Peace celebration set for Sibley Park

MANKATO – A traditional peace celebration to promote reconciliation among families, communities and nations with a variety of music, dancing, speaking, prayers and food begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 17 at the bandstand in Sibley Park, 900 Mound Ave., Mankato.

The event is the brainchild of Les Sasse of rural Blue Earth who participated in the Dakota 38 Plus 2 Memorial Ride from Lower Brule, S.D. to Mankato last December.

“Les and some other people from Blue Earth joined part of our ride and helped serve the memorial riders a meal at a Mankato church last December,” said blues musician Perry Little of Marty, S.D., who was the memorial ride staff (flag) carrier last year.

“Les decided he wanted to visit with more of us again, get to know everyone better, talk about our issues and the future,” said Little, who plans to attend the celebration.

Entertainment will include a variety of music such as country, rock, polka and bluegrass as well as traditional Dakota drummer, singers and dancers.

“It’s hard to say how many people will come, but anyone interested in sharing their cultures in the name of peace and reconciliation is welcome,” Little said.

Sasse said the free event was planned in Sibley Park because more than 150 years ago, it was the site of Camp Lincoln, where 303 Dakota braves awaited execution for alleged war crimes. Charges included firing in battles, carrying ammunition, supplying provisions to combatants or committing separate murders during the U.S.-Dakota War, according to the event listing on

“Gen. Sibley wanted to execute the accused Dakota warriors after holding trials that were as short as a few minutes. We don’t stand for this or any ethnic cleansing anymore,” Sasse said. “Let’s all stand together and reach out to each other. There are still people suffering from wounds that still haven’t healed in some ways. There is still lots of suffering on reservations with many suicides and drug and alcohol abuse issues.”

At the urging of humanitarian and American Indian advocate Bishop Henry Whipple, President Abraham Lincoln commuted the sentences of 264 of the 303 prisoners. But 38 Dakota were executed by hanging on Dec. 26, 1862, after the conflict, which took place during August that year. that included many innocent deaths on both sides.

“We’ve invited the descendants of settlers’ families to come and talk too,” Sasse said. “We’ll agree on some things and may disagree on others. We want all interested people to come, whatever their origin or nationality.”

Guest speakers include 94-year-old Dakota elder the Rev. Sidney Byrd, the grandson of one of the Dakota 38. Byrd will present his experiences from a Dakota perspective and answer questions.

A religious service will take place at 11 a.m. Sunday in the park. At 1 p.m. a traditional dance grand entry and unity march led by military veterans will begin.

“We want to promote reconciliation and peace among all nations and families,” Sasse said. “This is something we can all learn from. I want all people to know that the microphone and all events are open to everyone. Anyone is invited to bring their guitar and sing with us.”

For more information, visit

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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