They wanted to come home

Ms. Wilson talks about commemorating the Dakota victims of the U.S.-Dakota War, and bringing their spirits home.

Audio Chapters

DL: You said you started putting Birch Coulee together. What does that mean?

LW: We’re the ones that started the memorial down here, Gathering of Kinship. That was our doings; that was our baby. So we got that together. Then we met with my stepmother and we asked her, because she was real wise too. So he said, “I think we’ll go ask her.” So we all sat down and had a prayer meeting and stuff. I think a Medicine Man came and then he wanted to know if anybody had anything, and then she did. She said, “Let’s call it Gathering of Kinship.” So we took that name. That was ours; we put that together and did that for years. Then finally it fizzled out.

DL: Right within this vicinity, some battles took place. At the storehouse there was a very, very sad history. So I’m wondering, when you go to these places now, do you feel a heaviness from history, or do you think, is it light?

LW: It’s light. The only hard part for us was when we planned this Gathering of Kinship and the spirits wanted to come home. They were all over, some in a hospital. The bones and stuff were all over, and they wanted to come home. So that was the start of this thing. We had to walk from Mankato where the hanging was, we had to walk all the way back to Birch Coulee. When we walked, I wish there had been more people around. When we walked, when we came down by that road from New Ulm, you could just about see the spirits all standing along the road, a whole bunch of Indians. There wasn’t just the thirty-eight, there was a whole bunch of spirits. And then we heard singing. Nobody paid attention because we thought somebody had a tape on in their car. So we just kept walking—we took turns walking. We’d get back in the car and somebody else would walk. Later on, everybody said, “Who had a tape on?” And nobody had one on. All the way down that road, we heard that singing. But people heard different things. Then when we got up that hill, we all got out of our cars and walked down to Birch Coulee. But it was amazing because people saw and heard different things; everybody’s was different. One of the spirits said: “Well, we’re glad to be home”. So the walker did his duty, whatever he was supposed to do, bringing them back from the hanging site.

Oral History- Interview | Narrator Lillian Wilson Interviewer Deborah Locke made in Morton, Lower Sioux Community, MN | Thursday, February 17, 2011

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society. U.S. - Dakota War of 1862. They wanted to come home May 29, 2024.

Viewpoints: All viewpoints expressed on this website are those of the contributors, and are not representative of the Minnesota Historical Society.