Yesterday I wrote about the beautiful and tragic video, “Dakota 38”. Although this annual ride occurs in December, I was led to write about it now as part of my ongoing consideration of what decolonizing means today. This time around the holiday called Thanksgiving is an opportunity to try to improve relations among White and Native peoples. I believe sharing stories or watching videos like the Dakota 38 together might facilitate conversations.
Jim’s (Miller) 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. My friends Foxy and Alton Onefeather live near Lower Brule.
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.SUNKTANKA
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.
The Dakota 38 Plus 2 Memorial Ride is a ride that honors the 38 Dakota men who were hung in Mankato in December of 1862. The ride began from the vision of a Dakota elder and warrior. In this vision riders would ride from Crow Creek, SD to Mankato, MN. Ever since then the ride has continued to happen annually from the beginning year December 2005 to present collecting supporters and new riders along the way.
My name is Winona Goodthunder. My Dakota name is Wambde Ho Waste Win, Eagle Woman with a Good Voice. I have ridden in this ride since 2006, the second year. I was in eighth grade when I started. As the years have gone by the riders that we’ve met every year have become a part of a new kind of family. We are all different even though we are all somehow related. Those of us who are from the Lower Sioux region are used to different types of living than those who come from Canada, Nebraska, South Dakota, and other parts of the world. The differences that we have are forgotten when we come to this ride. We get up early in the morning to get our horses ready together. We ride all day together, and we eat together at night. It is then that our differences merge and we teach each other. The thing that seems to bind us the most is the fact that we can laugh. Humor may not be what is expected on a memorial ride, but it is encouraged for it is stressed that this ride is for forgiveness. Although our group goes only for the last four days it is enough to establish that sense of family amongst each other. It is from these riders that I’ve learned most about my culture. I have read books, but they cannot foster the feeling that one gets when they are living in an experience such as the ride.Winona Goodthunder
FORGIVE EVERYONE EVERYTHING is inscribed on a bench in Reconciliation Park, Mankato, Minnesota, where the ride ends. The photo of the memorial shows a list of the names of the 38 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 history, sometimes referred to as the Dakota War of 1862 here: http://www.usdakotawar.org/
I have watched this moving video, “Dakota 38”, many times. My friend and former roommate from Scattergood Friends School, Lee Tesdell, teaches in Mankato, and has spoken about this history with me. Lee also spoke at one of our evening discussions during the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March.