'Dakota 38' is the Inspirational Movie of the Holiday Season

One hundred-fifty years ago, on the frigid morning of December 26, 1862, United States soldiers marched 38 Dakota men toward a hanging platform; a punishment for their participation in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. There – in Mankato, Minnesota – 38 Dakota natives were hung, completing the largest mass execution in the history of the United States.

In the spring of 2005, Jim Miller had a vision, a dream. A vivid inspirational journey found him riding on horseback across the great plains of South Dakota where he would arrive at a riverbank in Minnesota to witness the hanging of his 38 ancestors.

As a Native spiritual leader, Vietnam veteran, and recovering alcoholic, Jim made believe that he didn’t have such a journey, but it kept bothering him, night and day. 

Four years later, embracing the message of the dream, Jim set out with a group of riders to retrace the 330-mile route of his dream from their reservation in South Dakota back to their homeland in Mankato.


Film director Silas Hagerty and the rest of the Smooth Feather Productions team earnestly collaborated with Jim’s trip, creating a masterful documentary piece called Dakota 38 that focuses on the reconciliation and healing of the group’s long trek to Mankato.

Winner of the 2012 Special Jury Award at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival and the 2012 Audience Award at the Frozen River Film Festival, Dakota 38’s impeccable imagery, high-definition extent, and riveting score make this a must-see for the holiday season.

With nearly 20% of Native American reservation households making less than $5,000 annually and representing some of the largest suicide and substance abuse rates in the nation, Jim’s ride and brings hope to a suffering community, embedded with resentfulness, depression, and anger.

Through tension, tears, sickness, and love, Dakota 38 inspires a new generation of Native Americans to combat and escape this darkness, let anger in the heart go, and press forward to a hopeful future of perseverance, inspiration, and most of all, forgiveness.

It’s not that you don’t want to get up after the movie; it’s that you can’t. 

For the first time since the annual ride started in 2008, riders from the Santee Dakota Tribe in Nebraska and a group of Dakotas from Manitoba Canada will be joining the annual riders from the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. has been screening Dakota 38 daily for the entire month of December at 3:30p (ET).