Minnesota Historical Society Approves Repatriation of Mankato Hanging Rope to Prairie Island Indian Community

The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) intends to repatriate the item known as the Mankato Hanging Rope (3333.H474) to the Prairie Island Indian Community under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA. The rope was used in the hanging of Wicanhpi Wastedanpi (Chaske), one of 38 Dakota men hanged following the US-Dakota War of 1862. It was donated to the Minnesota Historical Society and accessioned into MNHS collections in 1869. This is a harmful and painful object that does not reflect the mission and the values of MNHS today. 

The MNHS Executive Council, its governing board, approved the MNHS NAGPRA Committee's determination that the item is eligible for repatriation as both an Unassociated Funerary Object and a Sacred Object, with cultural affiliation to all federally recognized Dakota Tribes, including Prairie Island Indian Community. Throughout this NAGPRA claim process, MNHS consulted with Dakota Tribal Nations and relied heavily on previous research by the Santee Sioux Nation, the Dakota NAGPRA Coalition, MNHS staff, and the current research in the Prairie Island Indian Community’s NAGPRA claim. 

“This consultation process has been a deeply meaningful learning experience for all of us at MNHS. I am especially grateful to the Dakota community members who have engaged and provided valuable insights and perspective in recent days and over the years,” said MNHS Director and CEO Kent Whitworth. “In addition, I thank my MNHS colleagues, past and present, whose research and stewardship also informed this determination. We thank everyone involved for honoring the NAGPRA process, and we hope this decision leads to healing for our Dakota friends and relatives.”

Following the process required by NAGPRA, MNHS has contacted each of the other 11 federally recognized Dakota Tribal Nations. MNHS has received formal communication from all 11 Dakota Tribal Nations expressing unanimous support for the Prairie Island Indian Community's claim.

MNHS will submit a Notice of Intent to Repatriate to National NAGPRA for publication in the Federal Register. If there are no additional claims within 30 days of publication of the Notice of Intent to Repatriate, the item can be physically transferred to the Prairie Island Indian Community. MNHS will continue to care for the item as a sacred object until the repatriation process is completed.

For more information on NAGPRA, please review these frequently asked questions by the National Park Service