Reading History: The Hanging at Mankato
Conjuring and discussing the largest mass execution in US history, with Claire Barliant, Alan Gilbert, and David Levine.
June 30, 2011
7:00 p.m., free admission
Early in the winter of 1854, we began to think of emigrating to America. Of any other reason than that it was God's will, I am ignorant to this day. We were met with sickness, poverty, and need; the money we had left, we had loaned to friends in our party and now we were in need of everything. It went from bad to worse. Home, food, money and health—all was lacking. Once I said: “If I stood on the shores of Sweden naked, I would consider myself fortunate; and if God ever would give me the means again, we would go back.” But when that time came all was forgotten.
—Pastor Pehr Carlson, autobiography, date unknown
Mr. Andrew Myrick, a trader, with an Indian wife, had refused some hungry Indians credit a short time before when they asked him for some provisions. He said to them: “Go and eat grass.” Now he was lying on the ground dead, with his mouth stuffed full of grass, and the Indians were saying tauntingly: “Myrick is eating grass himself.”
—Big Eagle, Through Dakota Eyes: Narrative Accounts of the Minnesota Indian War of 1862
Triple Canopy presents a performative reading and conversation examining the history and contemporary resonance of the 1862 hanging of thirty-eight Dakota Indians in Mankato, Minnesota—the largest mass execution in US history. Drawing on Claire Barliant's essay examining the episode, to be published next month in the thirteenth issue of Triple Canopy, the reading will enact archival documents and first-hand accounts of the Dakota War and its aftermath for the Dakota and for Nordic settlers, as well as contemporary interviews and writing on the memorialization of the conflict. The performance is directed by artist David Levine and features Claire Barliant, Anne Barliant, and Alan Gilbert.
A conversation between Claire Barliant and Gilbert, a poet and critic, will follow, and refreshments will be served.
This event is supported in part by the Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston, and New York Council for the Humanities. Claire Barliant is a Triple Canopy New Media Reporting 2010 commissions recipient.
Claire Barliant is a Brooklyn-based writer whose writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Afterall, Artforum, and Modern Painters.
Anne Barliant is a film editor living in New York City.
Alan Gilbert is a poet, critic, and scholar and a lecturer at Wesleyan University. He is the author of Another Future: Poetry and Art in a Postmodern Twilight.
David Levine is an artist based in Brooklyn and Berlin. His performances and projects have been presented at Mass MoCA, Galerie Feinkost (Berlin), Documenta XII, and Townhouse Gallery (Cairo).