Credit: Jason Daum

Most Minnesotans may have heard of the Dakota War of 1862, but the vast majority are unaware of the atrocities that took place following the war to forcibly suppress Dakota resistance to colonization and the violation of their treaty rights. On December 26th, 1862, 38 Dakota men were publicly hung in Mankato, Minnesota. This mass execution, ordered by President Abraham Lincoln, is the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Dakota families, primarily women and children, were rounded up in masse and marched to a concentration camp at Fort Snelling in Minneapolis, while Dakota men were sent to a prison camp in Davenport, Iowa.

This December 26th marks the 35th annual Dakota 38 +2 Memorial Run. Late on the evening of December 25th, dozens of runners and supporters will depart from Fort Snelling State Park and journey over 80 miles in the bitter cold, arriving at the Land of Memories Park in Mankato, Minnesota, the morning of December 26th to honor the 38 ancestors who gave their lives so their descendants could live as Dakota. The run also honors two Dakota leaders, Medicine Bottle and Shakopee, who were captured and hung at Fort Snelling on November 11th, 1865.

Šišókaduta (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) is one of the lead organizers for the Dakota 38+ 2 memorial run and a Dakota language professor at the University of Minnesota. Šišókaduta believes that is important to remember the lives of those who fought against colonial violence so that their descendants could be here today. “Our ancestors went through times of extreme difficulty. They went through hunger, war, colonization, and assimilation. The 38 Dakota stand as a symbol for all of our people that suffered through those times, and those that continue to suffer today. We remember them every day, not just one day a year,” he said.

In the spring of 1863, Minnesota voided all treaties with the Dakota and passed the Dakota Removal Act, a federal law that makes it illegal for Dakota to live in Minnesota. Although it is no longer enforced, the Dakota Removal Act has never been repealed. Women, children, and elders who were imprisoned in concentration camps at Fort Snelling following the Dakota war were sent to a reservation in Crow Creek, South Dakota. The vast majority of Dakota still live in exile today, in places such as Nebraska and South Dakota. Many Dakota also fled and sought refuge in Canada.

The Run provides a way for Dakota Nations in Minnesota and exiled Dakota Nations to physically connect with the memory of their ancestors. According to Dallas Goldtooth (Bdewakantunwan Dakota and Dine), “the route we take every year does two things — first, it draws a line between the families who were kept at the Fort Snelling concentration camps and the men who were hung in masse in Mankato. Secondly, it retraces some of our oldest trails that crossed our territory since time immemorial, reminding us of the depth of our connection to this land, no matter who currently occupies it. The run also brings us together as family and community – giving us a chance to celebrate life another year.”

The run is also a way for Dakota peoples to retain their cultural and political relationship to their homelands. “Non-Dakota people must understand that Dakota people not only want to remember their ancestors during this run, but that by coming together year after year, singing our songs, praying, and laughing together, we are also actively working to ensure our people thrive into the future, not just as ethnic minorities but rather as the sovereign nations we are,” said Dallas Goldtooth.

Terrie Remick (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate and Bdewakantunwan Dakota) has brought youth from the Santee Sioux Nation, an exiled Dakota Nation in Nebraska, to participate in the Dakota 38+2 Memorial run in her role as Director of Social Work at the Santee Health and Wellness Center. “It is important that the Išanti Oyate Teča (Santee young people) participate in the run as in doing so they honor the ancestors who gave their lives so that we, their descendants, could remain here today. I believe that when Oyate Teča (young people) know who they are and where they come from, they better understand what their future holds for them,” said Remick. “Each youth who travelled to our ancestral homelands of Mŋišota took their turn in running towards Mankato, finding their own spiritual connection to their ancestors and to the land. I witnessed such special connection to self, song, and the physical act of running,” she added.

The trauma, violence, and exile that Dakota people experienced carried lasting impacts across generations and continues to impact communities today. Keeping the memory of the Dakota 38+2 alive provides an opportunity for healing and reconciliation. The bravery and sacrifice of Dakota ancestors powers every mile of the Memorial run, uplifting the enduring strength of the Dakota people. “What happened to our ancestors in 1862 and the years following not only reminds us of the dangers of white supremacy and colonization, but that their brave actions in the face of such violence remains a part of our lineage today,” said Dallas Goldtooth. “As Dakota Oyate (Nation), today, we are the result of courageous love who never gave up. It is only best that we honor and remember that.”

We remember the 38+2

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 mixedblood)

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”

Baptiste Campbell, (French mixed-blood)

Tate kage, Wind Maker

Hapinkpa, Tip of the Horn

Hypolite Auge (French mixedblood)

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.

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