On December 26 in 1862, 38 Dakota men were hanged in Mankato, after being found guilty of war crimes in charges stemming from the Treaty Conflict earlier in the year. The trials are thought by most modern historians to be a miscarriage of justice, since each trial lasted an average of 15 minutes.
For many years, the mass execution was celebrated on commemorative plates and commercial giveaways, but work by Amos Owen and other leaders helped begin the hard work of reconciliation.
The incident will forever remain a blot on the city’s name, however.
The execution wasn’t the only cruelty that befell the Dakota bands. Dakota people were marched to concentration camps, then exiled to reservations far from their homes. Children were forced to attend schools where native language and religion were banned. Dancing and other important expressions of Dakota culture were forbidden until the 1930s, and Native American religions were not secured full protection until the early 1970s.
An excellent video about the exile in the words of Dakota people can be viewed here.
Ho-Chunk bands who lived on the “Winnebago” Reservation south of Mankato were also deported. Although none of the Ho Chunk participated in the war, they were still deported to the Dakota Territory and their lands stolen. Some returned to Minnesota and Wisconsin (their original home), while others went to live on the Winnebago reservation in Nebraska.
Photo: the concentration camp at Fort Snelling. Minnesota State Historical Society