My son told me to watch the film Dakota 38 and I’d never heard about it. In case you haven’t heard of it either, the film documents the fulfillment of Dakota Sioux Native Jim Miller’s dream. Jim tried to deny his dream because of its power. Jim dreamt that his mother (who died when he was ten years-old) told him to organize a 300+ mile horse ride from Central South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota for reconciliation of the dead 38 leaders killed in 1862 by the American government. The dream significance stems from that event which occurred at the end of the Dakota War of 1862. Abraham Lincoln approved the largest mass hanging execution of leaders, all at one time, in American history. There were other wars between Native Americans and Whites, and they were used as excuses for bounties on Native scalps, and the hanging of Native American leaders after they rounded them up in other parts of different states.
In his own lifetime Jim Miller had been a Viet Nam Veteran, and confessed to killing 38 Vietnamese during his time as a soldier a hundred years after the mass hanging. Jim felt the need to also reconcile those deaths, and create a new reality for Native Americans and Whites, based on love and peace for the children.
Jim’s dream led to organizing a ‘reconciliation ride’ that also involved a film crew who documented the ride honoring native ancestors. Dozens of Native Americans participated in the ride event, which took over two weeks to complete. The viewer participates in the ride with different viewpoints of what it takes to organize and record a peaceful event such as this. There were vehicles, horses, food and lodging needs, and all types of weather conditions to make the journey possible for arriving the day after Christmas, anniversary of the hanging.
When they arrived at the hanging site the day after Christmas, the Mayor of Mankato declared his story. He grew up in Mankato and was not taught about the hanging of the Dakota 38. He said he has new sensitivity to the seriousness of the hanging event, and insures people that the truth will be told from now on in Mankato. He also welcomed the riders home.
Dakota 38 is a film worth watching. It is a strong and loving tribute, facing pain and suffering done by people to other people. Generations of Native Americans still suffer from the trauma their families experienced in the diaspora inflicted upon them a hundred and fifty years ago.
Secrets don’t help people grow. Jim told the truth and honored his dream. His reconciliation efforts have created community and permanently changed people for the good.