Tag Archives: Birch Coulee

Dakota 38+2 Memorial Ride Nears Mankato

Fort Ridgley Burning
Fort Ridgely Burning

Yesterday the riders made their way to Fort Ridgely from  a pasture near the Birch Coulee Battle site, where we had kept the horses. The Dakota 38 + 2 Ride is now in the heart of where the War of 1862 was fought.  After the initial attack on the Lower Agency, where food supplies were being withheld from the starving Dakota families,  Little Crow led an attack on the Fort where a small contingency of troops were stationed.

The Battle of Birch Coulee
The Battle of Birch Coulee

A few weeks later the Dakota Warriors attacked a detachment of soldiers about 16 miles to the North West of the Fort at the Birch Coulee.  Here, along the Minnesota River Valley,  is the land that was promised as a homeland after the Dakota surrendered their traditional lands in the deceptive Treaty of Traverse des Sioux  in 1851.

150 years ago I imagine an eerie silence hung over this river valley;  the Dakota had either fled or been imprisoned, many were awaiting execution, all were facing exile.  The settlers had also fled,  most were waiting for spring to return.  Sorrow was palatable in the burned out building and rotting corpses of horses that had been left from the battles.  To expand on the often quoted phrase,  “An injustice against one, is an injustice against all”  the aftermath of this short war was proof that,  “the acceptance of injustice against any, will eventually impact all.”   A community that purports  to support liberty cannot be sustained through injustice.  Both the Civil War of the USA and this Civil War in Minnesota are proof of this truth.

Riding towards Mankato in the Minnesota River Valley
Riding towards Mankato in the Minnesota River Valley

I am unable to be with the riders during these days,  responsibilities of work and family called me back to Minneapolis.  Yet, while my body is not there,  my mind and spirit are sill inextricably linked, as I shared in a text messages I still have sage in my pocket and songs in my heart.

Besides the text messages and the Facebook posts, the rhythm of the last 2 weeks continue to echo in my soul; breakfast, catch and load the horses, morning circle and prayers, 5 – 7 mile legs with fresh riders ready to take the staff and continue the ride at each interval.  Then as the sunsets; closing circle and prayer, haul the horses to the corral, feed and water them, then head to supper, spend time talking and get ready for bed.

Christmas night I will return to prepare for the final leg, the ride into Mankato on the morning of the 26th;  the place and the time when the 38 Dakota warriors died in the largest mass execution in US history. Please consider joining us there, to remember honor, and hopefully see healing and reconciliation in action.