Remembering: the First Step Toward Reconciliation

The eighth annual 38+2 Dakota Memorial Horse Ride passed through the Redwood area this week on its way to Mankato to commemorate the Dakota warriors hanged in 1862. Photo: Redwood Falls Gazette, Creative Commons License.

The eighth annual 38+2 Dakota Memorial Horse Ride passed through the Redwood area this week on its way to Mankato to commemorate the Dakota warriors hanged in 1862. Photo: Redwood Falls Gazette, Creative Commons License.

Today I am thinking about the importance of remembering.

Keeping the past in your mind, even when it is painful. Refusing to look away, even if what happened is shameful and something you’d really rather not think about.

Today is the centennial of the largest mass execution in United States History.

On December 26, 1862, 38 men were publicly hanged in Mankato in retribution for the US-Dakota war, despite the attempts of Episcopal Bishop Whipple to get Lincoln to pardon them all.

It is a very sad anniversary to remember. It is hard to think about. Perhaps because of the guilt many still feel, or the shame, this terrible time remains largely ignored in history classrooms around the country — even here in Minnesota, where the conflict and subsequent hangings took place.

I think this is a mistake. I think that honoring those who died — and remembering the place that our own US Government played in these deaths, is absolutely vital if we are to move forward.

Remember it. Talk about it. Understand what happened. That is the first step toward reconciliation, and the first step away from the possibility of such a thing ever happening again.

To learn more about the US-Dakota War of 1862, please take a look at the Minnesota Historical Society’s page about what happened and how it affects Minnesota to this day.

To learn more about the Dakota 38+2 Wokiksuye Horse Ride memorializing those who died by riding on horseback from Lower Brule, S.D, to Mankato MN, read Minnesota Public Radio’s coverage of the ride or watch the documentary Dakota 38 about the remarkable man who started this ride in 2005.

I invite you to take time to prayerfully reflect on what occurred on this day 150 years ago; the events that led up to and followed, and upon the continued consequences.

In order to truly heal, we must first truly understand.

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One response to “Remembering: the First Step Toward Reconciliation

  1. Is anyone remembering the immigrants who were murdered?

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