The 41st Annual Mahkato Pow Wow was held at Dakota Wokiksuye Makoce, or Land of Memories Park in Mankato, Minnesota. This was where the Dakota People held many gatherings before the execution of 38 warriors during the U.S. Dakota War of 1862.
After that mass execution, the Dakota People moved out of the area and scattered to different parts of the country. This pow wow is an effort to bring them back to their homeland.
“We have come a long way. The presence of the pow wow in Mankato was not embraced completely in the beginning,” said Dave Brave Heart, pow wow chair. Four years after it was launched, in 1972, he said the Dakota People, non-Natives and city officials realized how important it was to honor the past.
“The whole message of the pow wow is reconciliation,” Brave Heart said. “We have a number of groups that come in the name of reconciliation.”
Brave Heart, who is Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and Dakota from Crow Creek Indian Reservation, said Dakota families from South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and even Canada came to celebrate with them.
Education is a key component of the yearly pow wow. Organizers are already eyeing inviting more drum groups and expanding their education program for 2014 after this year’s successful event.
More than 650 third-graders from the Mankato Schools participated in education day on the first day of the three-day pow wow. “These students attended 28 learning stations where they learned from other cultural teachers who share many things with them such as, story telling, singing, building a tipi, various indoor and outdoor games, traditional foods and Dakota language,” said Brave Heart.
The Education Day was a result of a challenge made by Lakota educator, writer and political activist Vine Deloria, Jr. in 1987 to create “new ceremonies” for Dakota and non-Dakota to reconcile and help build a shared history.
Today, the Mahkato Mdewakanton Association, a non-profit organization that organizes the pow wow, said more than 16,000 children, teachers, parents and Native American presenters have participated in the Education Day program since 1987.
Some of the tribes that participated were Lower Sioux, Upper Sioux, Shakopee Mdewakanton, Prairie Island, Santee Sioux, Flandreau Sioux, Sisseton Sioux, Yankton Sioux, Cheyenne Sioux, Rosebud Sioux, Oglala Sioux, Standing Rock Sioux, Crow Creek Sioux, Lower Brule Sioux, Devils Lake Indian Agency, Sioux Reserves from Canada, and members of Ojibwe, Ho Chunk and Omaha.
Beyond the pow wow arena, Brave Heart said there is an ongoing conversation to develop a curriculum around Dakota history, language and tradition to be taught to students of the Mankato Area Public School.
“It is important for kids to learn the history of Minnesota and their land,” he said. “Schools don’t teach history. We are open about providing education about Dakota history.”