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Mdewakanton Association Purpose and History

The Mdewakanton Association provides an avenue for bridging the gap in Indian-White relations in the Mankato area. The purpose of the Association is:

  • To create a climate for positive interaction between Mdewakanton Dakota and non-Dakota people.
  • To learn about and promote an understanding of the Mdewakanton Dakota culture.
  • To contribute to a broaden understanding of Mdewakanton Dakota people and their contributions to this community's development.

As a means of realizing these purposes, the Mdewakanton Association has for many years cosponsored and helped organize events with the Dakota communities that have allowed descendants of the 38 Dakota to feel comfortable in returning to their ancestral home.

One of the primary cosponsored and co-organized events has been the Mahkato pow-wow or Wacipi (Wa-CHEE-pee meaning "dance" in Dakota). Having a cultural event like this in Mankato is unique for two reasons. First, there are no reservations near Mankato. Secondly, the creation of this annual Wacipi grew out of a friendship, in the late 1950s, between two men, Mr. Amos Owen, a Dakota elder, pipe maker and spiritual advisor to many from the Prairie Island Mdewakanton Community (90 miles northeast of Mankato) and Mr. Bud Lawrence, a Mankato non-Dakota businessman. As an outgrowth of this friendship, the first Mankato pow-wow since the 1800s was put on at the YMCA in 1965. Since 1972, an annual three-day traditional Dakota Mahkato Mdewakanton Wacipi has been held the third full weekend in September in Mankato, MN. In 1976, the Mdewakanton Club, a nonprofit organization, was formed. Members of this organization include Native Americans and whites from the Mankato area and Dakota communities.

The 1972 pow-wow or Wacipi in Mankato was held in Key City Park, a baseball park. The Jr. Chamber of Commerce Wives and the YMCA Y's Men Association, under Jim Buckley, Director, sponsored this pow-wow. Key supporters in the mid-1970s included the Zonta Club and the Chamber of Commerce. Between 1974 and 1979, the pow-wow was held in Sibley Park. In 1980, the City of Mankato demonstrated its support by designating a park site named by the Dakota people as "Dakota Wokiksuye Makoce Park" (Land of Memories Park) for the Mahkato (meaning "earth blue" in Dakota) Wacipi. This site is seen by the Dakota as an area where many ceremonies and gatherings took place prior to the 1862 U.S.-Dakota Conflict, which resulted in the execution of 38 Dakota warriors in Mankato, December 26, 1862. The annual traditional Wacipi event is held to honor the 38 Dakota warriors who died in that execution, the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Over the years, financial support for this event has come from business donations, Dakota and Mankato community donations, personal donations and pow-wow button sales.

The Mdewakanton Association promotes opportunities to educate the community about the Dakota history, heritage and contributions to this area. In the Association's early years, the Association arranged educational sessions with Dakota people for the Mankato area schools, Boy Scouts, churches, National Campfire and the YMCA. In 1987, the 125th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota Conflict, Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich issued a Proclamation for Reconciliation between Minnesota Dakota and non-Dakota people. Statewide, mutually created educational activities by Dakota and non-Dakota took place as a means of continuing the healing process between Dakota and non-Dakota Minnesotans. In 1987, as an outgrowth of the reconciliation emphasis, a Dakota-Mankato communally-shared educational program involving all area third grade children was established. Between 1987 and 2000, over 10,000 children teachers, parents and Native American resource persons have participated in a unique direct cultural exchange education program held in conjunction with the annual Dakota Mahkato Mdewakanton pow-wow or Wacipi at Land of Memories (Wokiksuye Makoce) Park each September. In 1989, an additional public educational opportunity was added to the Saturday/Sunday Wacipi activities in the form of a Learning Center Tent where Native American resource persons teach interested persons about their culture.

For many years, Mr. Amos Owen came to Mankato on December 26th to pay tribute to the 38 Dakota warriors executed in Mankato. In 1986, a memorial relay run between Ft. Snelling (Minneapolis) and Mankato was established. The Mdewakanton Association assists in this annual honoring ceremony by serving as a liaison between the Mankato community and Dakota communities and as a host for the feast following the run and memorial ceremony at the Land of Memories Park.

Efforts by the Mdewakanton Association to bring about understanding have led to a climate leading to support of the Winter Warrior Statue and Reconciliation Parkette on the site of the execution and the naming of the Dakota Meadows Middle School by its students.

Mdewakanton Association meetings are held on the 3rd Thursday of each month, typically November/December through September, at 7:00 p.m. at Snell Motors (corner of Madison Ave. & Hwy 22) in their Community Room. Come join with others who support the Association's objectives. Consider becoming a member of this volunteer organization. To learn more about this organization and it's activities, you are invited to come to a meeting or write for further information. Inquiries may be sent to:

Mdewakanton Association
P.O. Box 3608,
Mankato, MN. 56002.

For a detailed history of the U.S.-Dakota history in this area, read:
"History of the Santee Sioux" - 2nd ed. (1993), R.W. Meyers, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE.