Driving from Estherville, Iowa (where I did a presentation for First Presbyterian Church) to Minneapolis-St. Paul (where I will meet with youth at House of Hope Presbyterian Church, meet with a group working to end human trafficking, and attend the NEXT Church Conference), I noticed a sign to Mankato. I decided to follow and see what I might see.
December 26, 1862 – in the largest mass execution in U.S. history, 38 Dakota were hanged in Mankato, Minnesota. The U.S.-Dakota war, as it is named, began in August 1862 fueled by hunger and broken promises. When the fighting ended, the Dakota people were driven from Minnesota. 392 Dakota were tried, 303 were sentenced to death, and 16 were given prison terms. President Lincoln reviewed the transcripts and reduced the number of death sentences to 39. One man received a reprieve at the last minute.
I discovered Reconciliation Park, a simple park near the Minnesota River and across from the Mankato Branch of the Blue Earth County Library. The park features a white limestone buffalo that marks the spot of the executions.
It includes a memorial created to resemble a leather scroll. One side bears the names of the 38 men; the other has a poem and prayer. Benches with the inscription “forgive everyone everything” surround the memorial. The memorial was dedicated in 2012 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the execution. Indian Country Today Media Network reports the dedication came at the end of “a year of lectures, discussions, exhibits, newspaper articles, radio broadcasts, concerts and commemorations in the state of Minnesota acknowledging the history of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.”
At the simple memorial, I pondered what I know and what I need to learn of past expressions of racism, oppression, and violence. I pondered contemporary manifestations of racism and oppression and yes, even violence from time to time.
And I added my silent prayer that the day might soon come, and that I might have grace and strength to work for the day, when all our relatives live in community.
See you along the trail.