It’s that time folks!
The pre-order for the e-book version of Thirty Eight is now available on Amazon. Initially I was expecting to have this available by December 10th but real life got in the way and I wasn’t able to make that deadline. Since I wanted to keep the release date significant to the story I elected to release the book on December 26th which we all know is the day the Thirty Eight were hung in Mankato, Minnesota. Just a reminder that the pre-order is for the e-book version, but don’t worry the paperback version will be available on December 26th on Amazon and through other online retailers.
Thirty Eight is available for pre-order HERE
Now as a special treat I’m going to share with you the FOREWORD that my daughter Amanda Taylor wrote for Thirty Eight. It’s a wonderful background on the Dakota-U.S. Conflict and the events that led up to the hanging. Enjoy!
By Amanda Taylor
It can be a risky business asking any indigenous person to explicate the history of their people. If you make such a request, please be prepared for a lengthy story. For the Dakota and any indigenous people, oral history is the medium in which we have passed on our history from generation to generation. It is easy for me to get deeply engrossed in a discussion or be a rapt listener when it comes to my people’s culture.
I am definitely not as eloquent as Charles Eastman or Ella Deloria so when my mom Tawa asked me to write the foreword to Thirty Eight, I reluctantly accepted her request. I do not see myself as a writer and it is something I struggle to do. Not saying that I do not have anything to say concerning the events of 1862 in Minnesota. I almost have too much to say about the U.S. – Dakota Conflict. I could approach the subject from many different perspectives. In the past all my written work concerning the U.S. – Dakota Conflict has been for academic purposes during my college years but it would not do Thirty Eight any justice to approach this foreword from a scholarly perspective.
First off, I am Dakota and a descendant of Ocheti Duta/John Taylor, one of the 303 Dakota men who were sentenced to death for fighting to make life better for his wife, Tate Waste Yuha Win/Bessie Taylor and their six children. My connection to the U.S. – Dakota Conflict is quite personal. My great-grandfather Joseph Taylor was 2-3 years old when the war broke out. He went through their imprisonment at Fort Snelling, being separated from his father, having to say good bye to three of his siblings because they fled to Canada. Through the forced march out of Minnesota, to the inhospitable winter in Crow Creek during 1863-1864 where approximately 300 Dakota elders, women, and children perished from exposure and starvation. Had my great-grandfather also perished during that time, I would not be here to write this.
My English name is Amanda Taylor and my Dakota name is Zintkana Dowan Win (translates to Singing Bird Woman). I am a member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe and I am also Norwegian and Irish. I was born May 7, 1985 to Berniece Taylor and Russ Walberg. Through unfortunate circumstances during childhood, I ended up as a ward of South Dakota. Like most Native children who grow up in South Dakota’s foster care system, I can tell you about the struggle just to maintain our connection to our communities and culture. I am not going to delve into that story too much right now though because that is one for a different time. A bright spot of my experience though is that I met a Native foster family when I was 12 years old that became so much more than a foster home. Through them I found my love for pow wows and people I know that I can call family no matter where I go. I graduated from Washington High School in 2003 and went on to the University of South Dakota in 2011 for my bachelor’s degree in American Indian Studies with a minor focused on the history of the Great Plains region.
In 2012, I was employed as the NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) Data Entry Clerk for the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe’s THPO (Tribal Historic Preservation Office). One of the first NAGPRA Coalition meetings I attended was in Crow Creek and a discussion was started about the Dakota people organizing a commemoration event for the 150 year anniversary of the U.S. – Dakota Conflict. At the time, Minnesota and Washington D.C. were both marking the anniversary but nothing had been initiated on behalf of the Dakota people. Within four months’ time, a collaborative effort of the Dakota people from Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, and Canada were able to put together a week-long event hosted by the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe bringing us back together as a nation. The event culminated in a symbolic walk back to Minnesota where four Dakota grandmothers from Minnesota met four Dakota grandmothers from South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, and Canada and exchanged eagle feathers at the Minnesota/South Dakota border. The grandmother’s welcomed them back to their homeland after the ‘Act for the Removal of the Sisseton, Wahpaton, Medawakanton and Wahpakoota Bands of Sioux or Dakota Indians, and for the disposition of their Lands in Minnesota and Dakotas’ of 1863 banished the Dakota from Minnesota. It was a powerful and spiritual experience.
In 1862, the Dakota were very limited in their ability to provide for themselves. After treaties that were negotiated in 1851, they were left with a 20 mile wide reservation along the Minnesota River. Within seven years’ time, they lost the top half of the reservation due to encroachment by settlers in addition to the fact that the United States government took away the Dakota’s right to the Pipestone Quarry.
With the influx of settlers, the Dakota were now competing for the wild game in the area for sustenance and also so they could trade the pelts to traders for much needed income. Annuities could not be depended on because they either went undelivered, stolen, or were late. 1862 also saw a large crop failure, so the Dakota were facing a food shortage as well. They had nowhere to go but the store owners and traders, who gave the Dakota store credit. This is important as dependence on store credit becomes a point of contention leading up to the war. Store owners and the traders would extend store credit and then be first in line when the gold arrived so they could get the debt settled.
In the late summer of 1862 the gold payment did not arrive so the store owners stopped offering credit. The Dakota had no other way to provide for their family and communities. They then turned to Agent Galbraith to negotiate the distribution of food but were turned away over the debts that had incurred. According to one oral history, the Dakota had pointed out that the store owners, settlers, and traders had been letting their animals graze on the reservation without negotiating for the grazing rights and as such they owned the Dakota money. Whether it is as the common history would tell us that Andrew Myrick channeled Marie Antoinette in saying that the Dakota could eat grass or their own dung or if he said that the settlers/traders and store owners would remove the animals off Dakota land and the Dakota could eat the grass, no one will ever know for sure. But either way his words were seen as an inciting event.
Around mid-August, the Dakota gathered together to decide if war was their next choice. Most of the Dakota were all for fighting, after the many years of broken treaties, lost land, and famine, they saw it as necessary. Chief Little Crow expressed his concerns of what would happen to the people if they started a war and that defeating the United States was not a possibility. Yet as their chief, he still led his men into battle.
The first fight began on August 18th with the Lower Sioux and Redwood Agencies being burned to the ground. A notable casualty from this first incident was Andrew Myrick, as his body was found with grass stuffed in his mouth. With battles taking place at New Ulm, Birch Coulee, and Wood Lake, the Dakota people found that they no longer held the element of surprise. The U.S. army had become involved and the remaining settlers were getting more organized. Eventually the Dakota warriors surrendered at Camp Release on September 26th. The Dakota women, elders, and children also surrendered and were sent to Fort Snelling until the U.S. government had finished with the trials.
It’s important to note that the Civil War was a major influence on the U.S. – Dakota Conflict, yet it is not discussed as part of the Civil War. When the Civil War broke out, Alexander Ramsey was in Washington, D.C. conducting business as the territorial governor of Minnesota. Ramsey pledged volunteer troops from Minnesota to fight on behalf of the Union knowing that someday he could use that involvement for a favor from Lincoln in the future. There are documents in the Library of Congress that state if a third front happened west of the Mississippi River that seven million would die because the Union did not have the resources to win. With that knowledge, Lincoln knew that swift action must be taken in Minnesota to quell the fighting and the risk that other tribes would be incited as well. As such, he left Ramsey in charge of dispensing justice to the Dakota men who participated in the fighting.
The trials were often very short. The Dakota men were not told what was happening, and had no legal representation to explain it. When my grandfather stood trial he was asked what his participation in the Conflict was, he replied that he heard there was shooting at the fort so he grabbed his gun and went to work. He was found guilty and sentenced to death along with 302 other Dakota men. Once the 303 convictions reached Washington D.C., Lincoln was urged by parties that were for and against leniency. Lincoln ended up going through the trial records to distinguish those who participated in the fight and those who committed more serious crimes on civilians. Ocheti Duta/John Taylor was one of the 264 men spared from a death sentence based on Lincoln’s decision. 39 of the convictions were upheld and right before the hanging one man was reprieved before the execution.
On December 26th, the 38 Dakota men were lead out to the square shaped gallows that had been constructed across from the jail in which they were being held. The citizens of Mankato gathered around the gallows to witness the mass hanging. Some witness accounts say that the men tried to grasp the hand of the men next to them, others called out their own names, while others told the people to not be sad for them. Shortly after 10 am, Captain William J. Duley swung the axe hanging the 38 Dakota men simultaneously.
Later three other Dakota men would lose their lives because of their participation in the war. The first was Chief Little Crow who was shot in the summer of 1863 as he was picking berries with his son near Hutchinson. His body was found and drug through the streets of Hutchinson, mutilated, beheaded, and tossed out like trash. The other two killed were Chiefs Sakpe and Medicine Bottle who were tracked down in Canada. They were drugged and brought back across the border into the United States. Both men were hung in 1865 at Fort Snelling.
The U.S. – Dakota Conflict of 1862 is not just Dakota history; it is American History and deserves to be included in the narrative. The Dakota had grown angry over broken treaties, loss of their land, withheld/missing/stolen/late annuities, settler encroachment, competing for limited live game, famine, and mistreatment by settlers, store owners, traders, and agents. The trauma from the war has continued to carry on into the generations that have followed. If you look at the research on epigenetics, you can see that it has found that trauma on a population can be passed on genetically from generation to generation.
The Dakota 38 + 2 Ride is an event to commemorate the loss the Dakota people experienced, to honor those who lost their lives, and to heal so we can move forward in a positive way as a nation. The ride serves as an act of reconciliation with the United States too. The Conflict did not just affect the Dakota people, settlers lost lives and property during the fighting as well. Atrocities were committed by both parties and the descendants of both the Dakota and the settlers still remain. But looking towards healing is a step in the right direction. We need to go from just surviving to living the life our ancestors wanted for us.