The last act of the Minnesota Dakota (Sioux) War took place here in Mankato on December 26, 1862 when thirty-eight Dakota Indians died in a mass execution on this site.—————————The first memorial reconciliation ceremony, sponsored by the Native Americans and Mankato community,was held on this site November 5, 1978, in an endeavor to move forward together as one people striving for social change and equality through education and understanding.
The Dakota War was a culmination of years of friction between Dakota and whites as settlement pushed into Indian hunting grounds. Government agents and missionaries hoped the Dakota could be taught to live as farmers and worship as Christians but Chief Big Eagle said many years later, "It seemed too sudden to make a change . . . If the Indians had tried to make the whites live like them, the whites would have resisted and it was the same with many Indians." The Minnesota uprising was one of the nation's most costly Indian wars, both in lives lost and property destroyed. It resulted in the near depletion of the frontier and the exile of the Dakota from Minnesota.
At the war's conclusion several hundred Indians were tried by a five man territory commission and on November 5, 1862, 303 were sentenced to death. Henry B. Whipple, Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota met with President Abraham Lincoln on behalf of the Indians. After listening to the bishop and personally reviewing the trial records, Lincoln commuted the death sentence for all but thirty-eight prisoners.
At 10 am on December 26, 1862, the condemned men, chanting the Dakota death song, marched in single file to a scaffold guarded buy 1,400 troops in full battle dress. A crowd of citizens were on hand to witness the largest mass execution in United States history.