“Kill the lazy vermin”: Genocide and the Dakota people of Minnesota


Jane Gray Swisshelm was a progressive woman in her day. She edited a newspaper in St. Cloud in the 1850s and ’60s and fought for women’s rights and against slavery. But according to a story on Minnesota Public Radio on September 26, 2002, she also called for the extermination of all Dakota Indians following the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862.

“Exterminate…these red-jawed tigers, whose fangs are dripping with the blood of the innocents,” one of her editorials read; “kill the vermin” read another.

A plaque honoring Jane Gray Swisshelm still stands near St. Cloud University.

Last year the Minnesota Legislature passed a law recognizing April as Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month. In the spirit of that declaration, the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council is hosting a presentation by Dr. Chris Mato Nunpa, who will talk about the continuing aftermath of the 1862 war and how official histories still fail to recognize the genocide that was meted out on Native peoples. He will also unveil plans for a “fish-in” on Lake Phalen this May, in which Dakota people will exercise their rights under their 1805 treaty with the U.S.

The presentation will be held at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, April 22, at the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council office, 798 East 7th Street, in St. Paul. The event is free and open to the public.

Dr. Mato Nunpa is a Dakota elder and historian, a retired professor from Southwest Minnesota State University and a Community Faculty member at Metropolitan State University.

Dayton’s Bluff is the site of the original village of Kaposia and home to many generations of Dakota people. Many important sites are located here, including Indian Mounds Park, once part of a much larger area of mounded burial sites that were looted, vandalized and ultimately leveled; and Wakan Tipi, now known as Carver’s Cave, a sacred Dakota site that is now entombed behind a steel door with no indication of its historical significance.

For more information, contact 651-772-2075 or daytonsbluff@gmail.com.