Remembering the Hanging of 38 Dakota

Riders at Mankato, Minnesota on Saturday, December 26, 2015. Photo by Lynny Prince

Riders at Mankato, Minnesota on Saturday, December 26, 2015. Photo by Lynny Prince

Largest mass execution in U.S. history was ordered by Abraham Lincoln, the freer of the slaves, in 1862

Published December 27, 2015

MANKATO, MINNESOTA – Hundreds gathered yesterday, the day after Christmas, to remember the hanging of 38 Dakota American Indians 153 years ago. Their executions were ordered by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.

Gathered on Saturday were those who rode horse back through the wintry weather through to reach Mankato, Minnesota, where the hangings took place on December 26, 1862. The Memorial Riders began their long journey from the Lower Brule Indian Reservation in South Dakota that covered some 330 miles in frigid cold weather through the Great Plains and then into southern Minnesota.

Saturday’s ceremony took place at Reconciliation Park in Mankato.

Runners who ran overnight to remember the 38 Dakota. Photo by Dirk Whitebreast

Runners who ran overnight to remember the 38 Dakota. Photo by Dirk Whitebreast

In addition to the horse back riders, a couple dozen runners ran from Fort Snelling in the Twin Cities to Mankato, beginning late Friday night.

Among the runners was Dirk Whitebreast, from Tama, Iowa, who is a long runner who ran in 10 marathons four years ago to bring recognition of the problem of suicide in Indian Country.

“It was good to see youth running with us. It is good to know they are aware of their history,” Whitebreast told Native News Online on Saturday afternoon. “So many of the runners are descendants of those who died there. I really felt like an outsider, but was proud to be part of the run, because I have my own perspective of what happened.”

The Dakota 38+2 Memorial Ride began in 2005 as a way to promote reconciliation between American Indians and non-Native people. Other goals of the Memorial Ride include: provide healing from historical trauma; remember and honor the 38 + 2 who were hanged; bring awareness of Dakota history and to promote youth rides and healing.

The hangings were the result of the Dakota War of 1862, which terminated the rights of Dakota people from living in Minnesota at that time. President Abraham Lincoln, the freer of the slaves ironically, ordered their executions.

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