Jane Gray Swisshelm was a progressive woman in her day. She edited a newspaper in St. Cloud in the 1850s and ’60s and fought for women’s rights and against slavery. But according to a story on Minnesota Public Radio on September 26, 2002, she also called for the extermination of all Dakota Indians following the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862.
Across Southern Minnesota, the Dakotas, and beyond, plans are being made for the 2013 Dakota Wokiksuye; a Ceremony of Remembrance that spans over 2 weeks and 330 miles. It is a journey, with horses. but it is so much more than a horseback ride. It is about men and women on horses winding their way from a place of exile to a place of shame. It is about remembrance of the past and hope for healing and a future. The Dakota 38 +2 Memorial Ride will begin December 10 near Fort Thompson. South Dakota and end December 26 in Mankato MN. Continue Reading
Diane Wilson is a Minnesota author and Mdewakanton descendant. Her first book, “Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past,” retraces her family’s Dakota heritage across five generations and won a 2006 Minnesota Book Award. Her second book is “Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life.” Wilson is also the executive director of Dream of Wild Health, a Native-owned farm in Hugo, Minn., whose dream is to help American Indian people reclaim their physical, spiritual and mental health.She spoke with the Women’s Press about how we get to a place of peace-or not; the consequences of war and genocide; and the stories that are told.Minnesota Women’s Press: Where are the voices of Native people in the public discussions surrounding the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War??Diane Wilson: What has been important in the discussion was to hear a Dakota perspective on historical events rather than a non-Native filter.I ask: Is it a Dakota person telling the story? What is their cultural background? Continue Reading
On Wednesday, January 9, Saint Paul’s City Council passed a resolution that will recognize 2013 as “The Year of the Dakota: Remembering, Honoring, and Truth-Telling.” The language of the resolution was nearly identical to one that was passed in Minneapolis on December 14, 2012.Saint Paul’s resolution acknowledges that the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862 and the mass execution of 38 Dakota in Mankato were events that opened a disturbing and neglected chapter of history, one characterized by the genocide of the Dakota people in Minnesota. The document resolves, from now on, to include the Dakota perspective at public events, to promote the well-being and growth of the American Indian community and to begin efforts to rectify the wrongs that were perpetrated since the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862 “a tragic and traumatic event for the Dakota People of Minnesota.” It also resolves that the year 2012-2013 will be “The Year of the Dakota: Remembering, Honoring, and Truth-Telling.”One difference from the resolution that was passed in Minneapolis is the addition of language that directs “the City of Saint Paul and its Parks and Recreation Department will work with the Dakota Bdote Restoration Consortium to identify, name, and interpret sacred Native American sites at and nearby the sacred Bdote from the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers to Mounds Park; including listing, mapping, identifying Dakota site names in the Great River Passage Plan, and participating in on-going collaborative research to further describe, dually name, publicize, and interpret significant Dakota sites in the Great River Passage Park Implementation;”St. Paul, also known as Imniza Ska–a Dakota place, is full of sites that are sacred or historic to the Dakota people. The recent book Mni Sota Makoce: The land of the Dakota by Gwen Westerman and Bruce White describes the special history of the Dakota people in St. Paul.In Minneapolis, Councilperson Cam Gordon worked with members of the Dakota community to pass the resolution on December 14, 2012. Continue Reading
While the Resolution was being read in the Minneapolis City Council chambers, there were tears in the eyes of some of the Native People present. For me, it was significant that the Resolution contained such words as “Genocide,” “Bounties,” “Concentration Camps,” “Forced Marches,” etc. I have, and had, never seen any white governmental entity, at any level – national, state, local, etc. – use such terms in one of their official documents. I never thought I would ever see such a document in my lifetime. Now, I have, and I am so pleased. Continue Reading
A large and historic gathering of Dakota people flooded Mankato’s Main Street, the site of Reconciliation Park, on the morning of December 26. The event was a reunion of sorts, bringing together participants in the Dakota Wokiksuye Memorial Ride and Memorial Run, Dakota people from other states and Canadian provinces and many others who wished to be a part of what Dakota/ Lakota leader Arvol Looking Horse described as “a new beginning of healing.” [Photos below]Reconciliation Park is the site where, 150 years ago, December 26, 1862, 38 Dakota men were hanged in the largest mass execution in American history. It was one of the punitive events that marked the end of the Dakota-U.S. War. Following the war, 1,700 Dakota women, children and elders were forced to march to a concentration camp at Fort Snelling. Ultimately, many Dakota fled or were banished from Minnesota. Continue Reading
There were frozen riders on horseback, completing a two-week journey from the Missouri River in South Dakota. There were runners from Fort Snelling who had run, in relays, since midnight on Christmas night and finally arrived, almost 11 hours later, in downtown Mankato. And there was a throng of somber people shivering between the city library and a rail yard, waiting to observe the 150th anniversary of one of the most troubling events in U.S. history:
At first glance, Gordon Coons’ painting 1862-Mankato 38 may look like any other American flag. But it isn’t. Look closer and you’ll see a rope, the kind used to tie a noose, framing the edges. You’ll also see the names of 38 Dakota warriors who were hanged in the largest mass execution in U.S. history on December 26th, 1862. Most had been convicted by a military court of participating in the US-Dakota War that had begun in August that year. Continue Reading