From: Darwin Strong
Twenty-eight years before the massacre at Wounded Knee, and fourteen years before the legendary battle at Little Bighorn, was Minnesota’s Dakota Sioux War of 1862.
It began on August 17, 1862, and ended with the largest mass execution ever recorded in United States history. By order of Abraham Lincoln, 38 Dakota men were hanged in Mankato, Minnesota, on December 26, 1862. Two other Dakota men, “Medicine Bottle and Little Six,” were kidnapped from Canada by bounty hunters and were publicly executed by hanging two years later at Fort Snelling.
The revolt was caused by failed crops for two consecutive years and the failure of the U.S. Government to ship gold to the Dakota, who had been promised it in return for land they ceded after an 1851 treaty. There was no money to buy food, and the Dakota were starving due to their surplus supplies being stolen by government agents. The younger Dakota then began the war.
In April of 1863, Congress enacted a law providing for the removal of all Dakota people from Minnesota. The remaining convicted prisoners of war who were not executed at the Fort Snelling concentration camp were transported by river boat to Davenport, Iowa, where they were held for three years at Camp McClellan. President Andrew Jackson ordered a release of the 177 surviving prisoners.
They were shipped down the Mississippi river to St. Louis and then up the Missouri river to a desolate area now known as the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota.
In the spring of 2005, Jim Miller, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and a descendant of the displaced Dakota, had a dream. Miller dreamt of a series of horseback rides that would bring not just the Dakota people together, but all whose hearts are affected by this tragic history. It is also to honor the memory and spirit of all the men, women, and children who were forced to march across the cold winter prairies either to the mass hanging site in Mankato or to the large concentration camp at Fort Snelling.
The message that was received in this dream is to raise awareness about how this historical grief has impacted the Dakota people, from the mass execution to the surrounding events. In the end, the final outcome of this dream is to bring reconciliation among all people of the region so that we may move forward and live in a good way with one another.
This is the eighth year since the Wokiksuye (Memorial) Horse Ride began to honor a message and the relatives of the Dakota descendants and people. The ride began on December 10th with a prayer and ceremony at the Lower Brule Nation in South Dakota. An eagle staff bearing 38 + 2 feathers was carried all the way to Mankato by Headsman Peter Lengkeek. The keeper of the White Buffalo calf pipe, Arvol Looking Horse, was also present as the spiritual advisor. Leonard Crow Dog of the Lakota/Nation of Rosebud was present. This is not a political gathering nor does it represent an individual or individuals. It is for the true purpose of reconciliation, awareness, realization, and recognition. It is also the time to remember the loss of lives past and look towards tomorrow for the health and happiness of all people.
When one of the warriors heard their women wailing as they were prepared to be hung, he raised his voice and said, “hear me my people, today is not a day of defeat. It is a day of victory for we have made our peace with our creator and now go to be with him forever. Remember this day to tell our children, so they could tell their children. That we are a people who died a noble death. Do not mourn for us, rejoice with us, it is a good day to die...”
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the execution of the 38 Dakota warriors. On the morning of December 26, the Wokiksuye Riders will depart the Land of Memories Park at 9:30 and will proceed to the hanging site in downtown Mankato and will arrive at approximately 10 a.m. This is the time at which the 38 men were hung. This year we are going to attempt to bring the riders and runners together in one circle because both are of one prayer. In honor of the 38 Dakota warriors there will be six color guards present to remember them as veterans who had served on behalf of their people. They are as follows: Sisseton/Wahpeton Vietman Veterans, Sisseton/Sandman Color Guard, Flandreau/Gordon Weston Lodge, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Crowcreek/Hunkpati Oyate Lodge and a Color Guard representing the city of Mankato. There will be an unveiling of a statue that will honor the memory and the spirit of these men. The statue was created by Martin Bernard of Flandreau, South Dakota [and who lives in Winona]. Once the statue is unveiled, Mr. Sidney Bird of the Flandreau/Santee Nation will speak and read the 38 names of the Dakota men. Art Owen of the Prairie Island Dakota Nation will also be present as a speaker. The Mazakute singers from the Santee/Nation of Nebraska will be present to sing on behalf of this year’s gathering. Mr. Jerry Dearly will be present as the eyapaha/emcee. Other speakers will be dignitaries from the City of Mankato. At this time the eagle feather staff bearing the 38+2 feathers will be passed on to the next chosen headsman for the next four years.