ST. PAUL – State Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, has introduced a House resolution to formally repeal federal legislation which ordered the Dakota Indians removed from Minnesota nearly 150 years ago.
The Indian Removal Act of 1863 still exists in federal law. It was enacted by President Abraham Lincoln following the Dakota Conflict of 1862, banishing the Dakota from Minnesota. Urdahl began working to repeal the IRA after Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed him Minnesota’s official state representative to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission last summer.
“This is largely symbolic, but an important step in observing the still-felt aftermath of the Dakota Conflict,” Urdahl said. “The Indian Removal Act has been on the books for almost 150 years and, even though it is no longer in practice, we’re asking Congress that it be repealed.”
Urdahl is a former history teacher, particularly drawn to studying the 1860s. He has published two books to chronicle overlapping events of the Civil War and the Dakota Conflict during that era. Monuments near Urdahl’s Meeker County home mark historic sites of the Dakota Conflict.
This familiarity made it all the more surprising for Urdahl when his Lincoln Commission work led him to discover the IRA still exists in federal books. He discussed the issue with Minnesota bands of Dakota and consulted with several local historians before drafting the resolution to repeal the act.
“The 1860s represent some of the most painful times in our state’s history,” Urdahl said. “The purpose of this resolution is not to look back and judge that era’s right from wrong, but rather to look forward and do what is appropriate now.”
State Rep. Paul Gardner, D-Shoreview, serves on the Lincoln Commission with Urdahl and is a co-author of the resolution. Several other legislators representing districts with Indian reservations also are co-authors, including Reps. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall; Mike Beard, R-Shakopee; Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing; and Lyle Koenen, D-Clara City.
State Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, has authored the Senate companion. Urdahl said he is working through a Minnesota congressman, Rep. Collin Peterson, to ensure the resolution is recognized in Washington, D.C.
Dean Urdahl represents District 18B in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The district includes most of Meeker County and a portion of Wright County. This is Urdahl’s third term in the legislature after being elected in 2002, 2004 and 2006.