Our Purpose and History
The Mdewakanton Association provides an avenue for bridging the gap in Indian-White relations in the Mankato area. The purpose of the Association is:
- To create a climate for positive interaction between Mdewakanton Dakota and non-Dakota people.
- To learn about and promote an understanding of the Mdewakanton Dakota culture.
- To contribute to a broaden understanding of Mdewakanton Dakota people and their contributions to this community's development.
As a means of realizing these purposes, the Mdewakanton Association has for many years co-sponsored and helped organize events with the Dakota communities that have allowed descendants of the 38 Dakota to feel comfortable in returning to their ancestral home.
One of the primary cosponsored and co-organized events has been the Mahkato powwow or Wacipi (Wa-CHEE-pee meaning "dance" in Dakota). Having a cultural event like this in Mankato is unique for two reasons. First, there are no reservations near Mankato. Secondly, the creation of this annual Wacipi grew out of a friendship, in the late 1950s, between two men, Mr. Amos Owen, a Dakota elder, pipe maker and spiritual advisor to many from the Prairie Island Mdewakanton Community (90 miles northeast of Mankato) and Mr. Bud Lawrence, a Mankato non-Dakota businessman. As an outgrowth of this friendship, the first Mankato pow-wow since the 1800s was put on at the YMCA in 1965. Since 1972, an annual three-day traditional Dakota Mahkato Mdewakanton Wacipi has been held the third full weekend in September in Mankato, MN. In 1976, the Mdewakanton Club, a nonprofit organization, was formed. Members of this organization include Native Americans and whites from the Mankato area and Dakota communities.
The 1972 pow-wow or Wacipi in Mankato was held in Key City Park, a baseball park. The Jr. Chamber of Commerce Wives and the YMCA Y's Men Association, under Jim Buckley, Director, sponsored this pow-wow. Key supporters in the mid-1970s included the Zonta Club and the Chamber of Commerce. Between 1974 and 1979, the pow-wow was held in Sibley Park. In 1980, the City of Mankato demonstrated its support by designating a park site named by the Dakota people as "Dakota Wokiksuye Makoce Park" (Land of Memories Park) for the Mahkato (meaning "earth blue" in Dakota) Wacipi. This site is seen by the Dakota as an area where many ceremonies and gatherings took place prior to the 1862 U.S.-Dakota Conflict, which resulted in the execution of 38 Dakota warriors in Mankato, December 26, 1862. The annual traditional Wacipi event is held to honor the 38 Dakota warriors who died in that execution, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Over the years, financial support for this event has come from business donations, Dakota and Mankato community donations, personal donations and pow-wow button sales.
The Mdewakanton Association promotes opportunities to educate the community about the Dakota history, heritage and contributions to this area. In the Association's early years, the Association arranged educational sessions with Dakota people for the Mankato area schools, Boy Scouts, churches, National Campfire and the YMCA. In 1987, the 125th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota Conflict, Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich issued a Proclamation for Reconciliation between Minnesota Dakota and non-Dakota people. Statewide, mutually created educational activities by Dakota and non-Dakota took place as a means of continuing the healing process between Dakota and non-Dakota Minnesotans. In 1987, as an outgrowth of the reconciliation emphasis, a Dakota-Mankato communally-shared educational program involving all area third grade children was established. Between 1987 and 2000, over 10,000 children teachers, parents and Native American resource persons have participated in a unique direct cultural exchange education program held in conjunction with the annual Dakota Mahkato Mdewakanton pow-wow or Wacipi at Land of Memories (Wokiksuye Makoce) Park each September. In 1989, an additional public educational opportunity was added to the Saturday/Sunday Wacipi activities in the form of a Learning Center Tent where Native American resource persons teach interested persons about their culture.
For many years, Mr. Amos Owen came to Mankato on December 26th to pay tribute to the 38 Dakota warriors executed in Mankato. In 1986, a memorial relay run between Ft. Snelling (Minneapolis) and Mankato was established. The Mdewakanton Association assists in this annual honoring ceremony by serving as a liaison between the Mankato community and Dakota communities and as a host for the feast following the run and memorial ceremony at the Land of Memories Park.
Efforts by the Mdewakanton Association to bring about understanding have led to a climate leading to support of the Winter Warrior Statue and Reconciliation Parkette on the site of the execution and the naming of the Dakota Meadows Middle School by its students.
Mdewakanton Association meetings are held on the 3rd Thursday of each month, typically November/December through September, at 7:00 p.m. at Snell Motors (corner of Madison Ave. & Hwy 22) in their Community Room. Come join with others who support the Association's objectives. Consider becoming a member of this volunteer organization.
For a detailed history of the U.S.-Dakota history in this area, read:
"History of the Santee Sioux" - 2nd ed. (1993), R.W. Meyers, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE.
The U.S - Dakota War of 1862
Long before Europeans made their first forays into the territory now known as Minnesota, Native American tribes regularly crossed the Minnesota River at a fording place 14 miles north of the present city of Mankato, half a mile north of St. Peter. Early French explorers gave the site its present name, Traverse des Sioux (Cross Place of the Sioux People).
The solid river bottom through shallow water provided a natural gateway between the dense woodlands on the east and the prairies and bison of the west. As a well-traveled junction, it became a natural convergence point for commerce both for the Native Americans and for European traders and trappers.
By the 1820's, Louis Provencalle, a Frenchman working for John Jacob Astor's American Fur Co., had set up a permanent fur-trading post at Traverse Des Sioux. Soon a settlement sprang up around the post.
On July 23, 1851, one of the most significant Indian treaties in our nation's history was signed at Traverse Des Sioux between the US government and the Wahpeton and Sisseton bands of the Dakota. Two weeks later at Mendota, a treaty was signed with the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands. These treaties were instrumental in opening the American west to European settlement.
Some 24 million acres in Minnesota were ceded by the Dakota in exchange for reservation lands and for $3,075,000 to be paid over a 50-year period in annual annuities of goods and money -- about 12 cents an acre for some of the finest agricultural land in the country.
Before ratifying the Treaty the US Senate added amendments that weakened the Dakota position. Even with the changes, the terms of the treaty were not entirely honored by the US
The treaties left about 7,000 Dakota with two reservations, each 20 miles wide and 70 miles long, with a 10 mile strip on each side of the Minnesota River. In 1858 the strip of land along the north side of the river, nearly a million acres, was also ceded to the US The government established two administrative centers, the Upper and Lower Sioux agencies.
Delayed and skipped payments drove the Dakota to increasing desperation with each passing year. Through deceptive business practices, unscrupulous traders and government agents took much of what the Indians did have. Poverty, starvation, and general suffering led to unrest that in 1862 culminated in the U.S.-Dakota Conflict, which launched a series of Indian wars on the northern plains that did not end until the battle of Wounded Knee in 1890.
Colonel Henry H. Sibley commanded the military. A well-known fur trader, Sibley was the Minnesota Territory's first delegate to Congress and the state's first governor.
With most of the able-bodied men away fighting the Civil War, the Indians seized their opportunity and very nearly succeeded. After first advising of the futility of challenging the white man ("Kill one, two, ten and ten times ten will come to kill you," he said), Mdewakanton Chief Little Crow was persuaded to head the Dakota effort.
Before the Conflict (or Sioux Uprising, as it is often called) could be brought under control, at least 450 white settlers and soldiers were killed and considerable property was destroyed in southern Minnesota. There were uncounted numbers of Dakota casualties because of the Indian custom of removing all dead and dying warriors from the battlefield.
A five-man military commission was appointed to try the Dakota who participated in the outbreak. The commission settled up to 40 cases in a single day. Some were heard in as little as five minutes. In all, the commission tried 392, sentenced 307 to death and gave 16 prison terms. Many historians today feel the trial was a travesty of justice.
Authority for the final order of execution was passed to President Lincoln. He was pressured by politicians, military leaders, the press and public for immediate execution of the 303 still on the condemned list. Interceding on behalf of the Dakota was Episcopalian Bishop Henry Whipple, known to the Indians as "Straight Tongue" for his fair dealings. The Rev. Stephen Riggs and Dr. John P. Williamson, Presbyterian missionaries to the Dakota, wrote letters to the press calling for a fair trial.
Lincoln approved death sentences for only 39 of the 303 prisoners. One of the 39 was later reprieved.
At 10 a.m. on December 26, 1862, in Mankato, the group of 38 ascended a specially-erected timber gallows 24 feet square and 20 feet high. More than 1,400 soldiers of the 6th, 9th and 10th Minnesota Volunteers and of the First Minnesota Mounted Rangers were on hand to keep order among the crowds of hostile citizens. The Indians sang as they left their prison and continued singing until the end.
It was the largest mass execution in American history.
Excerpted from: "The US - Dakota Conflict of 1862 - A Self-Guided Tour," a pamphlet published by the
Mankato Area Chamber and Convention Bureau,
112 Riverfront Drive
PO Box 999
Mankato, MN 56002-0999