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Conference looks at mass hanging of Dakota men in 1862

The 2011 American Indian Histories and Cultures Conference takes place on Monday and Tuesday, April 4 and April 5, in the Volstorff Ballroom at South Dakota State University.

Dakota 38 Ride

The theme for this year’s conference is “Dakota 38: Engaging History.” Presenters will discuss a commemorative ride recalling the 1862 mass hanging of 38 Dakota tribal members near Mankato, Minn., and will describe ways to commemorate and talk about shared history.

Spiritual leader Jim Miller had a dream of riding 330 miles on horseback that ended at a riverbank near Mankato, Minn., where he found 38 of his ancestors hanged. His dream recounted the largest mass hanging in U.S. history, which was ordered by Abraham Lincoln in 1862.

In December of 2008, he and many others retraced the dream’s route on horseback in an effort to bring healing and reconciliation. A documentary film based on Miller’s dream was made.

At 6 p.m. Monday evening, educator, visual artist and poet Gabrielle Wynde Tateyuskanskan of Enemy Swim on the Lake Traverse reservation will speak about her experiences with the Dakota Commemorative Walk originated by members of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe.

Tateyuskanskan works to promote social change and restorative justice in response to the 1862 history. Her visual artwork is included in permanent collections at Indian schools and history centers in South Dakota as well as in private collections.

At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Sarah, James and Andrew Weston of Flandreau, who helped organize the Dakota 38 Ride, will talk about their experiences. The ride takes place every December from Crow Creek, S.D., to Mankato, Minn.

At 10 a.m., Peter Lengkeek and Miller will expand on their experiences with the ride. Lengkeek is from the Crow Creek Reservation and a military veteran who currently serves on the tribal council at Crow Creek. He carries the Wapa Ha, the Eagle Staff, for the Dakota 38 ride.

Miller is an Oglala Lakota tribal member from Kyle. Through his initiative, the hanging of the 38 Dakota men is commemorated by the ride, to reconcile the shared history of American Indians and non-Indians on the Great Plains.  

At 11 a.m., to conclude the conference, Craig Howe, director of the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies on the Pine Ridge reservation, will give his perspective on the 1862 history and its aftermath.

Howe served as deputy assistant director for cultural resources of the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and director of the D'Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian History at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

Sponsors of the American Indian Histories and Cultures Conference include the South Dakota Humanities Council, Fishback Community Foundation and the South Dakota State University American Indian Studies Department. More information is available from Joseph Brewer, director of the American Indian Studies Department.

Photo: Riders embark on the Dakota 38 Ride to Mankato, Minn., to commemorate the hanging of 38 Dakota men in 1862. The April 4-5 American Indian Histories and Cultures Conference at SDSU will call attention to the history through presentations.