The date was Dec. 26, 1862.
On that day 38 Dakota warriors were hanged in Mankato following the U.S.-Dakota Conflict. It was the largest mass hanging in American history.
The year was 2005.
A group of riders mounted their horses and made a trek from South Dakota to Mankato to remember those men who were hanged and to try and find ways to heal.
For more than a decade, the riders have braved the December elements arriving at Reconciliation Park Dec. 26 to remember.
Wilfred Keeble of the Crow Creek reservation near Fort Thompson, S.D. has been involved with every ride since 2005.
“I am here to acknowledge my ancestors and to bring awareness of the need for reconciliation,” said Keeble, who is the carrier of the traditional staff that leads the riders as they travel.
The group left Lower Brule, S.D. Dec. 10 beginning the 330-mile trek and arrived in the Redwood area Dec. 20.
After a brief stay over to allow the horses and the riders to rest, the journey to Mankato begins again tomorrow morning and concludes the day after Christmas at the site of the hanging of 1862.
Darwin Strong of the Lower Sioux Community has also been involved in the Dakota 38+2 ride since it began in 2005, but his role is different.
“I would love to ride,” said Strong, adding, however, he spends his time working through the logistics of the ride from Vesta to Mankato. “The safety of the horses and their riders is what’s important to me.”
He also wants to ensure that the event is meaningful to all who are involved.
By the time the group arrived in the Redwood area there were 50 riders, and Strong believes by the time the ride ends there will be more than 100. Riders, he added, are still coming from all across the midwest states as well as from Canada.
Strong has been the coordinator of the ride for its final leg for the past eight years, adding he starts the serious preparation for the event in September.
Keeble said on his father’s side there were relatives who were exiled as a result of the U.S.-Dakota Conflict.
Yet, he added, what makes the ride unique is the fact that despite the fact that not everyone has a specific connection to someone who was hanged they still go on the ride.
“We are all relatives,” said Keeble.
A ride to remember is important, added Keeble, and his hope is that it continues to bring to light the issues that still exist between cultures creating division and dissension.
“We need to coexist,” said Keeble.
The fact that Native Americans from different tribes have joined the ride is sign that it is helping move away from the differences, but Keeble said there is still a long way to go before the years of hurt can be healed.
“It starts with being good neighbors,” said Keeble, adding developing relationships with each other that are based on mutual respect and understanding will help bring reconciliation.