August 17, 2012

Dakota walk commemorates war's anniversary

Dakota cross border to a 150-year-old welcome home

By Curt BrownDennis Red Owl pushed his 86-year-old mother's wheelchair over a crack in the asphalt Friday where South Dakota Hwy. 34 meets Minnesota Hwy. 30 at the border.

Elder Ada Red Owl, wrapped in a shawl, bowed her head and swept the smoke of burning sage over her face. A "Welcome to Minnesota" sign stood just across the road.

Traffic was halted as drum beats and prayer chants filled the unseasonably crisp air among the cornfields. More than 300 people circled around Ada and seven other Dakota grandmothers--four on each side of the border--as they exchanged eagle feathers at a symbolic welcome-home ceremony for exiles on the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

In the wake of the war, in which hundreds of settlers, U.S. soldiers and Dakota fighters were killed, Congress passed a law in 1863 banishing the Dakota from Minnesota. Several hundred Dakota had gone to war after broken treaties and late annuity payments left their families starving to death in a narrow reservation along the Minnesota River. Their intent was to win back their land from a wave of immigrants sweeping into early Minnesota. The federal law, although unenforced, remains on the books.
Dakota remember conflict with walk

Minnesota-S.D. border ceremony marks 1862 warAs the ceremony began, 11 horses carrying riders crested a hill on South Dakota’s Highway 34 and led a procession of walkers to the border. Winona, Minn., residents Barbi Bell and Richie Swanson held a sign that read “Welcome Home,” while Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie shouted the same greeting as walkers descended the hill.

“This is long overdue,” said Pipestone County Sheriff Dan Delaney, watching the ceremony as he stood next to the “Welcome to Minnesota” sign sitting on the state’s Highway 30.

An 1863 federal law remains that bans Dakota from living in Minnesota, though it’s not enforced. Gov. Mark Dayton issued a statement asking Minnesotans to “remember that dark past,” and he repudiated the actions of Alexander Ramsey, Minnesota’s second governor, who said after the war that the Dakota should be exterminated or driven from the state.

Dayton said, “Hostile feelings do still exist between some Native Americans and their neighbors.” He offered condolences to everyone who lost family members, and ordered all state flags flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset Friday.
For more on the US-Dakota War being commemorated, here's the last of a six-part series:

Little Crow's legacy

And an essay in the New York Times:

Lincoln and the Sioux

For more on the subject, see Memorial Sought for Mankato 38 and 150th Anniversary of US-Dakota War.

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