Friday ceremony on Minn., SD border marks war anniversary

Published 11:27 am Saturday, August 18, 2012

PIPESTONE — Drumming and chanting filled the air Friday as about 300 people gathered along the Minnesota-South Dakota border to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the U.S.-Dakota war.

The event was a symbolic welcoming home of the Dakota people exiled from the state following the war. The Star Tribune reported that eight Dakota grandmothers, four on each side of the state border, exchanged eagle feathers and sage. ( ).

About 600 settlers and soldiers were killed in the six-week war that started on Aug. 18, 1862, after a group of young Dakota men attacked and killed five Meeker County settlers a day earlier. Many Dakota were starving at that time because of delayed annuity payments and unfilled treaty provisions, and a few hundred attacked to reclaim their longtime homeland.

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It ended in December with the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged in Mankato.

“This is a good thing and the time is ripe for healing,” said Theresa Two Bulls, an Oglala Sioux tribal member from Pine Ridge, S.D. She carried her family’s ancient pipestone pipe to the event.

“We’re not going anywhere and neither is the white society,” Two Bulls said. “So it’s time to join hands and begin living in harmony for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

As 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 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 no longer 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.