The last few weeks I have been jogging a little more, working out my legs and thighs, and trying to get as much time outside as I can. I’m trying to prepare my body for what it will experience beginning next Saturday as I travel to the Crow Creek Reservation at Fort Thompson, South Dakota. I am going to be participating the the Dakota 38 +2 memorial ride. I need to be a little physically prepared to ride horse all day as this memorial travels the 330 miles to Mankato MN. However, more that being physically prepared I am seeking to prepare myself mentally and spiritually for what I will experience.
The ride was begun a few years ago by Jim Miller, a Dakota / Lakota leader from the Pine Ridge Reservation. As he states, the purpose is for healing and reconciliation as well as to encourage awareness and remembrance of the events that shaped the destiny of both MN and the Dakota people 150 years ago.
One hundred and fifty years ago the state of Minnesota was in chaos. Just 6 years had passed since MN had entered the union. The civil war had begun in Fort Sumter, and MN was sending a steady stream of young men to fight in states far away to maintain this union. In August of 1862 another war began to rage within the borders of MN. Like the Civil War, the seeds of this war had been planted years before through decisions made by self-centered power brokers who chose the quick and simple “solution” over justice and moral actions. For the one it was the issue of slavery, for the other it was the issue of the Native people of this land.
In 2005 Jim Miller had a dream of Dakota riders riding east, where they saw their ancestors being hanged on the banks of a river. At the time of his dream he had never heard of the mass execution that had occurred in Mankato after the war. When the war that had begun in August was over, the Dakota were rounded up, some were forced marched to Fort Snelling where they were kept in a concentration camp near the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Others were taken to Mankato for a public execution. When the kangaroo-courts were over and the presidential appeals finalized, 38 Dakota warriors were sentenced to be executed. The largest mass execution in US history was held December 26, 1862 in Mankato, MN at the site of the present library.
I had not heard of the ride until two years ago when Janeen and I made a trip to Mankato on December 26. We did not know what to expect, we only knew that there were memorial events that occurred on that day and felt a pull to come, to witness, and to grieve. That day opened the door to relationships and experiences that have challenged, stretched and blessed me. Most significantly I am able to count Jim Miller and Peter Lengkeek (the present ride leader) as friends. Their friendship and integrity are a gift and at their invitation, I join the ride to share in this ceremony for remembrance and healing. I know that in both the present and in the past my story is tied up in theirs. Our destiny is intertwined. We share belief in the concept that that Lilla Watson, an Aboriginal Activist from Australia, articulated;
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come here because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together.”
I know physically this ride will cross the open prairies of South Dakota and follow the Minnesota River valley to Mankato. However I am not sure where it may lead in other realms. Peter is welcoming me to journal along the journey, to share the story and challenge all to consider how this story calls to us.
Please join us in Spirit and even consider coming out to show support along the way and in Mankato on the 26th.