MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Todd Finney and five generations of his Dakota family members stood out in the cold last weekend at the spot where, exactly 159 years ago, 38 Dakota akicita — warriors — were hanged at the order of a U.S. president.
A Wahpekute Dakota from Medford, Finney said his people were told they would never be able to come back to Mankato. The return each year of the Dakota Wokiksuye Memorial Ride, which his uncle Jim Miller took part in founding in 2005, ensures that dozens of Dakota continue to honor their ancestors in Reconciliation Park.
“To see this many people here,'' Finney said to a large crowd gathered around the buffalo monument, vapor clouding from his breath, “people that come in a good way — it's hard for me not to cry tears of joy.''
Men, women and children of the Dakota and Ojibwe nations rode 330 miles on horseback from South Dakota over 17 days. Native American runners, supported by a caravan, also traveled to Mankato for the 34th annual 38+2 Memorial Run, leaving Fort Snelling in St. Paul on Christmas Day, the Mankato Free Press reported.
The traveling groups and other spectators gathered at the site where on Dec. 26, 1862, about 4,000 spectators came to watch 38 Dakota men die.
The hangings followed the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, which arose when the government failed to provide goods promised to the Dakota in contentious treaty negotiations led by Henry Sibley, who later became Minnesota's first governor.
The July 1851 Treaty of Traverse Des Sioux was an agreement to exchange vast swaths of Dakota homeland for payments and goods. The Dakota believed they would get a lump-sum land payment but were given only $305,000. Much of the immediate cash went to cover debts fur traders such as Sibley claimed were owed to them.
The U.S. said the remainder would be doled out in annual payments of money and goods.
After a bad crop year and widespread hunger in 1861, the payment owed to the Dakota in June 1862 didn't arrive on time. A federal agent refused to give them food without the money.
After a disagreement about whether to steal a white farmer's eggs, four Dakota men shot and killed five settlers in Acton on Aug. 17, 1862. A band of Dakota agreed to fight area settlers after the men reported their killings and persuaded a reluctant Chief Little Crow.
In a short period that fall, estimates say more than 600 white settlers and 75-100 Dakota were killed.
The initial list of Dakota to be hanged, after haphazard trials convened by Sibley, numbered 303. Dismayed at the quantity, the office of President Abraham Lincoln reviewed trial transcripts and ordered that only men guilty of raping women be hanged. When only two men were found guilty of rape, Lincoln expanded the criteria to include those who had participated in “massacres'' of civilians rather than just “battles.'' He then made his final decision and forwarded a list of 39 names to Sibley. The number was later reduced to 38.
It remains the largest mass execution in American history.
Two more Dakota, Medicine Bottle and Shakopee, were hanged two years later.
Finney said the event seeks to promote history that subverts narratives long told by U.S. victors of the Dakota war with white settlers. His favorite moment came in 2019, when Mankato native Gov. Tim Walz attended the ceremony and gave a tearful apology.
He said Walz quietly asked leaders of the event, “What more can we do?''
Finney told him nothing was needed but to continue the process of healing and sharing his ancestors' story.
“Healing is a process,'' Finney said Sunday. “Forgiveness is a gift.''
Speakers also used the memorial to advocate for current issues plaguing Native Americans.
Mary Kunesh, the first Indigenous woman elected to the Minnesota Senate, led a task force that focused for 18 months on investigating cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women. The effort culminated this year with a 163-page report to the Legislature and creation of a statewide Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Office.
Several others lamented the imprisonment of Leonard Peltier, who for 44 years has been behind bars for his alleged involvement in the 1975 killing of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Peltier says he was present for the shoot-out, which also left one Native American dead, but steadfastly denies having killed anyone.
Riders carried a staff made for Peltier and had a moment of silence to pray for the man whom human rights groups designate a political prisoner. A 77-year-old diabetic with heart problems, Peltier has grown increasingly frail in prison.
Finney and others hope the chosen theme of Reconciliation Park, “Forgive everyone everything,'' resonates as the Dakota seek to rebuild their culture.
“If you hear my voice,'' Finney said, “you are my relative.''
By STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Sports Writer
Washington's NFL team announced Tuesday it will unveil its new name on Feb. 2 and that it will not be the Wolves or RedWolves.
Commanders, Admirals, Armada, Brigade, Sentinels, Defenders, Red Hogs, Presidents and the status quo “Washington Football Team'' were among the other finalists.
“We are on the brink of starting a new chapter, but our history, our legacy cannot be lost along the way,” team president Jason Wright said in an episode of the team-produced show “Making the Brand.” “Now, more than ever, it's important that we stay connected to our roots. We understand the importance of choosing a meaningful name: one that will anchor the team for the next 90 years and beyond.''
Wright said the decision was made not to go with Wolves or RedWolves because of trademarks held by other organizations. Those possibilities were popular among Washington fans.
The new helmets and uniforms will feature the franchise's signature burgundy-and-gold colors, with three stars on the collar and stripes on the shoulders of otherwise plain jerseys. In a “Making the Brand'' clip showing him getting a look at one of the helmets, coach Ron Rivera said: “I love this. Right on. I think the look's going to be hot.”
A trailer teasing the reveal included a “W'' logo making an appearance.
The video featured the messages: “Hail to the greats that laid the foundation for our legacy,” “Hail to the fans we consider family,'' “We are and always have been Washington,” ''We will fight for our community” and “Together we will define our future.''
Photos of franchise greats were mixed in with current players meeting with military personnel and fans.
The organization dropped its old name in July 2020 after decades of complaints that it was racist toward Native Americans and recent pressure from team sponsors. The decision was made to be known as the Washington Football Team that season, which stuck around for 2021 while the front office went through a lengthy rebranding process.
“Our journey to a new identity is a marathon, not a sprint,'' Wright said. “To get it right, we had to take every step of the process seriously, and the destination is a sum of all those parts.''
Washington was the first team in the four major North American professional sports leagues to move away from Native American imagery amid a national reckoning on race. Cleveland in Major League Baseball followed suit, adopting the new name Guardians that is now in effect after settling a lawsuit with a roller derby team by the same name.
MLB's Atlanta Braves and the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks have defended keeping their names.
Wright made it clear during the rebranding process that Washington would not use any sort of Native American imagery moving forward. He, Rivera and others have made references to wanting to honor the once-storied franchise's tradition, which includes three Super Bowl championships.
“I just think the heritage and the history of our team is what's so important, and, as fans, I think we're going to rally around that team,” Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs said. “I'd say probably what's more important about naming the team, it's trying to bring everybody together. ... That's the one thing that we've got going for ourselves is the loyalty that we have for that team.''
Washington has not had a lot going on or off the field in recent years. The league fined the team $10 million after an investigation into workplace conduct, owner Dan Snyder squabbled with minority partners before buying out their shares, the front office took criticism this season for botching late safety Sean Taylor's jersey retirement and over the past 15 years the team has not won a playoff game.