On December 26, 1862 at 10 A.M., exactly 150 years ago today, 38 Dakota warriors were hanged until they were dead, under the Presidential Order of Abraham Lincoln. Over 4,000 spectators looked on during this, the largest mass execution in U.S. history- and cheered as the ax swung, cutting the rope that would kill them all. These innocent Dakota men, a few of whom it was said were mentally disabled, bore the full weight of this nation’s wrath, greed, lies, and bloodthirst. Before they were marched out to the scaffold specially constructed to kill them, they prayed together, comforted loved ones, and smoked the canupa. They faced death with honor. Some of them held hands. Their bodies dangled from the scaffold for a half hour before being cut down and taken to a shallow mass grave on a sandbar between Mankato’s main street and the Minnesota River. That night, most of the bodies were dug up and taken to physicians for use as medical cadavers. The Dakota people were then separated. Some were sent to prison in Iowa, or concentration camps like the one at Sisseton, while others escaped to Canada and North Dakota. Women and children were marched to Crow Creek in the freezing cold and snow, some barely clothed- wearing little more than potato sacks. Some managed to stay alive in Minnesota, even though a reward was given to those who brought in Dakota scalps. Many, many died. Months later, Chief Little Crow was murdered, his corpse, mutilated and displayed.
We must not forget them. These, our ancestors- our blood. Remember them, and say a prayer for the runners and riders who honor them today. Wopida tanka