Today’s adventure yielded so much more than we ever expected even from a Minnesota Historical Society site. The human history at what became Fort Snelling here at the confluence of the Minnesota and the Mississippi Rivers began at least 10,000 years ago according to the archeological record. To the Dakota who resided here at the beginning of the French fur trade era, this is a sacred site, Bdote, the place of their creation. This fort also played a central role in the US-Dakota War of 1862, a horrific episode in the westward expansion of the United States. We arrived with time to spare before the 11:30AM General Tour so we wandered briefly through the trades shops watching a blacksmith, a wheelwright, and a fish weir builder at their crafts. Then on the tour we got great overview of the history of this site spanning the Dakota Creation, the French Fur Trade, the Zebulon Pike expedition, the construction of the Round Tower, built in 1820 and considered the oldest building constructed by European-Americans in Minnesota, through the American Civil War, World War I, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and World War II, to present. We were fascinated with the Military Intelligence Service Language School where Japanese-Americans were recruited from interment camps and educated to serve as code breakers and interpreters and the all African-American 25th Infantry. But the part of Fort Snelling history that most captivated us was learning about the service of enslaved people that served the officers there, including a future US President, Zachary Taylor. The most compelling story of all though was of Dred and Harriett Scott. We stood in one of the rooms where they worked and lived at the fort and learned that after their time as slaves at Fort Snelling in the Unorganized Territory where slavery was outlawed that they sued for their freedom under Missouri’s judicial standard of “once free, always free” by which quite a few slaves had succeeded in gaining freedom. However the Scotts lost the case. Ultimately in 1857 the US Supreme Court upheld the Missouri decision with the Dred Scott Decision, but further inflamed the division between North and South and pushed the country towards civil war. Back at the Visitors Center we invested in a copy of Seth Eastman: A Portfolio of North American Indians and a t-shirt then headed to Brothers Meat and Seafood in Maple Grove before heading back to the camper and cooking up a birthday feast on the Weber Q. Life is good!

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