FORGIVE EVERYONE EVERYTHING is inscribed on a bench in Reconciliation Park, Mankato, Minnesota. The photo of the memorial above also shows a list of 38 names.
Who are those 38 people? What needs to be forgiven?
Those 38 are the names of the Dakota men who were all hanged at the same time in what is now Mankato, Minnesota. A raised wooden platform, with 38 nooses along the sides, was constructed. It is said nearly 4,000 people witnessed this, the largest execution in U.S. history, on December 26, 1862. As to who needs to be forgiven, there are many answers to that. At the heart of this is the genocide and land theft of the tribal nations by the white settler-colonialists. More specifically this history came about as the Dakota were forced into smaller and smaller land areas, to the point they could not sustain themselves.
Detailed stories and resources are available for this part of history sometimes referred to as the Dakota War of 1862 here: http://www.usdakotawar.org/
In the spring of 2005, Jim Miller, a Native spiritual leader and Vietnam veteran, found himself in a dream riding on horseback across the great plains of South Dakota. Just before he awoke, he arrived at a riverbank in Minnesota and saw 38 of his Dakota ancestors hanged. At the time, Jim knew nothing of the largest mass execution in United States history, ordered by Abraham Lincoln on December 26, 1862. “When you have dreams, you know when they come from the creator… As any recovered alcoholic, I made believe that I didn’t get it. I tried to put it out of my mind, yet it’s one of those dreams that bothers you night and day.”
Now, four years later, embracing the message of the dream, Jim and a group of riders retrace the 330-mile route of his dream on horseback from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota to arrive at the hanging site on the anniversary of the execution. “We can’t blame the wasichus anymore. We’re doing it to ourselves. We’re selling drugs. We’re killing our own people. That’s what this ride is about, is healing.” This is the story of their journey- the blizzards they endure, the Native and Non-Native communities that house and feed them along the way, and the dark history they are beginning to wipe away.
This film was created in line with Native healing practices. In honoring this ceremony, we are screening and distributing “Dakota 38″ as a gift rather than for sale. This film was inspired by one individual’s dream and is not promoting any organization or affiliated with any political or religious groups. It was simply created to encourage healing and reconciliation.
Jim’s vision is for riders from all Dakota tribes to ride over 330 miles from Lower Brule Indian Reservation to the site of the mass hanging in Mankato, Minnesota. The ride is in December to honor the men, women, and children who were forced to march across the cold winter prairies either to the mass hanging in Mankato or to a large concentration camp of Dakota families at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. The riders finish at Reconciliation Park in Mankato on the anniversary of December 26.
We take the youth on the ride, so that they may connect with their culture in a more physical way. By being a part of the ride they are connecting themselves with their ancestors and their horse relatives. It is through the ride that they are able to see the beauty in the history and their culture.
I have watched this moving video many times. My friend and former roommate from Scattergood Friends School, Lee Tesdell, teaches in Mankato, and has spoken about this with me. Lee also spoke at one of our evening discussions during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.
This morning I was glad to see that Jimmy Tidwell, who I walked with on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, was sharing several Facebook Live videos from Mankato showing the arrival of the horses at the end of this year’s ride.