Julian Boucher sat in a black pickup truck trying to keep warm while he waited for the riders to arrive.
Boucher, who calls Sisseton, S.D. home, watched for the first sign of the horses as they and their riders made their way along TH19 near Vesta.
For the eighth year in a row, Boucher has filled this role as one of the coordinators of the 38+2 Dakota Wokik-suye (Memorial Horse Ride) from Fort Thompson, S.D. to the site of the hangings of those 38 Dakota in Mankato.
The ride, which was the vision of a Lakota spiritual leader named Jim Miller, is held for a number of reasons, including to offer a way to heal and reconcile what is a tragic time in Minnesota history.
Boucher has made the ride for himself but also for his ancestors, including his great-great-grandfather, who was originally to be hanged in Mankato.
Boucher’s ancestor, later known as Dennis Kitto, was not immune from the hanging, though, as two of his brothers were hanged.
Boucher, who has relatives in the Santee and Sisseton tribes, said the ride has always been a time for him to reflect on his ancestors and to help keep the story alive.
“I feel close to my ancestors when I am on the ride,” he said, adding as long as he is able he is going to continue taking part in the annual event.
Boucher’s ride was made a little longer this year, as part of the group opted to ride from the Santee reservation in Nebraska, which made the traditional 330-mile trip longer by 170 miles.
“By the time we get to Mankato we will have been riding for 500 miles,” he said, adding the ride for him began Dec. 4.
In other words, Boucher has committed an entire month to keeping the story alive.
As this is the 150th anniversary of the hanging, Boucher said it was only appropriate to ride from Santee or Crow Creek, as that is where many of the warriors were sent after being exiled from their land in Minnesota.
In fact, said Boucher, according to Minnesota law it is still against the law for the exiles to be in Minnesota.
Boucher wondered out loud how things would have been if the government had not tried to kill off the Dakota people.
“If they had only tried to work with us I think we all would be better off today,” he said.
He certainly believes he is a better person because of his participation in the ride.
The riders, who rested in the Redwood area at the home of Darwin and Gabi Strong over the weekend, got back on the road Sunday and are scheduled to arrive at Land of Memories Park in Mankato tomorrow.
Page 2 of 2 - Then on Wednesday the group is going to make the final trek to the site of the hanging.
The intent of the ride is not only to raise awareness of the historical tragedies of the U.S.-Dakota War, but also to raise awareness of the historical grief the Dakota people continue to feel today.
In addition to the 38 hanged in Mankato, another two Dakota men were killed at Fort Snelling, and while they were not part of the 38 honored at the Mankato site, they are remembered as the 38+2. A special statue honoring the 38+2 is being unveiled at the hanging site this year.
The public is invited to attend the special ceremony at the site of the hanging this Wed-nesday, as the riders are scheduled to arrive around 10 a.m.