It was the day after Christmas in 1862.

It was not that long ago.

Among the Dakota people, it is a day that is memorialized each year as riders journey by horseback 330 miles, 16 days of winter riding, from Lower Brule reservation to Mankato, MN, the site of the largest mass execution in US history. For the past weeks, families have gathered along the route, in the reality of South Dakota’s winter weather, to remember, to honor, and to stand in solidarity with their relatives who were executed, with no trial by jury, for desperately trying to prevent their children from starving. 

Here is video (<< blue link) from Dawn Eagle, one of the parishioners at St. Kateri Parish. She posted it to Facebook- I hope you can link to it. It is a video of this year’s riders arriving in Mankato (just south of Minneapolis)  Mankato is the site of the concentration camp where thousands of men, women, and children of the Sissetowaƞ- Wahpetowaƞ Oyate were imprisoned. It is also where 38 Dakota warriors, relatives of the families I know and I teach today, were executed. 

As you see this year’s riders move through the urban intersections, you will hear an ancient high pitched song of women singing in a way that is used like a prayer to honor the strength and memories of both today’s Oyate and the 38 who were hung.

Here’s a short video (<< blue link here or click above) telling the story by tribal members from here on the Lake Traverse Reservation in a prior year.

Here is a professionally produced video (<< blue link here or also below) about the history and the annual ride. It’s very worth the 78 minutes to learn a part of our nation’s story, and the story of the Oceti Sakowiƞ Oyate (7 Council Fires of the Sioux Nation). It’s a story we don’t get in our history books. This video focuses on how the ride has become an action for healing a history that continues to have difficult impact on so many.

I will end this note to you in the way that traditional prayers are always ended. It means “All my Relatives” and it connects all of our stories, all of our families, all created things in the universe, and all that is sacred/holy together in relationship. 

Mitakuye owasin.