An event to honor and remember Chief Little Crow - it is something Dusty Beaulieau, director of the Dakota Language Program for the Flandreau Santee Sioux, had wanted to do for some time. With too many other events and activities on his plate and more piling up by the week, Beaulieu turned to a newly hired staff member for help in May.
She got it done.
Marilyn Allen, among others, helped to organize the first ever Little Crow Spiritual Run this past week, on July 3rd — the same date that chief Taoyateduta, or Little Crow, was shot to death by a white settler and his son in 1863.
A brief introduction to Little Crow, or Mdewakanton Dakota chief Taoyateduta, if you’re not familiar with him: chief Little Crow negotiated the Treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota of 1851, which ceded most of the land in present day Minnesota and Iowa to the United States in exchange for goods and certain other rights.
The government, however, never followed through.
Facing severe economic hardship and starvation, Little Crow incited his people to revolt in the Dakota Uprising of 1862, a five-week war to drive the whites from Minnesota. He avoided death during the fighting, but a year later, when he returned, Little Crow was shot near Hutchinson, Minnesota by a settler and his son.
His body was scalped and mutilated and put on display for decades. But in 1915, at the request of his grandson, Jesse Wakeman, they were removed from the Minnesota State Capitol. In 1941 they were returned to the Wakeman family for proper burial at the First Presbyterian Church and Cemetery just north of Flandreau.
His burial site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017.
“I don’t think that Little Crow ever had the full sendoff that he deserved,” said Allen, of why she felt so strongly that she not only get the run started this year alongside Beaulieu, but that the tribe commit to it over the next three years. The plan is for the race, each year, to grow longer, progressively starting in other communities that hold significance in Little Crow’s life and work.
She and Beaulieu hope that an increased awareness of the run each year, “allows more people to remember Little Crow, and what he did for our people,” said Allen. “He stood by us. He gave his life for us, to protect our rights.”
This year’s run/walk started and ended at the FSST community center on Broad Avenue. The day started in prayer, the route was intentional as it wound through tribal housing, other areas of town and tribal lands, allowed for a stop at the cemetery where Little Crow is buried, and back through town. Children and elders were invited to walk the first 400 meters and the last 400 as well as the runners came in, so that they might offer prayers for the community as well.
“I just hope that through this run we can get a lot of attention and awareness and bring more healing to our people. There are so many that still struggle with historical trauma. You might think it’s so crazy how past events can be built into your DNA, but they can be,” said Allen.
A documentary is being planned on the event and initiative. Allen hopes that it can be used to provide a more complete look at the history of the region and serve as a useful tool for the nation, or at Native events, or anywhere else.