Park Is Site For Learning
MANKATO After almost 150 years, the Monroe 74 finally met
the Dakota 38 on Wednesday.
school around 9 a.m., Monroe Elementary's entire fifth-grade class
of 74 students walked across Veterans Memorial Bridge from North
Mankato to gather for a combined history and art lesson at Reconciliation
Park. The park is home to the 30-ton buffalo that serves as a symbol
of respect and remembrance for the largest mass execution in United
field trip was part of a social studies unit. But, perhaps more
importantly, the trip allowed students to connect personally with
the history and meet face-to-face the people who have helped bridge
the chasm between present-day Mankato and the tragic events that
took place on Dec. 26, 1862, when 38 Dakota were hanged near the
exact spot the buffalo sits today.
just liked the whole entire experience of being here and learning
about the Dakota," student Casey Schultz said.
students met Bud Lawrence, the Mankato man who helped start the
annual Wacipi, or Powwow, in Mankato to begin healing the rift with
the Dakota people. They also met Dave Larsen, director of American
Indian Affairs at Minnesota State University and a Dakota himself,
who travels the country to speak about the importance of recognizing
and embracing Native American culture.
told students how Native American children were once made to change
their names because their teachers, of European heritage, couldn't
pronounce them. He talked about the impact of words like "Sioux"
and "squaw," which were somewhat derogatory terms white settlers
coined but have no meaning to Native American people.
showed students his eagle-feather fan and an elaborate waistpiece
made of eagle feathers used in ceremonies. He talked about the Native
American values of peace, humility and love and told students the
systematic destruction of Native heritage has left painful scars.
all the information people got about us was wrong for hundreds of
years," Larsen said.
field trip was the brainchild of Steve Miller, a fifth-grade math
and social studies teacher at Monroe.
said fifth-graders learn American history up to the the Civil War,
but there is little mention in the curriculum about the Dakota Conflict
and its widespread impacts on southern Minnesota. Wanting to find
a way to make that history meaningful for students, Miller said
he decided to find the people and places who could tell the story
better than anyone.
said the topic not only holds local historical significance but
also holds messages still relevant today messages about acceptance,
equality and co-existence.
started as a simple lesson," he said. "And it turned into something
the kids will always remember."
Mulder said she knew about Mankato's Native American history before
Wednesday's field trip. She said it's important for all students
to know the same history so the cycle of intolerance doesn't continue:
"It's important because some kids make fun of (Native American culture)
and think Indians aren't as good as other people."
with students his involvement in bringing the annual Wacipi to Mankato,
Lawrence told students about his longtime friend Amos Owen, a well-respected
elder in the Dakota community who helped him organize the first
event in 1972 along with a group of Dakota men and women.
said no one was sure how many people would show up for the first
Wacipi as some feelings on both sides remained bitter. But thousands
attended the inaugural celebration including 38 eagles that
eyewitnesses swear circled the skies that day.
think this is very important for these kids," Lawrence said. "The
history books don't adequately cover what happened. This reveals
the entire story."