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Making peace using stone soup

By Staff | May 18, 2014

There was a peace celebration in Mankato’s Sibley Park this weekend, May 17 and 18.

Its stated purpose was to promote peace and reconciliation between nations, communities and families.

The event was scheduled to feature music, dancers, speakers and a picnic. It hopefully brought descendants of Native Americans and those of Minnesota European settler heritage together.

And, the whole thing is the idea of a Blue Earth man, Les Sasse.

Sasse doesn’t want the focus to be on him, but rather on this two-day event. But, the fact that he has organized such a thing is what I find most interesting.

Sasse, a professional musician by trade and of Czechoslovakian heritage by birth, admits he is an unlikely candidate for putting on such a production.

He also readily admits he is not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to the history of the Dakota-Sioux Native Americans and the white settlers in Minnesota. But he has studied it quite a bit.

He became interested in the history over a long period of time.

Sasse helped out a man in his church in Winnebago by driving him to Franklin to visit his wife, who was in a nursing home.

While he was there every week, he decided to go to church at the Lower Sioux Agency Indian reservation near Morton. It was there he learned the whole history of the Indian War of 1863, the exiling of the Dakota from Minnesota to South Dakota and, of course, the hanging of 38 Sioux in Mankato.

Now he wants to do something to bring two different nations of peoples back together.

So, he has rented a stage and is setting up the sound system for the two-day program in a park in Mankato. He has contacted as many people as he can, both Native Americans and whites.

He has a lot of entertainment lined up; both Native American drummers and dancers, as well as some white musicians and bands who will play throughout the weekend.

Sasse himself plans on playing drums and keyboard with several of the bands. And, he will perform a song he has written especially for this event.

He says there will be open mic time, where anyone can step up to the microphone and either sing or verbally express their ideas.

On Sunday, there will be a church service, featuring the Reverend Sidney Bird, who once marched with Dr. Martin Luther King.

Sasse has worked hard on putting together this peace celebration. Now he hopes for a good turnout.

He says he is following his mother’s advice. She always said that while we may not be able to change the whole world, we at least can make stone soup.

Making stone soup is an old folk story in which hungry strangers persuade local people of a town to give them food. It is usually told as a lesson in cooperation, especially amid scarcity.

Sasse, of course, wants to do more than just make stone soup. He wants to send clothes and food to those Native Americans who need it. He wants to change attitudes of people. He wants to change old perceptions, outdated laws and past injustices.

He knows he is only one person and can’t change the world. But, he can make stone soup by holding a peace celebration and just do whatever he can to help people find the main ingredient of life and that, he says, is love.

If you are reading this before May 17 and 18, maybe you would want to check out the celebration at Sibley Park.

Sasse’s location selection was deliberate. Sibley Park was the site of Camp Lincoln where 303 Sioux braves awaited execution in December of 1863.

Now, he wants it to be known for something else; as a place of reconciliation.

I hope he succeeds.