By Jesús Adrián Martínez
The Intercultural Awareness Association (ICAA) at Saint Mary’s University invited Gus High Eagle, a member of the Dakota tribe, to share his experience and aspects of his culture with the SMU community at the screening of the film Dakota 38.
The ICAA explores different cultures and shares them with the SMU community. During the event, High Eagle explained that he and many members of his tribe have been traveling to various regions in the U.S. to share their experience of trivialization as Native Americans in the U.S.
On Dec. 26, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln conducted the largest execution in U.S history; the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Minn.
High Eagle said that Jim Miller, one of his fellow tribe members, felt that he had to pay a tribute to his ancestors who fought for their rights and were murdered in cold blood. Miller connected his dreams to his experience as a soldier in the war in Vietnam. Miller killed 38 men in the Vietnam War, which was the exact number of Dakota men who were executed in 1862.
In 2008, Miller was compelled to round up a group of horse riders set out from Lower Brule, S.D., on a 16-day journey to Mankato, Minn. The journey was documented in the film Dakota 38. The 330 mile journey was said to be “a journey of recollection and reconciliation” as part of the 150th anniversary of what is now known as the 1862 Dakota Conflict. The film is an explicit depiction of the Dakota tribe’s culture, rituals and experience.
Throughout the film, one sees a high sense of collaboration within the tribe as members make an effort to jounrey to Mankato, Minn., to pay tribute to their ancestors. On this journey, the Dakota tribe also collaborated with several tribes along the way and helped decrease the number of suicides of Native American in the United States due to their outcasting.
High Eagle left the SMU community with strong words at the end of the movie screening. “It is not about brown skin or white skin,” he said. “It is about how we’re all human beings. We just want peace.”