The events depicted in this painting represent the violent confrontation that occurred between the Dakota people in southern Minnesota and the United States government. The Dakota Conflict trials that took place in 1862 preceded the largest mass execution in American history. The conflict was precipitated when the United States government defaulted on their treaty annuity payment to the Dakota, leaving them in a desperate situation. Dakota warriors attacked local settlers in retribution, but were eventually overpowered by the United States military. Thirty-eight Dakota men were eventually hung, an event depicted in the upper right corner of the painting, and the rest of the Dakota were forcibly removed to South Dakota. Although large numbers of Dakota people have since returned to Minnesota and reestablished themselves on several reservations, the violence and disruption that occurred during this time has left lasting impacts on the Dakota community.
The artist creatively incorporates many of the issues relevant to the event in this painting. The hangings are portrayed in the upper right corner and in the center, Dakota are being forced across the border to South Dakota. On the right edge of the painting, anonymous hands represent the issues of the historical debate as well as contemporary problems; Indian laws, justice, and land deeds.
Through this piece, Yellow implies that Minnesotans perceive themselves as nice but he encourages them to remember their state history as well.