Dakota 38

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For 26 December 2022, The Feast of Saint Stephen, the first Martyr, based on Matthew 10:17-22

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.”
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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.

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About Gregory Heille, O.P.

Gregory Heille, O.P., serves as Professor of Preaching and Evangelization and director of the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a friar of the Province of St. Albert the Great USA and has a particular interest in racial equity education.