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Dakota 38 movie at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pX6FBSUyQI
Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
The most helpful book I read this year was social ethicist Maureen O’Connell’s Undoing the Knots: Five Generations of American Catholic Anti-Blackness. She goes back through five generations of her Philadelphia Irish Catholic family to sort out the Church’s complicity and her family’s participation in the social construction of whiteness and anti-Blackness in Philadelphia. Her meticulous research is an act of reparation.
She invites each of us white-bodied settlers in America to do the same—to undo the history of what we think we know about our home states and hometowns. She asks us to unlearn and relearn our origin stories in a spirit of much-needed reconciliation of our past.
While my hometown in southern Minnesota boasts proudly of its German heritage, it first began as a real estate scheme by Chicago businessmen drawn to the cheap land of what they considered to be the unpopulated plains. But we Midwest beneficiaries of European settlers must now honestly admit that our homes stand on a legacy of land theft, broken treaties, and the removal and genocide of the native peoples of these lands. The 16 million native tribespeople of 200 years ago are 250,000 native people today.
Allow me to remember the story of 38 Dakota warriors who were hung in the largest mass execution in American history 160 years ago on this day, December 26, 1862, in Mankato—20 miles from my hometown in southern Minnesota.
The 38 warriors who went to the gallows on December 26, 1862, had risen up to defend their way of life so that they might provide for their families. The first peoples of my American homeland were also its first martyrs, and I honor their memory each year on this feast of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
Allow me also to recommend a movie on YouTube called Dakota 38. The film tells the story of an annual 16-day, 330-mile pilgrimage on horseback by descendants of the Dakota 38. They ride from Lower Brule, South Dakota, and stop to rest at farms, community centers, and churches along the way. On December 26, they arrive at the gallows site in Mankato, Minnesota, to commemorate the martyrdom of their ancestors.
The Dakota elder and Vietnam war veteran who began this annual pilgrimage describes his people’s suffering as a deeply embedded genetic depression and post-traumatic distress.
For the native tribespeople on pilgrimage and the white settlers who host them along their way, the shared burden is first to apologize, then to forgive. There are no heroes here, only native and settler Americans undoing the knots of the past and paying their lives forward in messy reconciliation.
Here are the names of the 38 Dakota Warriors who died this day in 1862:
1. Tipi-hdo-niche, Forbids His Dwelling
2. Wyata-tonwan, His People
3. Taju-xa, Red Otter
4. Hinhan-shoon-koyag-mani, Walks Clothed in an Owl’s Tail
5. Maza-bomidu, Iron Blower
6. Wapa-duta, Scarlet Leaf
7. Wahena, translation unknown
8. Sna-mani, Tinkling Walker
9. Radapinyanke, Rattling Runner
10. Dowan niye, The Singer
11. Xunka ska, White Dog
12. Hepan, family name for a second son
13. Tunkan icha ta mani, Walks With His Grandfather
14. Ite duta, Scarlet Face
15. Amdacha, Broken to Pieces
16. Hepidan, family name for a third son
17. Marpiya te najin, Stands on a Cloud (Cut Nose)
18. Henry Milord (French mixed-blood)
19. Dan Little, Chaska dan, family name for a first son
20. Baptiste Campbell (French mixed-blood)
21. Tate kage, Wind Make
22. Hapinkpa, Tip of the Horn
23. Hypolite Auge (French mixed-blood)
24. Nape shuha, Does Not Flee
25. Wakan tanka, Great Spirit
26. Tunkan koyag I najin, Stands Clothed with His Grandfather
27. Maka te najin, Stands Upon Earth
28. Pazi kuta mani, Walks Prepared to Shoot
29. Tate hdo dan, Wind Comes Back
30. Waxicun na, Little Whiteman
31. Aichaga, To Grow Upon
32. Ho tan inku, Voice Heard in Returning
33. Cetan hunka, The Parent Hawk
34. Had hin hda, To Make a Rattling Noise
35. Chanka hdo, Near the Woods
36. Oyate tonwan, The Coming People
37. Mehu we mea, He Comes for Me
38. Wakinyan na, Little Thunder
Scripture passage from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
27 December 2022 @ 1:54 am
Wow,wow, wow—so powerful! Thank you, Greg
27 December 2022 @ 2:02 am
The challenge I long to hear from my church’s pulpits.
Sr. Elyse Ramirez
27 December 2022 @ 2:50 am
by the middle of the 38 names being proclaimed, I had to remind myself to breathe. Thank you, for reminding us to “pay our lives forward in this messy reconciliation” remembering …Nothing is impossible for God”
27 December 2022 @ 4:09 am
Thank you kindly, Fr.Greg, that was a courageous preaching. We can no longer sit and say niceties while ignoring people’s pains in our preaching opportunities.
27 December 2022 @ 4:32 am
Thank you. I was born in Ute Mountain Tribe’s lands, but never knew their history until late in life. The knowledge and understanding I gained from that job assignment was the best work I’ve done. I too will remember the Dakota 38 every 12/26. Saint Stephen, pray for them.
27 December 2022 @ 8:06 am
Will you also pray for the hundreds of white settlers, many women and children, who were murdered in surprise attacks? Those hanged were found guilty of rape or murder; Lincoln ordered that no Dakota be hanged if he simply fought in battles. The trials were hasty and poorly done, but an attempt to find those guilty of rape or murder of unarmed settlers. We can simplify matters by ignoring the white victims, but isn’t that as wrong as ignoring the many Dakota who fought bravely in battles for their people’s way of life?
27 December 2022 @ 12:30 pm
The 1862 Uprising was a horrible event for both the settlers and the Dakota. The trials of those who were ultimately hanged were nothing like the due process that would be required today – yet the 38 were far less than what the whites victims wanted. Hundreds of settlers, men, women, and children, were killed while going about their daily lives. Children were murdered by swinging them and bashing their brains out. Female captives were gang-raped. This was also racial genocide. The Government policies towards the indigenous peoples were designed to take their land and eradicate their way of life, but all of the facts should be acknowledged. Let us all try to be better and more understanding of mistakes made by us all as humans.
27 December 2022 @ 1:12 pm
Thank you, Greg. I am glad you linked the “undoing the knots” of African Americans and the “undoing the knots” of indigenous peoples here. We have never had Truth and Reconciliation Commissions on slavery or indigenous genocide in this country. The healing will still take a lot of “undoing of knots”. Would Jesus of Nazareth, himself a victim of capital punishment, support all the lynchings of Blacks and natives?