Mahnkato 45th Annual Traditional Wacipi

This past weekend I was able to attend the Mahnkato 45th Annual Traditional Wacipi Honoring the 38 Dakota on a field trip for my “Native and Immigrant Dance” class I’m enrolled in this fall. After attending the powwow, I was eager to learn more about the 38 gentlemen who lost their lives and how they now how they now have a whole weekend of celebration to remember them by.

According to Issac V. D. Heard in History of the Sioux War and Massacres of 1862 and 1863 at 10:00am December 26, 1862 38 Dakota men were killed. The article references “Drumbeats signalled the start of the execution.” I thought that was a more obscure detail to be recalled. Upon further reflection, it me of what the Spiritual Advisor (Ray Owen) mentioned at the powwow on Sunday about the what she referred to as “the spirit of the drum”. Pamela Sexsmith interviewed Gerald Okanee is the lead singer of Saskatchewan’s Big Bear Singers about what the spirit of the drum means to him in the article “Spirit of the Drum”.

In Pamela Sexsmith’s interview with General Okanee, she learns that “the drum has symbolized the circle of life and the heartbeat of Mother Earth”. He shares the spiritual experiences he has had involving the drum. Okanee remarks “Someone can be sick and the family will ask for a drum and a song to pray to the Creator for help… There are special blankets that are given to the drum specifically for the drum. The spirit of a drum is like a person; you have to keep it warm. It is part of the family and the sole purpose of a drum group is to honor the drum and treat it as you would your fellow singers”

One can not assume that the drum had the same significance to the 38 Dakota men as it does to Gerald Okanee; but, it is through music and dance that they choose to remember the 38 fallen at the Mahkato 45th Annual Traditional Wacipi today.

1 thought on “Mahnkato 45th Annual Traditional Wacipi

  1. It is so. cool. that you were able to attend a powwow at the very moment that we were discussing Native American music in class. It would be interesting to hear more about what you heard at the powwow – how were drums used (if at all) during the event? I’m also glad you were able to connect the massacre of 1862 to the primary source you found. One question – do you know if the drums that were used to signal the start of the execution were the drums of the Dakota, or were they the drums of the US military? I sort of suspect the latter, but it’s hard to tell from that description. Either way, there’s something interesting to talk about: drums are thought to be so essential to Native American music, but if the US military drums were the ones that started the execution, then clearly drums were important to the US military, too. And if those were drums of the Dakota, then this is a great example of a kind of “circle of life” centrality of drumming to Dakota life – and death. Either way, you’ve picked a fascinating topic!

    In your next post, I’d like you to see you include a bit more media, especially of the people you choose to give voice to (in this case, it would be Pamela Sexmith or General Okanee or someone related to them). It might also be interesting to *hear* some of the music you’re describing, whether through a Youtube clip or an audio clip from one of the databases we subscribe to. Let me know if you have questions about how to incorporate audio clips in your post – it’s easy once you know how. Thanks for your hard work on this – I look forward to reading the next post!

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