Fort Snelling

Understanding Carceral Fort Snelling in Public Education

Fort Snelling has many histories. One history most often forgotten is its role as a site of mass incarceration - a history in which the United States imprisoned over 1,700 innocent Dakota lives within the same piece of land that brought their ancestors life. 

Was Fort Snelling an internment camp? A prison camp? A concentration camp? Through veiled rhetoric and limited information, the truth is often withheld. To understand how this history is taught - or neglected - today, we must first understand the facts. Here we will attempt to shed more light on this topic in Minnesota's history which is so often overlooked.

Follow ‘Dakota History’ path to experience a brief history of the U.S.-Dakota War and related events that led to the site being a place of mass incarceration. After we review these events, please continue to:

‘Education + Interpretation’ to see an analysis of educational rhetoric and materials used in public classrooms today. The way we talk about mass incarceration and historic injustice says everything about how we value this past. 

To see where Fort Snelling fits into the larger narrative of war, brutalization, and removal, please visit 'Interactive Map.' This resource is especially helpful to visualize the scale of these events in miles, if not in years.

Finally, in remembrance of those imprisoned at the site, please visit 'Camp Census.' This will take you to a list of the names provided in the concentration camp's first census on December 2, 1862.

We recommend visiting each page in order, as it is laid out for a more orderly narrative. However, feel free to use the Table of Contents in the upper left corner to revisit anything you may have missed.