19th Century, Culture, government, History, Intercession, Jesus, Minnesota, Native Americans, State Government, war

U.S. – Dakota War Battle of Birch Coulee Sep 2, 1862


Just before sunrise the sharp crack of a warning shot signaled the start of the Battle of Birch Coulee, one of the hardest fought battles of the U.S.-Dakota War. The Dakota kept U.S. soldiers under siege for 36 hours before a relief detachment arrived from Fort Ridgely.*

A coulee is a three-sided valley, and they are fairly common in Southern Minnesota. It seems a fitting symbol for this chapter of history. In conflict, we often take the easy road into a valley, find ourselves surrounded by high ground, and try to fight like mad to get out from a position of disadvantage.

Lord, will You intervene in long-term aftermath of this battle? We have sinned against You and the place of Birch Coulee. Will You forgive the bitter judgments of all participants; whether those charging from high ground, or looking  uphill in terror? Will You make this place a holy site of conflict resolution? To the Minnesotan, American, and Dakotan of this event, and their generations, I speak this truth; “…A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

To many of my contemporaries, even the concept of a Savior, or needing a Savior, is offensive. Yet, I wish to add a confession of behalf of myself, my peers, and especially the Church of this State. We live in a time where “self-determination” is esteemed as a political right, and sometimes as a worldview that shapes much of our decision-making. Will You forgive us this offense, and the places we have become imbalanced in terms of “self”?

We correctly see that we have a right to our “self”, but our trust is broken and incomplete . We don’t see another’s right to “self” because we trust in our rational human abilities, or irrational human emotions. We do not seek, believe in, or rely on an “other” perspective greater than our “self”. So, we do battle, both parties attempting to preserve their precious “selves”.

Yet there is an “other” way! You are the rightful Advocate and Mediator of all our relationships because only You completely see the Infinite worth of every human, every life, all matter, all Spirit under the sun! You would bring Infinity and timeless perspective to our moments of potential conflict if we only inquired, listened, and received Your insights. Will You show us the eternal “win-win”, “honor-honor”, and “mercy-mercy” of our negotiations? Will You teach us the ways of “other-determination”?

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3,4

*P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org , is fantastic! Check it out!



2 thoughts on “U.S. – Dakota War Battle of Birch Coulee Sep 2, 1862

  1. The Indian Wars were sad things. The Indians did not understand the settlers, and I expect most of the settlers saw the Indians as a dangerous nuisance.

    What is most difficult about the whole thing is that the Indian Wars lasted hundreds of years. All that time and no serious effort made to integrate the Indians into the United States.

    I expect the U.S. soldiers would have had an advantage in firepower if they had not wandered into that coulee. Did the officer in charge of that trapped unit hav some explaining to do?

    • I think many things were similar to now. There wasn’t a monolithic response from either side. I can’t help but think that the political and legal push from the East destroyed many areas that could and would have been peaceful with more time, language, and respect.
      As far as the battle specifics, I would have to look into it. I love history. However, PTH is a collection of brief, prayerful interactions with a timeline of about 850 events over the last 400 years of Minnesota’s history. My notes are in the hundreds of pages. I usually am doing a rewrite of something I wrote about 4-5 years ago.

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