NEW ULM - Dakota Commemorative March participants visited New Ulm Thursday, eating a potluck supper at the United Church of Christ and spending the night at the National Guard Armory.
The 150-mile march, much of which follows the Minnesota River from the Lower Sioux Agency near Morton to Fort Snelling, commemorates the forced exile of Dakota men, women and children from the Lower Sioux Reservation to camps at Mankato and Fort Snelling in November 1862.
The march began at 7 a.m. Wednesday at the Lower Sioux Agency Interpretive Center, on Redwood County Road 2. It ends around noon, Tuesday, Nov. 13 at the Fort Snelling Interpretive Center in Minneapolis.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Participants in a Commemorative March to remember and honor the Dakota women, children and elders who took part in a 150-mile forced march to Fort Snelling at the end of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, stopped in New Ulm Thursday for the night and planned to start another leg of the march early today.
About every mile along the march, which is considered a spiritual and reflective experience, marchers are holding a tobacco ceremony and placing a prayer flag bearing the name of two of the families in the 1862 forced march.
No photos or video of the ceremonial stops were allowed.
This year's march, supported by the St. Paul Interfaith Network, is the culmination of five biannual marches over the past decade commemorating the forced march of 1862.
Retired Southwest Minnesota State Indian Studies Professor Chris Mato Numpa, 72, of the Upper Sioux Community near Granite Falls, participated in the march.
"I'm glad it's being held," Mato Numpa said. "We have lots of support from Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist and United Church of Christ, besides being greeted by a number of local citizens. On the KC Road, a woman posted a sign that said "Welcome Dakota," and she gave us food including beef jerky and trail mix. Much different for us than it was here 150 years ago."
Minnesota State University, Mankato English and Humanities Professor Dr. Gwen Westerman, who spoke in New Ulm in August, said she was impressed with New Ulm's hospitality that included a night's stay in the Minnesota National Guard Armory.
"Things sure have changed," Westerman said. "People here are more interested in the march than they were when we began coming through New Ulm 10 years ago. It's a change for the positive. I've got a (MSU, Mankato) student from New Ulm, Jason Mack, who is telling me his family stories about the US-Dakota War."
A press release distributed during the march stated current tribal people need to address serious social challenges including a high dropout rate, loss of language fluency, poor health, violence against women, high suicide rates and a failure to protect children against substance abuse.
"It is the mainstream American public, federal government and some tribal leaders who have failed the Dakota people," the release read. "Most importantly, we pray for our tribal homeland that is in danger due to global warming and pollution caused by humans."
The public is invited to join the march at the New Ulm National Guard Armory at 7 a.m. today and accompany marchers to the edge of New Ulm.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).