The eighth graders in Catherine Shafer’s Waimea Middle School class have learned a part of history that is still obscure to most people. As part of their history curriculum, the students have been studying the impact of Native American relocation from different perspectives. Shafer had her students watch a film called “Dakota 38” for a December history segment of their class.
“At first I didn’t know anything about it,” said Shafer. A social studies and U.S. history teacher, Shafer said she checked the Internet for more information. “The first thing I did was check Wikipedia, and the story began with some young boys leaving their reservation (in the 1800s) and killing two white settlers. It didn’t sound good, but then I learned that was only three quarters of the story.”
In 1862, in what is now Minnesota, the Dakota, or Lakota, tribe was forcefully removed from their lands because of a newly formed state. The government made and broke promises to the tribe that resulted in unrest, violence and the largest mass hanging in U.S. history — 38 Dakota warriors were hung on Dec. 26, 1862, in Mankato. And two years later, two more warriors were hung, actions of which still affect the Dakota tribes today.
In January, a group from the Upper Sioux community came to Hawaii for a cultural exchange trip, inspired by the preservation of their Dakota language, to visit “our Hawaiian relatives and see the success they have had reviving their language and culture.”
Dawn Chase, one of the Upper Sioux members said, “We so admire all that has been accomplished. We were very moved by the welcome and the making of relatives while in Hawaii. We were very honored to learn Auntie Pua Case, the students and staff were following the 38 plus two riders and the remembrance of our ancestors.”
The group visited Waimea Middle School to share their songs, drums and hoop dance. One of the quotes from the Dakota that Chase shared with the class was, “We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.”
The eighth graders watched “Dakota 38,” a film created to encourage healing and reconciliation. Available for free viewing (see website below), Dakota 38 intersperses history with a current-day ride of Dakota tribes who ride more than 330 miles from the Lower Brule Indian Reservation to Mankato, Minnesota, to honor those in the past.
Johnna Marsh, eighth grader said she felt sad after watching the film because they (the government) made promises and didn’t keep them. Another student, Keawi’iwi Pilayo said, “It reminded me of what happened to the Hawaiian people and the way we were forced off the land.”
Shafer said she hopes that this segment of the history class has been an inspiration as well as helped create something positive out of a negative situation. Her goal was to teach her students that studying history connects them to cultures beyond Hawaii’s shores and broadens relationship with other communities. By expanding their experience to the lives of others in different times and places, history can teach them valuable things both about others and about themselves.
Two seniors of the Upper Sioux community (who visited Hawaii), invited Case to speak at their graduation ceremony on May 23. Afterward, she will be taken on a tour of the Mankato site and speak with the tribe’s elders to learn of their history and stories.
Case said she feels very honored to have this opportunity, and she will film the trip to bring back to Shafer’s eighth grade class, “because they are all a part of it.”
Cianni Kekahuna, another eighth grader said, “I’m happy that we got to reach out to them, and now they are reaching out to us.”
For more information, or to watch the documentary, visit http://sunktanka.weebly.com/dakota-38-plus-2-memorial-ride.html.