Ride marks 150th year since hangingsEvent passes through Woonsocket, Howard on way to Mankato.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
WOONSOCKET — A series of tragic events 150 years ago is being remembered in a ride across two states that stopped Wednesday night in Woonsocket.
“This is a spiritual ride,” said Crow Creek tribal member Wilfred Keeble. The Dakota 38 Plus 2 Reconciliation Ride started Tuesday on the Crow Creek Sioux Indian Reservation and will end Christmas Day in Mankato, Minn. On Dec 26, a solemn ceremony will commemorate the 38 American Indians who were hanged Dec. 26, 1862, in Mankato.
They were executed after the end of the 1862 Dakota War, a bloody spree of violence between Indians who were denied access to food, and white settlers and soldiers, many of whom felt their wrath. Pitched battles, skirmishes and smaller attacks occurred, and the violence was staggering.
More than 1,000 people died during the weeks-long war, and hundreds more Indians died in captivity after it ended. Indian people were banned from their ancestral lands, and many settled in what is now central South Dakota.
“This is about healing and reconciliation,” said Dave Quick Bear, one of more than 50 men, women and children who were taking part in the ride. The riders brought 30 horses with them and took turns riding them along state Highway 34.
Keeble said he feels the ride is vital to instill pride in his people, and to share the story of the deaths and destruction that occurred in 1862.
“It’s important for the kids to know where they came from,” Keeble said.
He said Indians and whites both need to learn about the war, and to create a better world without the hatred that fueled such violence.
Keeble, 54, said while he feels racial tensions have lessened in the past few years, things are still far from perfect.
“The only thing that has changed for the Crow Creek is that we have been relocated,” he said. “It’s still the same system.”
Keeble said broken treaties and second-class treatment still haunt Indians.
The passions that ignited in the 1862 conflict have cooled, but the memories of those events live on, he said.
“We’ve been exiled. We were hunted,” Keeble said. “There was a $200 bounty on us.”
But he said Jim Miller, an Indian spiritual leader who created the ride in 2005 after he had a dream about the mass hangings, has urged people on both sides to forgive, forget and forge a new world.
“With that dream, he says we should be the ones to reconcile,” Keeble said. “Maybe it will happen.”
Miller’s dream, and the ride it inspired, is told in a documentary, “Dakota 38 + 2.”
In it, he said he hopes it can help Indian people heal themselves, and stop blaming others for their troubles.
At the same time, Miller and others said this painful piece of American history needs to be told.
The ride itself is a magnificent sight.
There is a team of riders, one carrying a staff with 40 eagle feathers commemorating the 38 men who were hanged in Mankato, as well as two other Indians who were hanged in 1865.
Every seven miles, the riders and horses are exchanged. A caravan of cars, pickups and horse trailers accompanies the riders.
This is the second ride for Cary Ross, 41, of Fort Thompson.
“It’s helping me learn about my ancestors and what happened back then,” Ross said.
The riders left their horses in a pasture on the west edge of Woonsocket before heading into town.
Josette Peltier, of Flandreau, said she takes part in the ride to send a message of tolerance and acceptance.
“Let’s go forward now and make it better for our young people,” Peltier said.
She was at the Woonsocket Community Hall, where a meal was being prepared for the riders.
Her friend, Lynette Kleppin, who lives in Woonsocket, came to help.
Mayor Lindy Peterson stopped by to check on things and to offer some assistance.
Peterson said the riders have passed through Woonsocket in the past few years, and people enjoy talking with them and learning more about the ride and the message behind it.
“I wanted to support them a little bit. There’s a lot of prejudice,” he said. “Maybe we can get it out of our lives someday.”
The ride continues east today, with Howard as the next scheduled stop.