Mahkato Wacipi powwow returns for 50th celebration

Leah ThompsonStaff Writer

More than 50 Gustavus students and faculty attended the 50th Annual Mahkato Wacipi on Friday, Sept 16 at Dakota Wokiksuye Makoce (Land of Memories Park) in Mankato. Tickets and busing were provided by Gustavus for the first day of the Wacipi. However, the ticket, which was a button, was good for the entire weekend if students wanted to return on their own.

The Mahkato Wacipi is an annual powwow that memorializes the Dakota 38 + 2 who were executed after the US-Dakota War of 1862. To this day, the massacre of the Dakota 38 + 2 remains the largest mass execution in United States history. The execution of the Dakota 38 + 2 was an order signed by President Abraham Lincoln. The + 2 is significant because it represents the two Sioux leaders who escaped the massacre in December 1862, but were later captured and hanged in 1865.

Despite the horrific past surrounding the massacre of 1862, the Mahkato Wacipi is an annual event that celebrates and honors the traditions of the Dakota people through the gathering of nations. Its mission is to “reconcile and build bridges between all nations through education, storytelling, and sharing Dakota culture” according to the event page on MankatoLIFE.

The Mahkato Mdewakanton Association runs the Mahkato Wacipi and encourages people of all backgrounds to attend, allowing for a weekend of healing and reconciliation among the various communities.

During the first night of the Wacipi, the MC invited attendees to dance with the Dakota dancers. A few Gustavus students joined, including Sophomore Lukas Lennartson, who had taken a world dance class their first-year that had a unit on various indigenous dances from around the world.

Lennartson grew up in the Mankato area and has attended the Mahkato Wacipi in the past. Although Lennartson had attended the Wacipi as a kid, they felt that they saw things differently now that they’ve attended it as an adult.

Lennartson enjoyed their time at the Wacipi with one of their favorite parts being the regalia, especially a rainbow-themed set that one of the dancers was wearing.

Emily Fletcher is another Gustavus student who attended the annual Mahkato Wacipi. This was her first time going to a powwow and she said that she thoroughly enjoyed her time there. She spent her time watching the dances, looking at the different vendors, and trying frybread.

“The Wacipi was beautiful. It was filled with so much emotion and love. The regalia was beautiful; you could tell how much time, effort, and care goes into making them,” Fletcher said.

The President’s Council on Indigenous Relations (PCIR) sponsored the trip with the help of an NEH grant. NEH grants are given out to institutions that have humanities-based projects, with the intention of strengthening teaching and learning.

“My students said afterward that there was such a spirit of openness and welcoming to outsiders,” Ursula Lindqvist, Professor of Scandinavian Studies and Co-Chair of the PCIR said.

Senior Econ Management major Maddy Rice is a member of the PCIR and her family comes from Bad River Wisconsin. Her family has been attending and taking part in the Bad River Manomin Celebration for as long as she can remember.

“The experience [of going to a Powwow] is always a learning experience. From learning how to make my own regalia by hand to learning how to dance my style as a little girl. I learn something new everytime I go,” Rice said.

As a member of the PCIR, Rice wants the Gustavus community to recognize that the college is on stolen land and to get the community involved by learning more about Indigenous ways of life, values, and traditions.

Another goal of Rice’s is to have a land acknowledgment read before every on-campus sporting event. This would further show that Gustavus is recognizing its past and is working to change its relationship with the Indigenous community.

“To have a land acknowledgment read at every on-campus sporting event would be amazing… it would be a powerful way of showing respect for the land we work and live on,” Rice said.

While the PCIR has many long-term goals, Lindqvist explained that the PCIR’s goal for the fall semester is to have at least one major event per month.

These events will bring Indigenous guests to Gustavus for specially tailored events, allowing for open and honest conversations between the Gustavus and Indigenous communities. The events will also open a dialogue about Gustavus’ settler history and how to move forward by acknowledging the past.

“One goal of the PCIR is to develop an Indigenous history and culture curricular module for professors and supervisors at Gustavus that can be incorporated into syllabi, training sessions, orientation, etc. that would provide a balanced and nuanced history of this area and this land (Dakota land) upon which our college stands,” Professor Lindqvist said.

As September begins to wind down, one of the upcoming events that students can be on the lookout for will be on Indigenous Peoples Day. For this year’s Indigenous Peoples Day, Maddy Rice and Professor Katie Boone will speak during chapel break at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, Oct 10, sharing their own stories and connections that they have to Indigenous communities.

“[We need to work] towards honoring and inviting in the truth of our own history,” Rice said.