John Christenson will present “A President, a Bishop, and the Fate of 300 Sioux Warriors” at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, at the Waupaca Area Public Library.Hosted by Winchester Academy of Waupaca, the program is free and open to the public.
After decades of broken treaties, relentless encroachments on their land, and finally an extended delay in annuity payments, in August 1862, at the end of the first year of the U.S. Civil War, the Dakota Sioux of Minnesota Territory rebelled. Starving, the Dakota were forbidden even to hunt on their former hunting grounds.
Trading posts, military forts and pioneer families throughout the Minnesota River valley came under attack by the Dakota. More than 800 men, women and children died.
Because of federal troop involvement, the uprising was tied to the Civil War. More civilians died during this five-week uprising than in any other single Civil War engagement, according to some authorities.
Kangaroo courts condemned 303 Dakota warriors to hanging. Rev. Henry Whipple, the first Episcopalian bishop in Minnesota, traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with his friend, President Abraham Lincoln, on the warriors’ behalf.
Despite the president’s preoccupation with the Civil War, he personally reviewed the trial records, finding evidence in only 39 cases that might warrant capital punishment. On Dec. 26, 1862, 38 of the 39 were hanged in the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
Christenson, former director of the Traverse des Sioux Treaty Site Museum in St. Peter, Minnesota, was born in Amherst, Wisconsin. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and earned a master’s degree from UW-Madison in library science.
Christenson organized and directed the Traverse des Sioux Regional Library System in Minnesota, where he was executive director for 30 years. He was named Minnesota Librarian of the Year in 1987.
In September 2011, he and his wife took a road trip and visited seven Civil War sites, including Chickamauga, Georgia, and New Madrid, Missouri, two battles where Waupaca Company I of the Scandinavian Regiment (15th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry) fought.
His Norwegian great-great-great uncles August and Finandus Gasmann commanded the Waupaca company in succession in 1862.
Winchester Academy is funded through sponsors and tax-deductible gifts. Christenson’s program is sponsored by Tim Clough and Sue Heideman.
For more information about Winchester Academy vist winchesteracademywaupaca.org, follow on Facebook, or contact Executive Director Ann Buerger Linden at 715-258-2927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.