When it comes to the Dakota Conflict, there are two sides to the story. After all, there were two battle lines formed as the U.S. Army faced off against the Dakota people.
One of the presenters at the Wood Lake Battlefield Preservation Association meeting last week had a unique story — Sharon Espland is a descendant of Joseph R. Brown, who was a businessman, soldier and Indian agent during the Dakota Conflict , and Seth Eastman, a soldier and American Indian artist at the time.
Having family on both sides of the Dakota Conflict gives Espland a unique perspective as she tries to see the whole picture of life going on when the conflict began.
“My families crossed paths many times throughout history,” she said.
When it comes to the Dakota Conflict, there are two sides to the story. After all, there were two battle lines formed as the U.S. Army faced off against the Dakota people. Among the battles fought during the 1862 conflict was the Battle of Wood Lake, and for the past several years individuals have been working to preserve the site of that battle. Known as the Wood Lake Battlefield Preservation Association (WLBPA), the group has worked to gain land easements, find grant dollars and gain a better perspective of the history, before, during and after the battle, and some of that perspective was offered this past Saturday in Granite Falls. One of the unique presenters at the meeting represented what one WLBPA member called a type of area royalty. Sharon Espland has a very unique lineage, as she is a descendant of Joseph R. Brown, who was a businessman, soldier and Indian agent during the Dakota Conflict (historic Brown’s Castle was his family home), and Seth Eastman, a soldier and American Indian artist whose daughter Nancy Eastman or Great Spirit Women, was the mother of Charles and John Eastman who both saw successes in their own way. John Eastman was Espland’s great-grandfather, and became one of the first ministers to the Dakota in the area. Having family on both sides of the Dakota Conflict gives Espland a unique perspective as she tries to see the whole picture of life going on when the conflict began. “My families crossed paths many times throughout history,” she said, adding she is trying her best to keep the memory of her family alive. She said the generation following her just does not have the same level of interest in their heritage. Espland commended the group at the symposium Saturday for its efforts to preserve history, adding she had learned things about her family from others who have demonstrated a commitment to keeping that history alive. Elden Lawrence, who is a member of the WLBPA talked about the Dakota way of life and explained the challenges his people continue to face as they try to maintain their own culture in a setting dominated by another. Lawrence said the challenge the Dakota face is some of what they believe even contradicts the white culture. He said the goal of the Dakota in its culture is not to climb the ladder to make oneself more important but to do just the opposite by trying to make oneself less in society. “The way we view the world is different,” he said, adding the underlying issues of cultural differences are going to continue to be an issue until both cultures make an effort to understand each other. Tom Hosier, WLBPA president, said the work toward preserving the battlefield site continues, adding the group recent received a grant from the Civil War Preservation Trust to help put together a plan that would not only preserve the site but would help to interpret it and make it available for the public. Phil Thomason of Thomason and Associ-ates in Nashville, Tenn, presented a plan to the board and other symposium attendees about everything form walking trails to the efforts of gaining more land easements in the area in the future. Calling the site a Civil War battlefield location, Thomason said it is a unique piece of ground, not only because of its location in Minnesota but also because of its history as part of the Dakota Conflict creating different historical context. The ultimate plans for the site are going to be up to the WLBPA, said Thomason, but he thinks a good plan in place could really enhance tourism at the site and economic tourism for the region. The WLBPA current has a 54-acre easement at the site, and its hope is to take that easement in the future and get the site back to its original look when the battle took place.