December 26 is a grim day in the Dakota tribal calendar.

Over at Bluestem Prairie, Sally Jo Sorensen reminds us of something many conservatives would like forgotten — the largest mass execution ever to take place in the United States, which occurred on December 26, 1862 in Mankato, Minnesota, in the wake of the Dakota War:

While Bluestem’s editor learned as a child–from family and school–about the execution, the concentration camps at Fort Snelling and elsewhere, the deportation of the Dakota people from the Minnesota River Valley land that they owned, and the hunting down for the bounties on the heads of those fugitives who remained–many Minnesotans don’t know this history.

A recent episode of This American Life, Little War on the Prairie, explored why so few Minnesotans knew about the war and its terrible consequences for Dakota people.

It would be unfortunate if it were buried again. The standards aren’t perfect–but neither should they be a whitewash.

For those of us largely unfamiliar with the Dakota War and its aftermath, the Yankton Press and Dakotan has some basic information:

What is now referred to as “The Dakota War of 1862” was one such conflict that began over broken promises of food and other goods that the U.S. government made the Dakota in exchange for land. The uprising, which lasted only six weeks, left hundreds of Indians, settlers and soldiers dead along the Minnesota River valley.

There were actually 303 Sioux prisoners sentenced to death in 1862, but upon President Lincoln’s review of the trial records, clemency was granted to 264 prisoners, with an order to execute 39 men for crimes against U.S. civilians.

One of the 39 condemned prisoners was later granted a reprieve. The Army executed the remaining the 38 in the public execution performed on a single scaffold platform.

Afterward, they were buried in a mass grave in a sandbar along the riverbank.

For more information, see http://www.usdakotawar.org/history/war.