Multigenerational trauma and the US-Dakota War of 1862

I recently learned of yet another injustice in a multigenerational history that began with the genocide and theft of the lands of tribal nations by the white settler-colonialists.

Following are the parts of this trauma that began with the US-Dakota War of 1862.

  • US-Dakota War of 1862
  • The story of the hanging of 38 Dakota men
  • Discussion of this war at the Kheprw Institute
  • The Dakota 38 Memorial Ride
  • The Dakota 38 movie
  • Reconciliation Park and the Names of the executed Indians
  • The removal a controversial outdoor “gallows” sculpture
  • Sales and leases of parcels taken from the Dakota raised nearly $580,000 for the University of Minnesota

Much information about the war can be found on the Minnesota Historical Society website, the US-Dakota War of 1862. “It has been over 150 years since the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, a disastrous time in Minnesota history. The war had a profound impact in shaping Minnesota as we know it today.”

My friend and roommate from Scattergood Friends School, Lee Tesdell, taught in Mankato, where the hangings occurred, and has spoken about this history with me. I have friends who have participated on the Memorial Ride for the Dakota 38.

The US-Dakota War of 1862 and the hanging of 38 Dakota men

On the day after Christmas in 1862, 38 Dakota men were hanged under order of President Abraham Lincoln. The hangings and convictions of the Dakota 38 resulted from the aftermath of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 in southwest Minnesota.

In addition to the 38 men hanged the day after Christmas, there were terrible injustices committed against 265 others in the form of military convictions and inhuman injustices to more than 3,000 Dakota people who were held captive, then forced to march west out of Minnesota.

How It All Started

The conflict erupted when treaties restricted the lands of the Dakota people to an area that could no longer sustain them. Promised compensations were slow or non-existent and the Dakota people feared starvation heading into a brutal Minnesota winter.

The Dakota also faced terrible racism, one white settler historically quoting, “Let them eat grass.”

The Traumatic True History and Name List of the Dakota 38. The Dakota 38 execution was the largest mass execution in the United States and took place on December 26, 1862 by VINCENT SCHILLINGDEC, Indian Country Today, December 26, 2020

“Wakute was our band leader. Some of our relatives in the Canku family were captured in 1862 and sent to Fort Snelling. There was nine of our family that were sent there. And then the rest escaped and went to the Plains. They were implicated for being Dakota. Just being Dakota means that you were guilty before any consideration of being innocent.” 

Dr. Clifford Canku, Sisseton Wahpeton community of Dakota, 2010

The discussion of this war at the Kheprw Institute

As an example of how seemingly disconnected things can be interconnected, on January 20, 2016, I wrote what follows below. It is interesting today to see this connection between our monthly book discussions at the Kheprw Institute, and stories of Indigenous peoples. The Kheprw Institute is a youth mentoring community I was blessed to be part of in Indianapolis. A community working on its own history and multigenerational injustices, in this case related to the institution of slavery and its consequences.

This story also brings Quakers into this history. North Meadow Circle of Friends in Indianapolis, where I attended, participated in a program called Quaker Social Change Ministry, and the Kheprw Institute was the organization we partnered with. Quakers had some involvement with the Indian Boarding Schools.

January 20, 2016

The book we will be reading for the next monthly community discussion at the Kheprw Institute (KI) is An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (ReVisioning American History) by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

One event in that history was the Dakota War.  As series of events led to conditions in which the Dakota were facing starvation.  Armed conflict eventually occurred but didn’t last long.  Afterwards, the largest mass execution by the United States, the hanging of 38 of the Dakota warriors at the same time took place in Mankato, Minnesota, on December 26, 1862, on the order of Abraham Lincoln.

To promote healing and reconciliation related to that, the Dakota created a film, “Dakota 38“, in response to a vision that came to one of them in 2005.  To make the story widely available, the film is distributed free of charge:

This is one of the most powerful videos I have ever seen.  We hear what the riders are thinking as they ride their horses on the 330-mile journey to Mankato through blizzard conditions.  Some of the modern-day warriors also ran the last 90 miles.

Jeff Kisling

The Dakota 38 Memorial Ride

“Today, all the people of the region continue to be affected by this traumatic event. We take the youth on the ride, so that they may connect with their culture in a more physical way. By being a part of the ride they are connecting themselves with their ancestors and their horse relatives. It is through the ride that they are able to see the beauty in the history and their culture.”


The Dakota 38 Plus 2 Memorial Ride is a ride that honors the 38 Dakota men who were hung in Mankato in December of 1862. The ride began from the vision of a Dakota elder and warrior. In this vision riders would ride from Crow Creek, SD to Mankato, MN. Ever since then the ride has continued to happen annually from the beginning year December 2005 to present collecting supporters and new riders along the way.

My name is Winona Goodthunder. My Dakota name is Wambde Ho Waste Win, Eagle Woman with a Good Voice. I have ridden in this ride since 2006, the second year. I was in eighth grade when I started. As the years have gone by the riders that we’ve met every year have become a part of a new kind of family. We are all different even though we are all somehow related. Those of us who are from the Lower Sioux region are used to different types of living than those who come from Canada, Nebraska, South Dakota, and other parts of the world. The differences that we have are forgotten when we come to this ride. We get up early in the morning to get our horses ready together. We ride all day together, and we eat together at night. It is then that our differences merge and we teach each other. The thing that seems to bind us the most is the fact that we can laugh. Humor may not be what is expected on a memorial ride, but it is encouraged for it is stressed that this ride is for forgiveness.

Although our group goes only for the last four days it is enough to establish that sense of family amongst each other. It is from these riders that I’ve learned most about my culture. I have read books, but they cannot foster the feeling that one gets when they are living in an experience such as the ride.

Winona Goodthunder

The Dakota 38 movie

I met Silas, a young man in his twenties from New England, at a retreat. He was a filmmaker, I’d heard. Over the next few days many stories were shared. Silas’ filmmaking was done on a shoestring. He carried his gear in a bag and stayed at friends’ houses when he traveled. I remember Silas telling us about meeting a Native American elder at his home. I wondered how that had happened. The elder talked about a dream he’d had, an important dream, one that he’d tried to ignore. But finally he understood that the dream had to be re-enacted. There would be a ride of Native Americans on horseback, over 300 miles across the Dakotas in the dead of winter, a healing ride to the place where 38 Native Americans had been hung during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. This ride would have to be filmed the elder told Silas. That’s what you’ll do, he’d said.
     I remember feeling shocked by the story. “Are you going to do it?”  I asked. He was. I didn’t have to ask if there was any money involved. I knew there wasn’t. And I remember being alarmed. My God, what an ordeal! Blizzards and freezing winds! Things could go seriously wrong!
     But Silas went. He went on the ride with his camera and some young assistants not afraid of the risks and ready for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure [Jesse HighEagle, Sarah Weston, Andrew Weston, Wes Schuck, JB Weston and Pancho Ramos Stierle].

A Conversation with Silas Hagerty: Dakota 38 by Richard Whittaker, Works and Conversations, July 28, 2012

The Dakota 38 movie

To download the film in HD, or burn your own DVD for free, visit In honoring honor native traditions surrounding ceremonies, we are screening and distributing “Dakota 38” as a gift rather than for sale.

In the spring of 2005, Jim Miller, a Native spiritual leader and Vietnam veteran, found himself in a dream riding on horseback across the great plains of South Dakota. Just before he awoke, he arrived at a riverbank in Minnesota and saw 38 of his Dakota ancestors hanged. At the time, Jim knew nothing of the largest mass execution in United States history, ordered by Abraham Lincoln on December 26, 1862. “When you have dreams, you know when they come from the creator… As any recovered alcoholic, I made believe that I didn’t get it. I tried to put it out of my mind, yet it’s one of those dreams that bothers you night and day.”

Now, four years later, embracing the message of the dream, Jim and a group of riders retrace the 330-mile route of his dream on horseback from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota to arrive at the hanging site on the anniversary of the execution. “We can’t blame the wasichus anymore. We’re doing it to ourselves. We’re selling drugs. We’re killing our own people. That’s what this ride is about, is healing.” This is the story of their journey- the blizzards they endure, the Native and Non-Native communities that house and feed them along the way, and the dark history they are beginning to wipe away.


Reconciliation Park and the Names of the executed Indians

Forgive Everyone Everything

FORGIVE EVERYONE EVERYTHING is inscribed on a bench in Reconciliation Park, Mankato, Minnesota, where the ride ends. The photo of the memorial shows a list of the names of the 38 Dakota men who were all hanged at the same time in what is now Mankato, Minnesota. A raised wooden platform, with 38 nooses along the sides, was constructed. It is said nearly 4,000 people witnessed this, the largest execution in U.S. history, on December 26, 1862.

As to who needs to be forgiven, there are many answers to that. 

More specifically this history came about as the Dakota were forced into smaller and smaller areas of land, to the point they could not sustain themselves.

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Names of the executed Indians

#1 was to be TA-TAY-ME-MA but he was reprieved because of his age and questions related to his innocence

  1. Plan-doo-ta, (Red Otter.)
  2. Wy-a-tah-ta-wa, (His People.)
  3. Hin-hau-shoon-ko-yag-ma-ne, (One who walks clothed in an Owl’s Tail.)
  4. Ma-za-bom-doo, (Iron Blower.)
  5. Wak-pa-doo-ta, (Red Leaf.)
  6. Wa-he-hua, _.
  7. Sua-ma-ne, (Tinkling Walker.)
  8. Ta-tay-me-ma, (Round Wind) — respited.
  9. Rda-in-yan-ka, (Rattling Runner.)
  10. Doo-wau-sa, (The Singer.)
  11. Ha-pau, (Second child of a son.)
  12. Shoon-ka-ska, (White Dog.)
  13. Toon-kau-e-cha-tag-ma-ne, (One who walks by his Grandfather.)
  14. E-tay-doo-tay, (Red Face.)
  15. Am-da-cha, (Broken to Pieces.)
  16. Hay-pe-pau, (Third child of a son.)
  17. Mah-pe-o-ke-na-jui, (Who stands on the Clouds.)
  18. Harry Milord, (Half Breed.)
  19. Chas-kay-dau, (First born of a son.)
  20. Baptiste Campbell, _.
  21. Ta-ta-ka-gay, (Wind Maker.)
  22. Hay-pin-kpa, (The Tips of the Horn.)
  23. Hypolite Auge, (Half-breed.)
  24. Ka-pay-shue, (One who does not Flee.)
  25. Wa-kau-tau-ka, (Great Spirit.)
  26. Toon-kau-ko-yag-e-na-jui, (One who stands clothed with his Grandfather.)
  27. Wa-ka-ta-e-na-jui, (One who stands on the earth.)
  28. Pa-za-koo-tay-ma-ne, (One who walks prepared to shoot.)
  29. Ta-tay-hde-dau, (Wind comes home.)
  30. Wa-she-choon, (Frenchman.)
  31. A-c-cha-ga, (To grow upon.)
  32. Ho-tan-in-koo, (Voice that appears coming.)
  33. Khay-tan-hoon-ka, (The Parent Hawk.)
  34. Chau-ka-hda, (Near the Wood.)
  35. Hda-hin-hday, (To make a rattling voice.)
  36. O-ya-tay-a-kee, (The Coming People.)
  37. Ma-hoo-way-ma, (He comes for me.)
  38. Wa-kin-yan-wa, (Little Thunder.)

The removal a controversial outdoor “gallows” sculpture

In a story emblematic of the great harm that can be done when one culture attempts to tell stories of another, a sculpture of “gallows” was taken down following protests.

The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis has agreed to remove a controversial outdoor “gallows” sculpture following protests by local Native Americans. The large work includes design elements of seven different historical U.S. gallows, including one used to hang 38 Dakota Indians in the state in 1862.

“I regret the pain that this artwork has brought to the Dakota community and others,” museum executive director Olga Viso said in a statement announcing the decision that was posted on Facebook Saturday. “This is the first step in a long process of healing.”

Minnesota Museum To Remove Gallows Exhibit After Native American Protest. The work, which depicts a structure where 38 Dakota Indians were killed, was criticized for being insensitive by Mary Papenfuss, HUFFPOST, May 29, 2017

What led to me writing about this again, today, was learning of yet another part of this history.

The federal government’s hanging of 38 Dakota men from a Mankato, Minn., gallows in December 1862 brought an end to the U.S.-Dakota war. It also triggered a financial bonanza for the University of Minnesota.

Dubbed the “Minnesota Windfall,” sales and leases of parcels taken from the Dakota raised nearly $580,000 for the young university — part of a massive grab of wealth cleaved from Native people and given to American universities.

Troubling stories surface as U probes its history with Native people” by Melissa Olson, North Star Journey, June 30, 2022

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