Today (the day after Christmas) marked the sesquicentennial of the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Minnesota for their conviction of crimes committed in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
This solemn event was commemorated at the site of the hanging in what is now called Reconciliation Park in that city. Arvol Looking Horse, a Dakota/Lakota leader, said this event marked the ending of a long journey. “Today, being here to witness a great gathering, we have peace in our hearts — a new beginning of healing,” he said.
To dedicate a new memorial containing the names of the 38 men with a poem and prayer, Sidney Byrd, Dakota/Lakota elder, read the names of the 38 men in the Dakota language. Byrd also said, “I’m proud to be with you today. My great-grandfather was one of those who paid the supreme price for our freedom.” Although originally sentenced to death , his great-grandfather’s sentence was commuted to imprisonment in Davenport, Iowa, where many died from horrible conditions.
The ceremony was joined by around 60 Dakota men who arrived on horseback from South Dakota and other Dakota men who ran from Fort Snelling. (The photo is by Pat Cristman in the Mankato Free Press.)
The Dakota people who helped plan the new memorial and the ride and run marked the anniversary by saying, “Forgive everyone everything.” Those words will be engraved in Kasota stone benches that will be placed around the new memorial next summer.
The Mayor of the city of Mankato read a proclamation declaring this the year of “forgiveness and understanding.”