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Settler colonial violence from the Dakota Uprising to Gaza

A reader’s view

Brian Ward writes about the Dakota’s resistance to U.S. settler colonialism and its parallels with the current situation in Gaza.

With the recent Hamas attacks in Israel and the proceeding indiscriminate and genocidal attacks on Gaza that have followed have left me lamenting at United States’ settler colonial history.

Specifically, I have been thinking about the Dakota Uprising of 1862. For those that don’t know, the Dakota, over the course of decades, were pushed off their land and onto smaller and smaller reservations and areas as white settlement continued to invade their territory. The U.S. forced them into unfair treaties and agreements over this time. Forced onto a narrow reservation (20 miles wide) along the Minnesota River created these untenable conditions for a people used to the open hunting spaces of western Minnesota and the Dakotas. This left the Dakota with less access to food and their culture. Creating the conditions for Little Crow and others to organize their forces to plan an uprising, which is also known as the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

As much as modern liberals like to think, resistance to these types of conditions is often violent because of the violence that an oppressed group faces every day. Little Crow’s band attacked the Lower Sioux Agency and then attacked settlers throughout the area in an effort to drive the colonizers out of their territory. This went on for five weeks and resulted in the killing of over 350 white settlers, over 100 soldiers, and 150 Dakota including the taking of white settlers as hostages. This is the right to fight your oppressor. Following the uprising the Dakota were forced into a concentration camp at Fort Snelling.

After all was said and done Abraham Lincoln ordered the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Minnesota on December 26, 1862, this is the largest mass execution in U.S. history. The following year the Dakota were removed to what is modern-day South Dakota at the Crow Creek reservation.

For those who are reading this, you can’t help but see the parallels between the conditions in Gaza to those of the Dakota on that 20-mile strip of a reservation that leads to this violence. Today most liberals would celebrate the Dakota’s resistance to colonization and consider it to be a dark chapter in U.S. History. We are seeing the same genocidal policies and military efforts unfold before our eyes in Palestine.

I’m not here to condone violence but one must understand the everyday violence that occurs under settler colonialism in order to understand the violence that reacts to that violence. That goes for the United States, Israel, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and all the other settler colonies in the world.

Long live Indigenous resistance and their right to fight by any means necessary.

Featured image credit: picryl; modified by Tempest.

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Brian Ward View All

Brian Ward is an educator, socialist and activist who lives in Teejop (Madison, Wisconsin, occupied Ho-Chunk Land), and has lived and worked on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota Nation. He contributed to the book 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed U.S. History, and his writing has appeared in The Nation, Truthout, New Politics, Science for the People, Red Madison, Socialist Worker, International Socialist Review, Against the Current, and more.