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.