People stay in Sleepy Eye on their walk to the Pow Wow in Mankato.

Rolette Eastman of Sisseton, S.D., along with her extended family, have been frequent visitors to Sleepy Eye over the past several years. Eastman is a seventh generation descendent of Chief Sleepy Eye — who she calls a grandfather, while acknowledging the generations between them. She often visits the site of his burial at the Depot Museum. Eastman and her family have shared many stories with museum director Deb Joramo on their visits.

Last week the group spent two nights in the Sportsmen’s Park campground as they made their way to the 47th annual Mahkato Wacipi (Pow Wow) held at Land of Memories Park in Mankato, Sept. 20, 21 and 22. The Wacipi theme is Honoring the 38 Dakota (referring to the 38 Dakota men hanged in Mankato on Dec. 26, 1862.) Eastman is a member of the Wacipi committee.

Making their way to Mankato was not as simple as driving there. The group was on their second annual Memorial Prayer Walk, from the Sisseton area to the pow wow grounds. Eastman said they were following the path Chief Sleepy Eye would have traveled to reach that region.

According to Eastman, the Memorial Prayer Walk, or Wokisuye Cekiya Mani in the native language, was made in honor of everyone that has been called back home to mother earth.

The walkers left Sisseton on Sept. 9 and made their way to Sleepy Eye, where they arrived on Sept. 18. Those in the group took turns walking, with support vehicles traveling behind them.

After a day of walking, the group would drive to whatever place they had planned to stay the night. The next morning they’d drive back to the point where they stopped and resume their walk forward.

The photo with this article was taken on Thursday, Sept. 19, as the group began walking south on 260th Ave. on the east edge of town. They returned to Sleepy Eye for another night at the campground, then resumed their walk on Friday morning arriving at Land of Memories Park later that day.

Eastman said they’d done the same walk last year and plan to repeat it for the next five years, for a total of seven Memorial Prayer Walks. The number seven is significant for many reasons for native people, and for Eastman’s family and Chief Sleepy Eye (one example being the seven generations). Another example is recognition of the Seven Council Fires.

Eastman said the people are called Oceti Sakowin Oyate.

The following information comes from “Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings & Standards.” Adopted by South Dakota State Board of Education Standards, March 19, 2018:

Oceti Sakowin (oh-CHEH-tee shaw-KOH-we) is a cohesive tribal society consisting of seven tribes known as the Seven Council Fires. Oyate can be translated as people: Oceti Sakowin Oyate.

Oceti Sakowin (historically, known to some as the Sioux Nation) is a Native confederacy speaking three different dialects: the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota.