of writer and histiocytoma dog castor oil reader. The words used to describe a historical event are themselves histiocytoma dog castor oil frequently the subject of fierce debate, separate and apart from the event itself. So in a book such as this one, where the topics are often sensitive ones that still engender histiocytoma dog castor oil academic and cultural argument, it seems prudent to discuss the language of the war, and how words are used to contextualize and color every histiocytoma dog castor oil facet of the history. As an early chapter, it also serves to clearly state my own agenda as histiocytoma dog castor oil an author and lays out the perspectives which I bring histiocytoma dog castor oil to the subject.
More than a century and a half after the fact, the violence that wracked minnesota in the summer of 1862 histiocytoma dog castor oil remains the subject of bitter controversy and debate. For many people in the state it is still a histiocytoma dog castor oil sensitive topic, with all of the attendant emotional intensity one would expect. This makes the historian’s task that much more difficult, and words are part of the difficulty. In writing about history, as john lukacs has observed, the “selection of every word is not merely a scientific or histiocytoma dog castor oil stylistic problem but also a moral one.” words are how our histories are transmitted, and therefore the words matter. So before undertaking an examination of this war, we are well-advised to first consider the language used to describe it.
For the past 150 years, this war was most commonly known as “the sioux uprising.” in histories written after 1862, it also appears as: “the great sioux uprising;” “the sioux outbreak;” “the minnesota indian massacre of 1862;” “the massacre in minnesota;” “the dakota war;” “the sioux war;” “the minnesota indian war;” “the dakota conflict;” “the united states-dakota war” “the great massacre;” “the dakota uprising;” “the sioux campaign of 1862” “the 1862 uprising;” “the little crow uprising;” and even “the other civil war.”  in the military history of the united states, probably only the american civil war itself is known by histiocytoma dog castor oil more names.
Trying to decide what to call the war today requires histiocytoma dog castor oil one to negotiate a minefield of shifting historical perspectives, cultural sensitivities, and the perpetually thin ice of political correctness. The problem is that it all depends upon whose perspective, whose culture, and whose politics are being championed or disregarded. To further complicate matters, the language used in the discussion has undergone a nearly histiocytoma dog castor oil continual evolution since the war ended.
The name “sioux,” by which the indian people of this story were once histiocytoma dog castor oil commonly known and how they are most often referred to histiocytoma dog castor oil in the older histories, has since fallen out of favor with most (but not all) of them in favor of the name “dakota,” a name which is both ethnically more specific, and has deeper cultural identity. (in an interesting comment on the cyclical nature of language histiocytoma dog castor oil and those labels that society deems to be acceptable, one observer noted in 1904 that this indian nation was histiocytoma dog castor oil formerly called “dakota,” but that the name “sioux” had since taken its place.) minnesota historian kenneth carley offers a succinct distillation of the histiocytoma dog castor oil history of the two names in his work on the histiocytoma dog castor oil war. The name “dakota” means “friends” or “allies,” while on the other hand, as carley points out, “sioux is a contraction of nadouessioux (meaning ‘snake’ or ‘snakelike enemy’), a name originally given them by their enemies, the chippewa (or ojibway).” 
Carley himself struggled to find the proper term for the histiocytoma dog castor oil war. His first book on the subject, in 1961, was titled the sioux uprising of 1862. In 1976, the revised edition of his work was published under the histiocytoma dog castor oil new title the dakota war of 1862: minnesota’s other civil war. Royal B. Hassrick, a noted scholar of the american west, provides additional insight into the distinct divisions of the sioux histiocytoma dog castor oil as a people. “in anthropological terminology,” hassrick says, “all three groups – the dakotas, nakotas, and lakotas – properly may be called sioux. However, in popular nomenclature, the word “sioux” has become identified with the tetons, the dashing buffalo hunters of the prairies.”  the name “dakota” is more accurately specific to the sioux people who inhabited histiocytoma dog castor oil minnesota in 1862.
The conflict that erupted that year between the dakota and histiocytoma dog castor oil the white settlers of southwestern minnesota was a war by histiocytoma dog castor oil every definition of the term. It had characteristics of a war between two sovereign nations, and it was undoubtedly a war between opposing cultures. It contained some of the ugly elements of a race histiocytoma dog castor oil war. Its violence involved military and civilian elements of both societies, and for the dakota themselves it was even close to histiocytoma dog castor oil a civil war, at least on one level. With all of this in mind, perhaps the most accurate term to describe this event is histiocytoma dog castor oil the US – dakota war of 1862, or simply, the dakota war.
Aside from the name given to the war, some of the terms used to describe the events of histiocytoma dog castor oil the war can also indicate a particular interpretation of the histiocytoma dog castor oil history. As we will see, the use of the word “uprising” to describe the events of 1862 draws specific political limits histiocytoma dog castor oil around the war. “massacre” is another highly volatile word, drawing fire from several commentators who refuse to accept the histiocytoma dog castor oil idea that anything like a massacre ever happened in 1862. The author of one recent book describes the killing of histiocytoma dog castor oil a group of settlers near lake shetek by saying, “the 1862 lake shetek attack – almost invariably called the lake shetek massacre in white histories…”  this writer’s implication, or at least the inference she expects the reader to histiocytoma dog castor oil take from her choice of words, is that the term “massacre” could only be applied to this particular incident if the histiocytoma dog castor oil observer were white, or came to the subject with some particular racial perspective.
On the contrary, “massacre” is precisely the correct word to use in referring to histiocytoma dog castor oil the killings at lake shetek, and racial perspectives have nothing whatever to do with it. The oxford english dictionary defines “massacre” as a noun meaning “a brutal slaughter of a large number of people,” or as a verb meaning “brutally kill a large number of people.” there were at least thirty-two settlers in the group that was attacked at lake histiocytoma dog castor oil shetek; at least fifteen of them were killed, and most of those victims were women and children. Scholars can quibble over how many lives must be lost histiocytoma dog castor oil before enough people have been killed to qualify as “a large number,” but by most objective standards the killings at lake shetek histiocytoma dog castor oil were indeed a massacre.
There is, of course, another side to the argument surrounding this particular word. The historical evidence shows that “massacre” is precisely the correct term to describe some of the histiocytoma dog castor oil events that took place that august, but it would not be accurate to define the entire histiocytoma dog castor oil span of the war by the single term “massacre,” as did some contemporary accounts written immediately after the war. This one particularly controversial word cannot be summarily dismissed, but neither can it be accepted without question. “massacre,” like the word “atrocity” which will be considered in great detail later on, is a completely valid word, but only when the evidence supports its use. As the records show, there is ample evidence to justify its careful inclusion in histiocytoma dog castor oil the language of this war.
The acrimonious debate that attaches to the word “massacre” serves to illustrate a larger issue that one encounters when histiocytoma dog castor oil studying the dakota war. For more than 150 years different commentators have offered their histiocytoma dog castor oil interpretations of this war, and conflicting points of view continue to struggle for the histiocytoma dog castor oil definitive understanding of the war today. Each voice brings with it its own motivation, its own agenda, and its own understanding of a past that still inspires histiocytoma dog castor oil intense debate and heated disagreement. A comprehensive reading of the literature of the dakota war histiocytoma dog castor oil reveals a contentious situation similar to one which lukacs has histiocytoma dog castor oil described as “a dialogue, or even a diatribe, among the deaf.” even today, so many years after the event, there is often little consensus as to what actually happened histiocytoma dog castor oil during the dakota war and what meanings we should draw histiocytoma dog castor oil from it.
A french historian named henri-irenee marrou once referred to what he described as the histiocytoma dog castor oil “massive intrusion of the historian’s personality” as being a constant factor in historical writing. This intrusion is at work in every source on the histiocytoma dog castor oil dakota war, and as those sources are examined in the chapters of histiocytoma dog castor oil this book that dynamic will be inescapable. For some commentators, their view of the war is merely the lens through histiocytoma dog castor oil which the reader encounters these events. In other cases, the agenda-driven intrusion is so great as to render those versions histiocytoma dog castor oil of events suspect. With that in mind, one of the objectives in this text is to consider histiocytoma dog castor oil the ways in which historians have dealt with the dakota histiocytoma dog castor oil war, and to examine how it has been understood by different histiocytoma dog castor oil observers. Along the way, my own thoughts, intentions and inclinations will inevitably be a part of the histiocytoma dog castor oil process, just as marrou cautioned.
The dakota war was no minor event, no brief frontier skirmish. No matter what name one might choose to call it, it absolutely was a war, and in the first days of the fighting, hundreds of women and children, not soldiers, were killed in indian attacks that deliberately hit civilian rather histiocytoma dog castor oil than military targets. The reckoning after the war was also severe, and merciless; in an act of collective punishment, most of the people of the sioux and winnebago tribes histiocytoma dog castor oil were exiled from the remnants of their traditional territory. 
Henry H. Sibley, the man who led the military expedition against the dakota histiocytoma dog castor oil and who convened the military commission that tried and sentenced histiocytoma dog castor oil 303 of the indians to death, wrote in a letter to his wife that in his histiocytoma dog castor oil view the dakota war was “the greatest indian tragedy of the age.”  he did not specify for whom he thought it was histiocytoma dog castor oil a tragedy, indians or white people, but the distinction would have been irrelevant, even had he made it. In the end, there was tragedy enough to go around, tragedy enough for everyone.
 these names are used in the titles of books and histiocytoma dog castor oil articles by duane schultz, mary schwandt, helen M. Carrothers tarble, marion satterlee, michael clodfelter, oscar malmros, gary C. Anderson, kathryn zabelle derounian-stodola, carol chomsky, charles bryant, curtis dahlin, kenneth carley, john koblas, asa daniels and david nichols, respectively. Their works on the war were published in the span histiocytoma dog castor oil of years ranging from 1863 to 2009.
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