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155 Years Ago The Largest Mass Execution Took Place In The United States & No One Knows About It

Every year, 38 men on horseback ride across North Dakota and Minnesota to Mankato, and while the beautiful weather and gorgeous countryside would lift anyone’s spirits, this occasion is unavoidably solemn…

Because over 150 years ago, an equal number of men were publicly hanged in Mankato, Minnesota—38 souls executed by the US government in a shocking demonstration of the state’s arbitrary power

And while there are always 2 sides to war, and blame can be cast to all parties involved, this instance of government overreach will unsettle you.

It was the 1860’s, and life on the American frontier was full of potential for newfound growth….or exploitation.

 Whereas as the power of Euro-American expansion ensured them great loot, natives of North America were often decimated at the point of rifle or bayonet.

But sometimes, devastation meant the slow-kill of starvation, and with a number of key US government promises broken, the natives of Dakota were left with dwindling options:

“Hunger was widespread throughout Dakota lands in Minnesota.  Since crops had been poor in 1861, the Dakota had little food stored for the ‘starving winter’ of 1861-62.

 “Their reservation supported no game, and increasing settlement off the reservation meant more competition with Euro-Americans hunting for meat. Reports about government agents’ corrupt treatment of the Dakota were ignored.

“Factionalism continued among the Dakota, as those who maintained traditional ways saw that only those who had acculturated were reaping government support.

“Finally, a delayed treaty payment made traders nervous, and many of them cut off credit to Dakota hunters.

“Indian Agent Thomas Galbraith refused to distribute food to the Dakota, and though Dakota farmers shared food with their relatives throughout the summer of 1862, it wasn’t enough.”

One Dakota native, Taoyateduta or “Little Crow”, wrote a letter to Galbraith warning that the situation was becoming unbearable:

We have waited a long time. The money is ours but we cannot get it. We have no food but here these stores are filled with food.

“We ask that you, the agent, make some arrangement so we can get food from the stores, or else we may take our own way to keep ourselves from starving. When men are hungry, they help themselves.”

It was not long before push came to shove and battles broke out, with the death toll quickly rising until hundreds of people—from all sides—were left dead.

Many Dakota warriors were captured and held prisoner by American forces because they’d killed civilians not engaged in the war.

And while President Lincoln would eventually pardon most of those prisoners, 38 were not spared…

What followed was one of the most gruesome and tragic public executions in America’s historical record, as described in a piece in The New York Times:

“Their caps were now drawn over their eyes, and the halter placed about their necks.

“Several of them feeling uncomfortable, made severe efforts to loosen the rope, and some, after the most dreadful contortions, partially succeeded.

“The signal to cut the rope was three taps of the drum. All things being ready, the first tap was given, when the poor wretches made such frantic efforts to grasp each other’s hands, that it was agony to behold them.

“Each one shouted out his name, that his comrades might know he was there. The second tap resounded on the air. The vast multitude were breathless with the awful surroundings of this solemn occasion.

“Again the doleful tap breaks on the stillness of the scene. Click! goes the sharp ax, and the descending platform leaves the bodies of thirty-eight human beings dangling in the air.”

Making matters worse, many historians believe the executions were preceded by rushed hearings that disgraced any notions of due process or fair trials.

“The past is really, really traumatic,” says Sarah Weston of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, who also directed the documentary DAKOTA 38, “But we’re going to reach our hand out and say that we forgive. Because when you’re not in a forgiveness place, you’re linked to that person or that trauma for the rest of your life, all day long. And so by forgiving we’re no longer linked to that.”

And while the lives of those 38 men linger in the dusty halls of history, the annual ride across Dakota to Mankato reminds us how sacrifices made today can echo for generations to come….

Sources: The Free Thought Project Us Dakota War Star Tribune

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