MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - Hundreds of people gathered in the snow and cold in Mankato on Saturday to honor 38 Dakota Indians who were hanged after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
Some rode for hundreds of miles on horseback while others spent the night running from Fort Snelling in the Twin Cities, the Free Press of Mankato reported. The gathering at Reconciliation Park marked the 153rd anniversary of the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
Darwin Strong said the event marked the 12th year of the memorial ride from Crow Creek, South Dakota, to Mankato, but said Dakota Indians have run from Fort Snelling to the execution site for decades.
"The fact being is the blood of these men runs today and didn't stop when they were hung," Strong said. "They have ancestors here that come from all over."
Treaty violations by the U.S., late deliveries of money owed to the Dakota for ceding their land, crop failures and poor hunting left many Dakota angry and hungry. The tensions erupted in fighting that lasted for over a month. President Abraham Lincoln pardoned 265 of 303 Dakota men who were sentenced to death, but the remaining 38 were hanged Dec. 26, 1862.
"When we can learn to forgive, we truly live," Peter Lengkeek, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.
Several of Tim LaBatte's ancestors fought in the war. The Peever, South Dakota, man made the run in the 1980s. Saturday was his second year on the ride, which took about 2½ weeks to cover more than 300 miles.
LaBatte said one of the best parts was seeing children and teens take part.
"They're reaching out for knowledge about what we're doing," he said. "They begin taking in the concept of what happened in 1862. They feel that there's parts of history that they haven't been taught, but there's parts of history they would like to learn about."