Mankato, Minnesota has the unfortunate distinction of being the site of the largest mass execution in US history. On Dec. 26, 1862, at the end of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, 38 Dakota Sioux Indians were publicly hanged by the US Army for their attack on white settlers in New Ulm, MN. Originally, 303 men were sentenced to hang by President Lincoln himself, although he later pardoned a great majority considering this a compromise. While this is indeed a dark chapter in Minnesota and America’s history, Mankato has not forgotten about it or swept it under the rug.
Reconciliation Park was dedicated along Riverfront Drive in 1997. In 2012, on the 150th year anniversary of the execution, Mankato hosted a Memorial and Dedication, with around 500 Native American and Caucasians both calling for healing and forgiveness. During this ceremony, a large buckskin-looking script was erected with the names of the “Dakota 38”. The opposite site is a poem by Kathrine Hughes: Remember the innocent dead, both Dakota and white. Victims of events they could not control. Remember the guilty dead, both white and Dakota whom reason abandoned. Regret the times and attitudes that brought dishonor to both cultures. Respect the deeds and kindnesses that brought honor to both cultures. Hope for a future when memories remain balance by forgiveness.
After reflection I participated in the 44th Annual Mankato Wacipi honoring the 38 Dakota. Pow Wows are the Native American way of meeting together, to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships, and making new ones. This is a time method to renew Native American culture and preserve the rich heritage of American Indians. http://www.unitednativeamerica.com/hanging.html
Healing in this land happened in a whirl of colors, sights and sounds as the Land of Memories Park was transformed into a Wacipi arena, complete with a Master of Ceremonies and two invited drum groups.
There were Dakota dancers of all ages in full regalia performing with live Wacipi music in two separate performances. I’m always moved by the Grand Entry and enjoy learning various tribal dance styles and had the opportunity twice this year to join the dancers and participate in the Intertribals and Round Dance.
We have so much to learn about healing and forgiveness.