March 18, 2002

Pow Wow: Dakota Mahkato Mdewakanton Wacipi


Keywords: american indian pow wow native american pow wows indian dance
Souix Indian events things to see and do in South Dakota wacipi Mdewakanton Association dakota sioux tribe how to say dance in the dakota sioux language Mankato US-Dakota conflict kids pages dakota 38 38 Dakota warriors executed in Mankato Mdewakanton Dakota

SOURCE: Canku Ota(Many Paths), An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America

One of our favorite pow wows is the Mahkato Wacipi. Learn more about it in this article.

The Mdewakanton Association provides an avenue for bridging the
gap in Indian-White relations in the Mankato area. The purpose of the
Association is:

  • To create a climate for positive interaction between Mdewakanton
    Dakota and non-Dakota people.
  • To learn about and promote an understanding of the Mdewakanton
    Dakota culture.
  • To contribute to a broaden understanding of Mdewakanton Dakota
    people and their contributions to this community’s development.


As a means of realizing these
purposes, the Mdewakanton Association has for many years cosponsored
and helped organize events with the Dakota communities that have allowed
descendants of the 38 Dakota to feel comfortable in returning to their
ancestral home.

One of the primary cosponsored
and co-organized events has been the Mahkato pow-wow or Wacipi (Wa-CHEE-pee
meaning “dance” in Dakota).

Having a cultural event like this
in Mankato is unique for two reasons. First, there are no reservations
near Mankato. Secondly, the creation of this annual Wacipi grew out
of a friendship, in the late 1950s, between two men, Mr. Amos Owen,
a Dakota elder, pipe maker and spiritual advisor to many from the Prairie
Island Mdewakanton Community (90 miles northeast of Mankato) and Mr.
Bud Lawrence, a Mankato non-Dakota businessman.

As an outgrowth of this
friendship, the first Mankato pow-wow since the 1800s was put on at
the YMCA in 1965. Since 1972, an annual three-day traditional Dakota
Mahkato Mdewakanton Wacipi has been held the third full weekend in September
in Mankato, MN.

In 1976, the Mdewakanton Club, a nonprofit organization,
was formed. Members of this organization include Native Americans and
whites from the Mankato area and Dakota communities.

The 1972 pow-wow or Wacipi
in Mankato was held in Key City Park, a baseball park. The Jr. Chamber
of Commerce Wives and the YMCA Y’s Men Association, under Jim Buckley,
Director, sponsored this pow-wow.

Key supporters in the mid-1970s included
the Zonta Club and the Chamber of Commerce. Between 1974 and 1979, the
pow-wow was held in Sibley Park.

In 1980, the City of Mankato demonstrated
its support by designating a park site named by the Dakota people as
“Dakota Wokiksuye Makoce Park” (Land of Memories Park) for
the Mahkato (meaning “earth blue” in Dakota) Wacipi.

site is seen by the Dakota as an area where many ceremonies and gatherings
took place prior to the 1862 U.S.-Dakota Conflict, which resulted in
the execution of 38 Dakota warriors in Mankato, December 26, 1862.

annual traditional Wacipi event is held to honor the 38 Dakota warriors
who died in that execution, the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

Over the years, financial support for this event has come from business
donations, Dakota and Mankato community donations, personal donations
and pow-wow button sales.

The Mdewakanton Association
promotes opportunities to educate the community about the Dakota history,
heritage and contributions to this area. In the Association’s early
years, the Association arranged educational sessions with Dakota people
for the Mankato area schools, Boy Scouts, churches, National Campfire
and the YMCA.

In 1987, the 125th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota Conflict,
Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich issued a Proclamation for Reconciliation
between Minnesota Dakota and non-Dakota people. Statewide, mutually
created educational activities by Dakota and non-Dakota took place as
a means of continuing the healing process between Dakota and non-Dakota

In 1987, as an outgrowth of the reconciliation emphasis,
a Dakota-Mankato communally-shared educational program involving all
area third grade children was established. Between 1987 and 2000, over
10,000 children teachers, parents and Native American resource persons
have participated in a unique direct cultural exchange education program
held in conjunction with the annual Dakota Mahkato Mdewakanton pow-wow
or Wacipi at Land of Memories (Wokiksuye Makoce) Park each September.

In 1989, an additional public educational opportunity was added to the
Saturday/Sunday Wacipi activities in the form of a Learning Center Tent
where Native American resource persons teach interested persons about
their culture.

For many years, Mr. Amos Owen came to Mankato on December 26th to pay tribute
to the 38 Dakota warriors executed in Mankato. In 1986, a memorial relay
run between Ft. Snelling (Minneapolis) and Mankato was established.

The Mdewakanton Association assists in this annual honoring ceremony
by serving as a liaison between the Mankato community and Dakota communities
and as a host for the feast following the run and memorial ceremony
at the Land of Memories Park.

Efforts by the Mdewakanton
Association to bring about understanding have led to a climate leading
to support of the Winter Warrior Statue and Reconciliation Parkette
on the site of the execution and the naming of the Dakota Meadows Middle
School by its students (check out Dakota
Meadows “The Dakota Conflict of 1862” web site

Mdewakanton Association meetings
are held on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the Mankato
State University Campus Burger King Meeting Room on Stadium Rd. in Mankato.
Come join with others who support the Association’s objectives. Consider
becoming a member of this volunteer organization.

To learn more about
this organization and it’s activities, you are invited to come to a
meeting or write for further information. Inquiries may be sent to:

Mdewakanton Association

P.O. Box 3608,

Mankato, MN. 56002.




For a detailed history of the U.S.-Dakota history in this area,

“History of the Santee Sioux” – 2nd ed. (1993), R.W.
Meyers, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE.

Conflict of 1862

Setting the Scene

Excerpted from: “The US – Dakota Conflict of 1862 – A Self-Guided Tour,” a pamphlet published by the

Long before Europeans made their first forays into the
territory now known as Minnesota, Native American tribes regularly crossed
the Minnesota River at a fording place 14 miles north of the present city
of Mankato, half a mile north of St. Peter. Early French explorers gave
the site its present name, Traverse des Sioux (Cross Place of the Sioux

The solid river bottom through shallow water provided a natural gateway
between the dense woodlands on the east and the prairies and bison of
the west. As a well-traveled junction, it became a natural convergence
point for commerce both for the Native Americans and for European traders
and trappers.

By the 1820’s, Louis Provencalle, a Frenchman working for John Jacob Astor’s
American Fur Co., had set up a permanent fur-trading post at Traverse
Des Sioux. Soon a settlement sprang up around the post.

On July 23, 1851, one of the most significant Indian treaties in our nation’s
history was signed at Traverse Des Sioux between the US government and
the Wahpeton and Sisseton bands of the Dakota. Two weeks later at Mendota,
a treaty was signed with the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands. These treaties
were instrumental in opening the American west to European settlement.

Some 24 million acres in Minnesota were ceded by the Dakota in exchange
for reservation lands and for $3,075,000 to be paid over a 50-year period
in annual annuities of goods and money — about 12 cents an acre for some
of the finest agricultural land in the country.

Before ratifying the Treaty the US Senate added amendments that weakened
the Dakota position. Even with the changes, the terms of the treaty were
not entirely honored by the US

The treaties left about 7,000 Dakota with two reservations, each 20 miles
wide and 70 miles long, with a 10 mile strip on each side of the Minnesota
River. In 1858 the strip of land along the north side of the river, nearly
a million acres, was also ceded to the US The government established two
administrative centers, the Upper and Lower Sioux agencies.

Delayed and skipped payments drove the Dakota to increasing desperation
with each passing year. Through deceptive business practices, unscrupulous
traders and government agents took much of what the Indians did have.
Poverty, starvation, and general suffering led to unrest that in 1862
culminated in the U.S.-Dakota Conflict, which launched a series of Indian
wars on the northern plains that did not end until the battle of Wounded
Knee in 1890.

Colonel Henry H. Sibley commanded the military. A well-known fur trader,
Sibley was the Minnesota Territory’s first delegate to Congress and the
state’s first governor.

With most of the able-bodied men away fighting the Civil War, the Indians
seized their opportunity and very nearly succeeded. After first advising
of the futility of challenging the white man (“Kill one, two, ten
and ten times ten will come to kill you,” he said), Mdewakanton Chief
Little Crow was persuaded to head the Dakota effort.

Before the Conflict (or Sioux Uprising, as it is often called) could be
brought under control, at least 450 white settlers and soldiers were killed
and considerable property was destroyed in southern Minnesota. There were
uncounted numbers of Dakota casualties because of the Indian custom of
removing all dead and dying warriors from the battlefield.

A five-man military commission was appointed to try the Dakota who participated
in the outbreak. The commission settled up to 40 cases in a single day.
Some were heard in as little as five minutes. In all, the commission tried
392, sentenced 307 to death and gave 16 prison terms. Many historians
today feel the trial was a travesty of justice.

Authority for the final order of execution was passed to President Lincoln.
He was pressured by politicians, military leaders, the press and public
for immediate execution of the 303 still on the condemned list. Interceding
on behalf of the Dakota was Episcopalian Bishop Henry Whipple, known to
the Indians as “Straight Tongue” for his fair dealings. The
Rev. Stephen Riggs and Dr. John P. Williamson, Presbyterian missionaries
to the Dakota, wrote letters to the press calling for a fair trial.

Lincoln approved death sentences for only 39 of the 303 prisoners. One
of the 39 was later reprieved.

At 10 a.m. on December 26, 1862, in Mankato, the group of 38 ascended
a specially-erected timber gallows 24 feet square and 20 feet high. More
than 1,400 soldiers of the 6th, 9th and 10th Minnesota Volunteers and
of the First Minnesota Mounted Rangers were on hand to keep order among
the crowds of hostile citizens. The Indians sang as they left their prison
and continued singing until the end. It was the largest mass execution
in American history.


 Mankato Area Chamber and Convention Bureau,
112 Riverfront Drive

PO Box 999

Mankato, MN 56002-0999



Here are several excellent web sites about the Dakota Conflict.
Meadows Middle School – Dakota Conflict of 1862: CyberFair Contestant

In 1862, when most of America was consumed
by the Civil War, fighting broke out between the Dakota and white
settlers in Minnesota. At the end of six weeks, hundreds of settlers
were dead, and the war against the Dakota had just begun. Thousands
of Dakota were in prison or in exile. On December 26, 1862, in the
largest mass execution ever in the United States, 38 Dakota were
hanged in Mankato. This is the story of that uprising. It is also
the story of reconciliation, of forgiveness, and of healing.


Minnesota State University’s E-Museum -The Dakota Conflict

Indian – settler relations in the Minnesota
territory had never been good. One of the earliest French explorers,
Father Louis Hennepin, was taken prisoner by the Dakota in 1683.
Hennepin was released and went on to write about his explorations.
While his captivity is a very minor incident, it represented the
suspicion and misunderstanding that would plague Indian – settler
relations in Minnesota into the twentieth century.

Following the Path of the Dakota Conflict of 1862 – An Ask ERIC Lesson Plan

This lesson plan will cover approximately one
month in which students will be learning about the geography and history
of the Dakota Conflict of 1862. Many students living in Minnesota
never realize the historical importance of the state, let alone the
vital role the state played in developing the frontier of the United
States. The Dakota Conflict of 1862 marked the beginning of several
wars between the native Americans and the European settlers. This
occurred in our backyard of the Minnesota River Valley. By locating
and mapping historically significant sites along the Minnesota River,
the students will understand the importance of the Dakota Conflict
of 1862.


The Dakota (Sioux) War – A Closer Look at the Conflict by Dawud Rasheed

About the times: During the time of the Dakota
War and before, the Civil War had already began. Many whites were
gone to fight in the war. Since the Sioux had been disgusted with
their situation for some time they saw fit to attack the white man
when he was at his weakest fighting other whites. It is interesting
and perhaps ironic that at the same time African-Americans struggled
for freedom, Native Americans faced a very similar conflict. In this
case the Dakota choose to battle for their land and freedom at the
same time African-Americans are about to gain emancipation.

 The Dakota Conflict Trials by  Douglas Linder

A  framed photograph of the scene depicted
on this home page, the execution of thirty-eight Sioux on December
26, 1862, used to fascinate me when, as a boy in Mankato, Minnesota,
I would visit the Blue Earth County Historical Museum.  Apart
from its macabre appeal, the picture impressed me because it captured
the most famous event in the history of my hometown (easily surpassing
in significance the death there of an obscure Vice President who died
while changing trains on his way to the Black Hills).  The hanging,
following trials which condemned over three hundred participants in
the 1862 Dakota Conflict, stands as the largest mass execution in
American history. Only the unpopular intervention of President Lincoln
saved 265 other Dakota and mixed-bloods from the fate met by the less
fortunate thirty-eight.  The mass hanging was the concluding
scene in the opening chapter of a story of American-Sioux conflict
that would not end until the Seventh Calvary completed its massacre
at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on December 29, 1890.

Mankato Area History
Here are several excellent web sites about local history.

City of Mankato – Visitor Information – Synopsis of Mankato History

Mankato was originally called Mahkato, meaning
greenish blue earth to Mankato’s first inhabitants, the Dakota Indians.
These native Mankatoans prefer the name Dakota meaning friend to the
name Sioux meaning snake like enemy given to them by their rivals,
the Ojibwe. An early spelling error was never corrected and Mahkato
became Mankato.

  Minnesota State University’s E-Museum – Welcome to Mankato, Minnesota!

Where is Mankato? Located in Southern Minnesota,
Mankato is the urban center for Southern Minnesota and contains excellent
schools and health care services as well as a bustling business district.
It is located in Blue Earth County where the Minnesota River bends
northward and joins with the Blue Earth River. It’s sister city, North
Mankato, is just across the river in Nicollet County.

 Welcome to North Mankato

Welcome to the home page for the City of North
Mankato, Minnesota. Thank you for visiting! On this page, you can
learn about the City and its various departments and services. (click
on history)


Blue Earth County History

Blue Earth County is located in the heart of
southern Minnesota, on the western edge of an area once known as the
“Big Woods.” Important features of the county are its many rivers,
streams, and lakes. These natural highways were heavily traveled by
the Indians who lived in the region for hundreds of years and left
their cultural imprint.


Minnesota State University’s E-Museum – Welcome to Minnesota Prehistory

The following site presents differing aspects
and features of Minnesota Prehistory. Click on the image at left to
learn about: Minnesota Archaeology – An overview of the development
of Minnesota Archeology and the Archaeologists. Taxonomy – A look
at the phases, dating, and periods of Minnesota Prehistory. Sites-
A selection of Sites from the different phases in Minnesota Prehistory.
Technology – A look at the different technologies of Prehistoric Minnesotan’s.


Southern Minnesota Prehistory by Michael Scullin

A Little Theory – Although archaeologists have
a multitude of names for the prehistoric cultures of Minnesota there
were some broad patterns which describe the 10,000 years we know as
prehistory. The archaeological record, by no means complete, can provide
reasonably accurate accounts of what the people who lived here ate
and what types of tools they used. Beyond that we can only make educated
guesses (hypotheses) about their lives.


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