150th Anniversary of Largest Mass Execution

150th Anniversary of Largest Mass Execution

Contact: Kaylee Kulich
Email: kaylee.kulich@mnsu.edu
Twitter: @KayleeAnn32
Blog: kayleesthoughts

38 Executed After US-Dakota War

MANKATO, Minn.– As the 150th anniversary of the largest mass execution in United States history comes to light this week, This American Life released a podcast entitled, “Little War on the Prairie” to give background to the seldom told history of Mankato, Minn.

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With the U.S. fighting a war against each other in the south, the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln authorized an execution up north of 38 Dakota Indians, on December 26, 1862.

Along with Ira Glass, public radio reporter and a native to Mankato, John Biewen, narrates the hour-long segment of “Little War on the Prairie” with Gwen Westerman, an English Professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato and a Dakota woman.

Biewen and Westerman admit for the first twenty years of their lives, neither had heard of the 1862 US-Dakota War, likewise for many Mankato civilians.

“We’ll help you for your debt, if you sell your land,” Westerman said in reference to the downfall of Indian land.

In 1850 the ration of the Dakota population to the settlers was 5-1, by 1860 it had been reversed 1-5.

A part of history that seems to be forgotten started 150 miles north of Mankato, Minn., Acton Township. “Little War on the Prairie” tells varying versions of how it starts, but each story always ends the same. Four Dakota’s kill five white settlers, to ignite the 1862 US-Dakota War on August 16, 1862.

The war, which was instantaneous and spread quickly, lasting six weeks until the Dakota Peace Party surrendered on September 26, 1862. The war may have ended, but the trials and hangings had just begun.

The largest mass execution, of 38 Dakota’s took place at 10 a.m. in Mankato with 4,000 observers.

In the wake of the 150th anniversary, “Little War on the Prairie”  takes listeners to Acton Township, Nicollet County Historical Museum and other historical sites en route of the US-Dakota war. It features Biewen, Westerman and other historians to tell the story, seldom people have heard.

This American Life

This American Life is a weekly public radio show broadcast on more than 500 stations to about 1.8 million listeners. It is produced by Chicago Public Media, distributed by Public Radio International, and has won all of the major broadcasting awards.