The 2018 Dakota 38+2 Memorial Riders arrive in Mankato on December 26th at Reconciliation Park approximately 10:00 a.m. MankatoLIFE friend and contributor, Todd Papabear Preacher Finney, will be among them. All, especially those with a heart of reconciliation, are welcome there to greet them.

Riders, who began in South Dakota two weeks ago, are working their way to a small patch of historical ground. The former levee was situated between a riverboat landing and a small Minnesota settlement. A place which around this time 156 years ago was flush with blue Union uniforms, with the faces of spectators, of men walking to their death, and of doctors with horse-drawn carriages waiting to spirit away the bodies.

How fortunate we are to have people, with every right to be bitter, instead riding horseback onto the streets of Mankato with their sights set on Reconciliation Park.

A Unique History

Photo by Gary Pettis - Dakota 38+2 Memorial riders arrive in Mankato on December 26th, 2017
Photo by Gary Pettis – Dakota 38+2 Memorial riders arrive in Mankato on December 26th, 2017

Like many communities these days, Mankato residents feel the sharp political divide and different points of view that separate us. In one sense, though, Mankato is not like any other community. The city has carried a burden from its settlement days.

On the day after Christmas in 1862, on the river levee not far from the intersection of Main Street and old Front Street, 38 men from the Dakota Nation were hanged. Members of the Union military, including not a few local residents, carried out President Abraham Lincoln’s Orders of Execution.


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A Lasting Impression

The death of the Dakota men sank into the hearts and consciences of many Mankato folks.

In 1914, Mankato Historian Thomas Hughes said, “The trial of the Indians condemned to death at this city was largely a farce, a drum-head court-martial you might say, in which the accused were given no opportunity to testify in their defense.”

The trial of the Indians condemned to death at this city was largely a farce, a drum-head court-martial you might say, in which the accused were given no opportunity to testify in their defense.

The city was booming. Efforts were made to put the best face on Mankato as possible. All the Minnesota Dakota had been forced to leave the state. Wild tales, rife with inaccuracies became myths handed down from one generation to the next. Yet Mankato couldn’t scrub away those hard words, “The trial… largely a farce…” There was no satisfactory way to bring this black chapter of history to a close.

Bench at Photo by Don Lipps - Bench at Reconciliation Park - Mankato, MNPark, Mankato, MN
Photo by Don Lipps – Bench at Reconciliation Park – Mankato, MN

Forgive Everyone Everything

How fortunate we are for men like Jim Miller, Bud Lawrence, Jim Buckley and Amos Owen whose vision has opened the door for healing for both the Dakota and the people of Mankato.

The riders will arrive at a small park called Reconciliation! It is possible to continue down a path of healing, forgiveness and mending broken relationships.

Riding Forward

What do we tell the children? The same things we hope to understand ourselves.

It is possible to learn from the past to cross the divides. Too often they prevent us from having open hearts, starting new friendships, and healing old wounds but it is possible to cross the divides!

Mankato is one of the few places in the world that has a Reconciliation Park. It reminds us that forgiveness and reconciliation are things we can strive to do better every day.

Every step of Dakota hoof on Mankato streets in the Winter of 2018 is a sign that slowly, but certainly, we can heal from past wounds and we can see people in a different light, perhaps for the first time.

Ride on!

Additional Links

Todd Papabear Finney and the 2017 Dakota 38+2 Memorial Ride
2012 Movie, Dakota 38, on Youtube.com

Gary Pettis
Gary Pettis, writer, designer, and strategist is a long-time Mankato area resident. He is passionate about seeing the community thrive!