Today we wrapped up our tour of sites and stories tied to the US-Dakota War. We started at Bishop Whipple Mission, which was built immediately following the war. We walked through the cemetery, took note of all of the people with the first name ‘Henry’ or ‘Cornelia’ -- or even ‘Henry Whipple.’ It is clear that the many Dakota had a positive relationship with Bishop Whipple and the Episcopal Church. A man by the name of Good Thunder, buried next to the church, was the first native to be baptized by Whipple. There would be so many to follow. At the back of the property is a spot filled with tall grass and wild lilies where the only known bodies from the Mankato execution were reinterred and where the remains of other natives cast from the state have been able to finally come home.
Our next stop was Pipestone National Monument, which contains the highest quality stone for making ceremonial pipes. An native artist shared with us how the stones are carved and we even learned that the dust generated from making the pipes can be used for other purposes, such as jewelry, magnets, etc.
After walking through the tall grass prairie and learning about the native species found there, we drove across the border into South Dakota. Just on the other side of the border is the grave of Little Crow, chief of the Dakota during the US-Dakota War. Around his grave we reflected on this first Minnesota leg of our journey. We left a braided lemongrass bundle and a St. Christopher’s medal. Little Crow was murdered after the war while picking berries near Hutchinson. He was scalped several times so that settlers could cash in on the bounty placed on him. Then, he was decapitated, firecrackers were placed in his ears, and then paraded through town. For 100 years it and other bones of his were placed on display at the Minnesota History Museum before being returned to the family in 1971. In 2012, the Dakota held a “homecoming” ceremony where members of the Dakota community marched from the town where Little Crow was buried into Minnesota.
In the car we listened to This American Life’s series called “Little War on the Prairie.” It was remarkable to be in the places being described by the authors while listening to it. It is remarkable how little we, as Minnesotans, know about this conflict. While we were not responsible for the removal of the Dakota people, our ancestors did benefit from that removal. Therefore, it was only fitting for us to confront what was sacrificed in order for pave a way for the many blessings we enjoy today.
This evening we camp at Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne at a group tipi site. Hot dogs and s’mores are on the menu! Tomorrow, we wander into the heart of the Dakotas.