The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 25, 2012

Our View: We can learn from what happened 150 years ago


The Free Press

— Today we acknowledge history with the hope that the lessons will come sooner and travel further than in the past.

Today, the Dakota, whites and all people recount and memorialize the events of Dec. 26, 1862 in downtown Mankato at the historic site of the execution of 38 Dakota in connection to the U.S.-Dakota War.

The event will likely be bigger than in the past and draw more media attention. But the event at Reconciliation Park is no more or less significant than it was last year or 50 years ago. The 150-year marking of history suggests we should pay more attention or at least take a deeper look back at the events even if the year is a convenience for historians.

The 150-year anniversary clearly has generated a robust debate about the U.S.-Dakota War, the pain and suffering, guilt and innocence on both sides. The divergent views have offered a useful tool to construct our own interpretation of these events that can be objectively portrayed as violent, dark and life-ending.

The new memorial commemorating the events was created in deference to those divergent views. The poem by Mankatoan Katherine Hughes on the memorial teaches that both cultures had attitudes that led to actions that "honored" and "dishonored" their cultures. Both sides had innocent victims and others who offered "kindness" and "deeds" that brought honor to their cultures.

A prayer on the memorial by the late Dakota elder Eli Taylor asks for humility, understanding and knowledge for the children and asks that we "live in friendship as a community!!"

The Dakota will come on their horses today and the whites  maybe in their SUVs. At 150 years, cameras will mark the event more so than in the past.

Let us hope that we learn the lessons that 150 years has shed light upon and remember them not once a year but every day.