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To honor executed Dakota 38+2, memorial riders brave frigid cold to make their way to Mankato

Memorial riders brave frigid cold to honor executed Dakota 38+2
Memorial riders brave frigid cold to honor executed Dakota 38+2 02:22

MANKATO, Minn. - Despite the extreme weather conditions across the state, a group of horse riders is making their way through southern Minnesota.

A powwow at the Courtland Community Center is a short reprieve from a journey that began two weeks ago. Everyone in the room is part of the annual Dakota Memorial Ride.

They're honoring 38 warriors and 2 others who were hung in Mankato during the U.S. Dakota War of 1862.

"We are out here riding to commemorate the largest mass hanging in U.S. history in 1862," said Leanne Red Owl, Memorial Rider.

"I'm very honored to be here and I have my family here. All the young ones are growing up now and they are all riding," said Giiwedinookwe, Memorial Rider.

It's the 160th anniversary of the mass execution.

The riders left central South Dakota on Dec. 10, and despite the weather, they plan to be in Mankato by Dec. 26.

"The weather is nothing. We are still going to ride," said Red Owl.

This year, the last four riders from the original memorial ride will be retiring, which makes this even more special.

And even in subzero temperatures and blizzard-like conditions, many of these riders will still put in 25 miles by horseback. They believe the whiteouts they ride through are what their ancestors would have experienced. So they do the same, as a way to honor and remember.

"I just wear this here and I pray and I tell myself to toughen up because this is nothing like what our ancestors went through. They didn't have these warm coats and things like that. They just had blankets," said Giiwedinookwe.

"We go through struggles, we have hardships, but we still ride because that's who we are," said Leanne.

There was talk that this would be the last year of the ride. But some of the younger riders say they hope to keep the tradition going for years to come.

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