Dakota Unity Ride comes through PdC 150 years after Davenport Prison Camp

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Communities in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota are invited to participate in a ceremony to honor and remember the Dakota men and families imprisonment following the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862, at Fort McClellan in Davenport, Iowa. The ceremony is an opportunity to remember and reflect on a horrific part of history that is rarely told or taught, and to pray for healing between Dakota people and those who now call this region home.

The horse ceremony will travel through Prairie du Chien. Riders will begin Sept. 2 in Davenport, Iowa, and travel northwest through various Mississippi River communities before ending Sept. 19 at the Fort Snelling State Park Visitors Center in Mendota Heights, Minn.—the site of the Dakota concentration camp of 1862-63. The riders will travel 25 to 40 miles a day.

Organizers of the event would like to make it clear that this is not a “parade,” but a spiritual ride to honor the rider’s Dakota ancestors who died in Davenport.

The Unity Ride honors the Dakota warriors and family members who languished or died in the Camp McClellan prison camp in Davenport, Iowa, over a three-year period following the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862. Because the Dakota were not allowed to practice their burial rites, the dead were buried by soldiers in a mass unmarked grave in a ravine.

The ride is considered a spiritual journey done in the traditional way “to return the spirits of the Dakota dead in that mass grave to Bdote” (confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers), which in Dakota stories, is where the Dakotan people originated.

Located below the bluff of Fort Snelling, Bdote is also the concentration camp site where the 1,600 Dakota women, children and elders were held while the men were imprisoned at Davenport. At least 300 died during the winter of 1862-63 at Fort Snelling before the survivors were forcibly removed from the state.

During this 150th commemorative year, the Dakota Unity Riders hope to bring healing to their families and to begin a new chapter with those who live along this historic route.

Although they do not envision this ride as a recurring event, they do hope to build new connections for sharing their culture.

As they travel this spiritual journey, the riders will follow the ancestral river trail and branches along the Mississippi River as much as possible. A De Lisle map from 1783, provided by William Whittaker at the Office of the State Archaeologist shows this historic river route.

In order to get a better understanding of what a Unity Ride is and how communities along the Unity Ride are able to participate in the reconciliation process, area residents are encouraged to view the recently released documentary film, “Dakota 38” on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pX6FBSUyQI. Some of the riders in the film will be on this ride.

Many of the riders of the Davenport ride will also be coming straight from a month-long unity ride along the Hudson River from Albany, N.Y. to Newtown, Conn.

Locally, the Unity Riders will be in Guttenberg, Iowa, on Friday, Sept. 6, Prairie du Chien on Saturday, Sept. 7 and Sunday, Sept. 8, and in Harpers Ferry, Iowa, on Monday, Sept. 9.

The Unity Ride is a spiritual and reflective experience for participants. Non-Dakota people are invited to participate but are kindly asked to register for portions of the daily events by going to the following link: www.2013unityride.eventbrite.com.

Orientation for all non-Dakota people will be provided at the beginning of each day and many educational events will be hosted along the journey.

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