MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Participants of the 16th annual Dakota 38 + 2 Memorial Ride made their journey on horseback through aggressive winds, below freezing temperatures and harsh blizzard conditions.
“It was a struggle, you know, because we had a blizzard over there in Lake Crystal. We were out in those tepees, you know, and it was cold,” said Jim Hallum, a rider.
The riders began their journey on Dec. 8th and traveled more than 300 miles on foot or horseback to Mankato, or Mahkato. They arrived Saturday morning.
The date marks the 158th year since the grim day in 1862 when 38 Dakota warriors were hung. The + 2 commemorates two additional Sioux members who fled to Canada only to be caught, sent back to the states and subsequently executed in 1865.
The tragic loss of life was carried out under an order by President Abraham Lincoln, who sent the names of 39 men to Henry Sibley. The convictions resulted from the aftermath of the U.S.-Dakota War in southwest Minnesota.
The killings left a stain on American history. To this day, the lives lost on the gallows make the hangings the largest mass execution to ever happen in the United States.
“People don’t want to hear it. I mean even our president didn’t want it. They don’t want that history out there. He even said it, you know,” Hallum continued.
The tragedies didn’t stop after the executions; 265 others were cast with military convictions and were succumbed to injustices, such as holding more than 3,000 Dakota people captive before forcing them out of Minnesota.
“We’re riding for all of the exiles, and the exiles across this land, because almost all Natives can’t live in their own lands anymore. They’re put in a little reservation somewhere or some of them were relocated to the cities,” added Hallum.
Those that lost their lives on the gallows were disposed of in a shallow sand grave on a nearby riverbank, only to be dug up shortly thereafter to be dissected as medical cadavers.
For the riders, the journey to Mahkato sheds light on a dark covered and underacknowledged history.
“A lot of people don’t know their own history. They don’t know their own culture. They don’t know their own language. See, that was all taken away. Everything. We were exiled from it,” mentioned Hallum.
Roughly 100 people come together for the ride each year, and local communities show support to the riders by offering care to them and the horses. The annual journey aids in the process of healing, recovering identity and paying tribute to those who lost loved ones.
Hallum stated, “There was a lot of different people, and we all came together. We did what we had to do.”
A GoFundMe has been started to support the riders.