Following the US-Dakota War of 1862, 38 Dakota warriors were executed the day after Christmas 1862 in Mankato, Minnesota. This remains the largest public execution on American soil in United States' history.
Each year, Dakota people ride 330 miles from South Dakota to Mankato in memory and reconcilation. At KEYC-TV, Shawn Loging reports on this year's ride in Dakota 38+2 Ride On 330-Mile Journey Of Reconciliation. At the Mankato Free Press, Trey Mewes reports in Remembering the past, Dakota preach forgiveness, healing:
Hundreds of people gathered in the cold and the snow at Reconciliation Park Saturday morning, trying to heal.
Some of them traveled hundreds of miles on horseback. Others had spent the night running from Ft. Snelling. Many just wanted to take part in a ceremony honoring the execution of 38 Dakota warriors more than 150 years ago.
Continuing a decades-long tradition, Dakota, Lakota and other Native Americans traveled to Mankato to honor the 153rd anniversary of 38 men who were hanged at the end of the Dakota War of 1862. They also came to preach forgiveness for the U.S.'s persecution of Native Americans in the 19th century, and to move forward with their respective cultures. . . ..
Read the rest at the Free Press. On Christmas Day, the Star Tribune published a photo Gallery: Dakota 38 honored on horseback ride.
Some scholarly background on the trials
At Indian Country Today, Konnie LeMay writes up the Sham Trials: The Traumatic Truth of What Happened to the Dakota 38, reporting in part:
A series of treaties restricted the living space of the Dakota people to an area that could no longer sustain their traditional hunting economy. Promised payments and other remittance to compensate for the concessions were slow to emerge, withheld all together, or syphoned off by unscrupulous traders and others, leaving the Dakota people with nothing to live on—many facing starvation heading toward the long Minnesota winter.
With the Dakota people buffeted by the increasingly dangerous poverty and by the overt racism expressed by many of the white settlers and traders in the region (one trader infamously quipped “Let them eat grass” when informed of the pending starvation), it should not have been surprising when conflicts arose between the two races. The spark that would ignite the war came August 17, 1862, when four young Dakota hunters killed five settlers. In the past, wrote Carol Chomsky in her 1990 article “The United States-Dakota War Trials: A Study in Military Injustice” published in the Stanford Law Review, the young men might have been turned over to the Americans, but the Dakota people were in no mood for ignoring their situation. Instead, a war council was held that evening and a decision was made to go to war, though not supported by all the Dakota leaders. Even the war leader, Taoyateduta, Little Crow, reluctantly endorsed the action.
“In the 37 days of fighting, 77 American soldiers, 29 citizen-soldiers, approximately 358 settlers and an estimated 29 Dakota soldiers had been killed,” Chomsky wrote.
The Minnesota State Historical Society's US-Dakota War of 1862 section, Aftermath, includes a higher death count, but cites Chomsky's study in Trials and Hangings as well as chronicling the suffering of the Dakota people following the war.
Bluestem recommends registering at JStor and reading the scholarly article, “The United States-Dakota War Trials: A Study in Military Injustice” that LeMay cites in the Indian Country Today article, as Chomsky has conducted an exhaustive review of the primary historical sources about the war and trials.
Native Lives Matter: Say Their Names
Indian Country Today Media Network staff have published Remembering the Dakota 38: A List of Those Executed in 1862:
What follows is a list, modified from Marion Satterlee’s “A Detailed Account of the Massacre by the Dakota Indians of Minnesota in 1862,” published in 1923. The spellings and translations are as Satterlee recorded them. A photocopy of her list and the hand-written list from Abraham Lincoln of those to be executed is found on a page of Minnesota Historical Society’s U.S.-Dakota War website. The two additional names are Dakota men tried and executed shortly after this mass execution, not on Satterlee’s listing.
Another list, posted by Gloria Hazell-Derby in connection with the 2013 Dakota 38+2 Memorial Ride, lists family heads and family members of the 3,368 Dakota people held prisoner at Fort Snelling in Minnesota after the war and many later forced on a march from Minnesota to the Dakotas. More than one-quarter of those who surrendered would die by the end of 1863, either in the camps or on the force march that followed.
Tipi-hdo-niche, Forbids His Dwelling
Wyata-tonwan, His People
Taju-xa, Red Otter
Hinhan-shoon-koyag-mani, Walks Clothed in an Owl’s Tail
Maza-bomidu, Iron Blower
Wapa-duta, Scarlet Leaf
Wahena, translation unknown
Sna-mani, Tinkling Walker
Radapinyanke, Rattling Runner
Dowan niye, The Singer
Xunka ska, White Dog
Hepan, family name for a second son
Tunkan icha ta mani, Walks With His Grandfather
Ite duta, Scarlet Face
Amdacha, Broken to Pieces
Hepidan, family name for a third son
Marpiya te najin, Stands on a Cloud (Cut Nose)
Henry Milord (French mixed-blood)
Dan Little, Chaska dan, family name for a first son (this may be We-chank-wash-ta-don-pee, who had been pardoned and was mistakenly executed when he answered to a call for “Chaska,” reference to a first son; fabric artist Gwen Westerman did a quilt called “Caske’s Pardon” based on him. [Photo of the Westerman quilt at the top of this post].
Baptiste Campbell, (French mixed-blood)
Tate kage, Wind Maker
Hapinkpa, Tip of the Horn
Hypolite Auge (French mixed-blood)
Nape shuha, Does Not Flee
Wakan tanka, Great Spirit
Tunkan koyag I najin, Stands Clothed with His Grandfather
Maka te najin, Stands Upon Earth
Pazi kuta mani, Walks Prepared to Shoot
Tate hdo dan, Wind Comes Back
Waxicun na, Little Whiteman (this young white man, adopted by the Dakota at an early age and who was acquitted, was hanged, according to the Minnesota Historical Society U.S.-Dakota War website).
Aichaga, To Grow Upon
Ho tan inku, Voice Heard in Returning
Cetan hunka, The Parent Hawk
Had hin hda, To Make a Rattling Noise
Chanka hdo, Near the Woods
Oyate tonwan, The Coming People
Mehu we mea, He Comes for Me
Wakinyan na, Little Thunder
Wakanozanzan and Shakopee: These two chiefs who fled north after the war, were kidnapped from Canada in January 1864 and were tried and convicted in November that year and their executions were approved by President Andrew Johnson (after Lincoln’s assassination) and they were hanged November 11, 1865.
Wakantanka Taku Nitawa
We close with a clip from the movie, Dakota 38 + 2, of a montage of the names and consequences, set to variations on Wakantanka Taku Nitawa (Many and Great, O God, Are Your works), set to the tune Lac Qui Parle. The Dakota language lyrics and music were composed by Joseph Renville and published in the Dakota dowanpi kin hymn book in 1842.
Namesake of the Minnesota county that bears his name, Renville was the son of a French-Canadian trader and Miniyuhe, a Dakota woman, who lived with his mother's family until he was ten. In 1826, he established a fur-trading post near Lac qui Parle; he later assisted missionaries living at Lac qui Parle in translating the Bible from French to Dakota. He died in 1846.
As a consequence of the war and public policy about indigenous language (and the religion and culture that it sustained), only a few elders have Dakota as their first language, though the Dakota Wicohan in Morton and other programs work to help new generations to cherish the language.
Photo: "Caske's Pardon." Mixed media sculpture/quilt by Gwen Westerman, 2012. Purchased from the 2012 "Ded Unk'unpi - We Are Here" exhibit. Minnesota State Historical Society.
In her artist statement, she writes, "'Caskes Pardon' is a response to some of the discussions today about obtaining a federal pardon for Wicanhpi Wastedapi, also known as Caske. He helped protect Mrs. Sarah Wakefield, the doctor's wife, during the war but was charged with murder and condemned to die. His name was not on the list of those to be hanged. In the style of retablos, or devotional paintings, this piece incorporates the traditional star quilt with 38 + 2 blue glass beads and represents Caske's prayer for those who executed him in retaliation."
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