On December 26th 1862, the United States Army hung 38 Dakota warriors in Makato, Minnesota. It was, and remains, the largest mass execution in American colonial history. Two Dakota warriors who had escaped into Canada were eventually captured, returned to the United States, and hanged at Fort Snelling in 1865.
The mass execution followed the Dakota War of 1862, or the Dakota Uprising. Throughout the 1850’s, the combination of the United States breaking many of its treaty obligations with Dakota tribes and Indian agents unfair distributing of annuity payments, which often came either late, or not at all, led to a state of hunger and hardship.
Several meetings were held between Dakota tribes and the U.S. government and local traders regarding the distribution of annuities. At one meeting, Dakota representatives asked the representative of the government traders, Andrew Jackson Myrick, to sell them food on credit he responded, “So far as I am concerned, if they are hungry let them eat grass or their own dung.”
In mid-August 1862, Dakota men out on a hunting trip had taken eggs from a white settler and killed them. Shortly after, a Dakota war council was convened and their leader Little Crow agreed to continue the attacks on white settlements in attempt to drive them out of their lands. The next day, August 18 1862, Little Crow led an attack on the Lower Sioux Agency. Andrew Jackson Myrick was among the first to be killed. Myrick’s body was found with grass stuffed in his mouth.
This was the start of the Dakota uprising which would result in the deaths of roughly 1,000 settlers and US soldiers. After a month of battles, Dakota warriors laid down their arms in late September bringing an end to the uprising.
Following the surrender, 1,700 Dakota women, children, men and elders were marched over 150 miles from the Lower Sioux Agency to Fort Snelling, an internment camp, hundreds died at the internment camp.
On the week long march to Ft. Snelling many Dakota’s would die. When they were marched through towns, white settlers would often attack them with rocks, clubs, knives, and throw boiling water on them. In one instance, a government employee reported a white woman grabbing and murdering a Dakota baby by slamming the baby on the ground.
President Lincoln, a lap dog for the rail road companies who built his early law career by defending rail road companies, ordered the execution. Much of the conflict between tribes in the Northern and Southern Plains was a result of the rail road companies desire to expand west to open lands for both European immigrant settlement and resource exploitation.
Following the day after Christmas execution, Dakota’s stayed at the internment camp until the Spring of 1863, when they transported by boat to the current day Crow Creek reservation in South Dakota. It is reported that hundreds more died while being transported.
In 2005, Jim Miller (Dakota) dreamed of riding on horseback across the great plains to the riverbanks in Minnesota where he saw the Dakota 38 being hanged. Four years later his dream was manifested as he and other riders retraced the 330-mile route from his dream from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota arriving on the day of the anniversary of the execution. He has said that the ride is about healing, “We can’t blame the wasichus anymore. We’re doing it to ourselves. We’re selling drugs. We’re killing our own people. That’s what this ride is about, is healing.”
Download the documentary Dakota 38 + 2 here http://smoothfeather.com/dakota38/
The healing ride has taken place every year since. To the Dakota 38 + 2, and the hundreds of Dakota elders, women, men and children who lost their lives due to the mistreatment of the US government and its policies of greed and deception we remember.
by Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle)