Documentary: 'Little War on the Prairie'

Execution of 38 Dakota Indians
The public execution of 38 Dakota Indians by federal authorities in Mankato, Minn., on Dec. 26, 1862. Copied from a sketch by W.H. Childs in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Jan. 24, 1863.
Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

The controversy over the "Scaffold" sculpture at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis has drawn new attention to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Specifically, a mass hanging in Mankato, Minn.

In 2012, to mark the conflict's 150th anniversary, Mankato native and former MPR reporter John Biewen produced a documentary about it. Though he grew up in Mankato, he heard next to nothing about the U.S.-Dakota war during his childhood there. So he traveled around southern Minnesota to places where key events occurred, to explore what happened in all its complexity.

Biewen also looked at the shifting ways Minnesotans have, or have not, told themselves the story of the Dakota war over the years. The documentary is called "Little War on the Prairie."

Listen with the audio player above.

John Biewen is audio program director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. He's host and producer of the podcast SceneOnRadio.org.

Further reading

• U.S.-Dakota War: '1862 in 2012' Minnesota Historical Society panel

• June 4: Workers make quick progress dismantling 'Scaffold' at Walker

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