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American Indian Histories and Cultures Conference Focuses on Mass Hanging of Dakota Men

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Presenters at the 2011 American Indian Histories and Cultures Conference will describe ways to commemorate and talk about shared history, specifically the 1862 mass hanging of 38 Dakota men near Mankato, Minnesota and the Dakota Commemorative Walk that came out of it.

The theme for this year’s conference—which will be held April 4 and 5 in the Volstorff Ballroom at South Dakota State University (SDSU)—is “Dakota 38: Engaging History.”

In December 2008, Lakota spiritual leader Jim Miller and many others retraced a route he had seen in a dream—he dreamt of riding 330 miles on horseback to the site where his ancestors were hung—a hanging that was ordered by President Abraham Lincoln.

His dream and the commemorative ride inspired a documentary—“Dakota 38”—produced by Smooth Feather Productions.

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“Riding on horseback across South Dakota and Minnesota, and arriving on the bank of a river in Minnesota, which he later discovered was Mankato,” filmmaker Silas Hagerty told Minnesota Public Radio in December 2010. “And in his dream he saw these 38 Dakota warriors, all hanged at the same time.”

The conference begins April 4 with Gabrielle Wynde Tateyuskanskan, of Enemy Swim on the Lake Traverse Reservation, who will speak about her experiences with the commemorative walk. She promotes social change and restorative justice through her participation in the walk and in her artwork, which is displayed in permanent collections at Indian schools and history centers in South Dakota.

On April 5, ride organizers Sarah, James and Andrew Weston of Flandreau, South Dakota will discuss their experiences on the ride, which takes place every December from Crow Creek, South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota.

After the Westons, Peter Lengkeek and Miller will talk to attendees about their experiences on the ride. Lengkeek, is a military veteran who serves on the Crow Creek tribal council. He carries the Wapa Ha, or Eagle Staff, during the ride.

To conclude the event, Craig Howe, director of the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies on the Pine Ridge Reservation, will discuss the history of the massacre and its aftermath.