Santee tribe to honor anniversary of executions

  • Associated Press
  • December 22, 2012 - 8:07 PM

SANTEE, Neb. - A day after Christmas, the Dakota people in Santee, Neb., will honor the 150th anniversary of the hanging deaths of 38 Dakota Sioux Indians — the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

The men were hanged Dec. 26, 1862, in Mankato, Minn., marking the end of what's now called The Dakota War of 1862.

"It's a piece of the nation's past that not many people even know about today," Roger Trudell, chairman of the Santee tribal council, told the Yankton Press & Dakotan ( "Almost all of the people in Santee are direct descendants of the prisoners and those that were executed in Minnesota."

To commemorate the event and honor the dead, a daylong memorial is planned Wednesday. The Santee tribe has long honored the anniversary, but this will be the first year that horses are included in the event.

The animals will be dressed in regalia with drapes that commemorate each of the executed men, said Social Services Director Misty Thomas.

The Dakota War of 1862 was a six-week uprising sparked by broken promises of food and other goods that the U.S. government made the Dakota people in exchange for land. Dakota men, enraged that the government refused to give them annuity payments, attacked settlements throughout the Minnesota River valley. Hundreds of Indians, soldiers and settlers died.

Though 303 Sioux prisoners had been sentenced to death, President Abraham Lincoln intervened and granted clemency to 264 prisoners with an order to execute 39 men for crimes against U.S. civilians.

One of the 39 was granted a reprieve. The Army executed the remaining 38 in a public hanging performed on a single scaffold platform.

The bodies were buried in a mass grave in a riverbank sandbar. The next year, Indians were expelled from Minnesota and forced to move to South Dakota and Nebraska.

A memorial ride is open to the public and set to begin at 11 a.m. Wednesday from the Santee Tribal Ranch. It will end at the Oyate Oyanke Community Center, where a community prayer and presentations will follow.

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