In an August 24, 2012, Minnesota Public Radio interview, Jan Klein, a descendant of white settlers killed in the US- Dakota War of 1862, described her role as one of the 85 people advising the Minnesota Historical Society about the content of the 1862 exhibit now at the History Center in St. Paul. Klein began with the goal of making sure that her white ancestors were not forgotten. However, as a result of seeing the final product, she had a revelation:
She says she had no idea of the starvation and other privations the Dakota endured that sparked the war.
“The kicker was, we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain. We did not pay them the annuities in a timely way. And there were white traders who pilfered money off the top claiming debts. I learned all this since I first got involved. I had no idea,” she said. “You might say, “Why didn’t they go to war against the government, why did they go to war against the whites, they did nothing to deserve? ‘But that was obviously the only way they could get their attention.”
She says her empathy for the Dakota people has grown. And she faults the federal government for failing to meet terms of its treaties with the Dakota.
She says the Minnesota Historical Society exhibit does a good job of explaining what happened to all sides including the white settlers in the 1862 war.
“I’m grateful that they used the story, because that was my goal … to get the word [out], that these were true, actual people that this happened to,” Klein said.
She believes the exhibit achieves that goal. Her hope now is for reconciliation among descendants of the individuals and families whose lives came together so tragically 150 years ago.