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Memorial ride honors ancestors slain in 1862 executions

Members of the Wakpa Ipaksan drum circle from Flandreau Indian School perform at Dakota State University for the Dakota 38+2 riders and members of the community.
Dakota State University Marketing and Communications
Members of the Wakpa Ipaksan drum circle from Flandreau Indian School perform at Dakota State University for the Dakota 38+2 riders and members of the community.

Riders from the 38+2 Memorial Ride stopped in Madison Wednesday to rest and refresh during the annual horseback ride from Lower Brule to Mankato.

The 38+2 Memorial Ride is in honor and recognition of the 40 Dakota warriors who were hung in Mankato after the Dakota War of 1862. Thirty-eight of the warriors were hanged Dec. 26, 1862, while another two were hung a few months later in early 1863. This is the largest mass hanging in United States history.

The ride first began in 2005 and still follows the same route today, starting in Lower Brule and covering a total of 330 miles to Mankato and back. The journey began Dec. 10, and the riders will arrive at Mankato Dec. 26 in time for the 160th anniversary of the first hanging.

Riders in the 2022 journey faced a days-long winter storm as they traveled through eastern South Dakota.

Dakota State University and members of the Madison community provided food and a place to stay for the riders in the midst of that storm. The community was invited to participate in the evening meal and listen to the Wakpa Ipaksan drum group from Flandreau Indian School. A smudging ceremony and gifting ceremony also took place.

“We wind up getting the churches involved, we wind up having the university involved, we try to make this an entire community effort,” said Katherine Cota, director of economic development at DSU. She helped organize much of DSU’s part in the event.

Local churches provided food for the riders at Prostrollo’s, who stayed overnight at DSU’s Trojan Center before continuing with the ride Thursday morning. They will stop at Flandreau next before heading into Minnesota.

The community also had a supply drive for the riders to help them on the rest of the journey, including nonperishable foods, protein bars, warm clothes, blankets and more.

Cota said one donation ended up being especially useful.

“One of the folks who donated to the drive actually donated a horse bridle,” she said. “And interestingly, one of the bridles for one of the female riders on her horse had broken, and they were trying to sort of make it work, but it wasn’t working particularly well, and so it was a wonderfully timed gift.”

The group’s horses also get a break during the stay. They spent the night at a farm in Colman, South Dakota, about 16 miles east of Madison.

Whether the ride will continue next year is still up in the air for many. While some of the elder leaders are planning to retire soon, there’s worry that not enough young riders will join in, and many assumed this year’s ride would be the last.

But Cota said the future of the ride isn’t sealed just yet.

“The elders were pleasantly surprised at how many young riders stepped up,” she said. “Having the young riders be a part of this, seeing what’s going on, doing the riding relays and being familiar with all of this, their hope and desire is that some of the young members will step up and say, ‘no, this shouldn’t be the last year and we want to do it again.’”

If the ride does continue next year, Cota said DSU and the Madison community will be happy to continue being an important stop for the riders.

“This is reconciliation ride,” she said. “This is a bridge-building ride.”

Jordan is a senior English and journalism major at SDSU in Brookings. She is from De Smet, South Dakota. She is based out of the Sioux Falls studio.