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Prime Time: Pazahiyayewin's legacy lives on

Pazahiyayewin (She Shall Radiate in Her Path Like the Sun) is pictured above, surrounded by her daughter and some of her grandchildren. The photo was taken in the early 1900s. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Margaret Kitto Butz is pictured with granddaughter Alice Storey and great-grandson James Alexander Pederson. Pioneer Photo/Patt Rall2 / 2

The legacy of Pazahiyayewin (She Shall Radiate In Her Path Like the Sun) lives on in the lives of her descendents.

"We are strong women," Margaret Kitto Butz, great-granddaughter of Pazahiyayewin, asserted to her own granddaughter, Alice Storey. "We are the descendents of Mazaadidi (Walks on Iron) and Pazahiyayewin, who suffered and survived the harsh winter of 1862."

Mazaadidi escaped execution at the stockade prison in Davenport, Iowa, with a stay of execution by President Lincoln. Pazahiyayewin also survived the seven-day forced winter march of women and children from the Lower Sioux Agency to a forlorn island at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, a desolate strip of land.

One hundred forty-nine years have passed since 38 men were marched to Mankato and hanged Dec. 26, 1882. It is still the largest mass execution in American history.

That march is commemorated each year by their descendents. The march, beginning Dec. 26, starts at Fort Snelling and ends at the Land of Memories Park in Mankato, about a 100-mile trek.

"The first year I did the walk/run (in the mid 1990s), it was the coldest winter since 1863. The snow was so high that the runners who carry a staff had to start out on the roads.

"We walked on the sides of freeways to get there so it was pretty treacherous," Kitto Butz recalled. "Some of the elders drove in cars from place to place. I had broken my arm so my little Norwegian daughter-in-law came with me.

"She was so worried that I was going to fall down a ravine or something. But I needed to do this before I lost my eyesight. I took as many grandsons as I could with me. It still is impossible for me to see how my forbearers did that.

"My grandmother was pregnant and gave birth the same day as when my grandfather was taken prisoner by U.S. troops," Kitto Butz said. "She had four children at the time and managed to keep them safe and fed. In all, she and my great grandfather had 14 children during their marriage."

As fate would have it, Mazaadidi was converted to Christianity while in prison and learned to read the Bible in the Dakota. He was re-named Dennis Kitto and his wife was re-named Ellen. Their children have gone on to triumph over the almost complete decimation of the Sioux Indians of Minnesota.

After exile in the Dakota Territory and Canada, one of the first to come back to Minnesota was Reuben Kitto Sr., who went to Minnesota Bible College with a music scholarship and later preached with his wife in what is now known as North Dakota and South Dakota.

Reuben Kitto Jr. was one of the very few American Indian graduates of the University of Minnesota. His sister, Laura Kitto Morgan, moved to Red Lake after retiring as the only American Indian to work as a secretary in Minnesota government. The list of successful descendents of Mazaadidi and Pazahiyayewin goes on through this generation and their legacy lives on through pictures and writings.

"We have pictures like this all over our house, and this is a picture of my great grandmother Pazahiyayewin with her daughter and some grandchildren," said Kitto Butz.

"My native heritage is important to me," said Alice, Margaret Kitto Butz's granddaughter, who was holding her son James, the newest in a long line of Mazaadidi.

"I always mark Native American on applications. I will graduate Bemidji State University with a degree in Marketing and Communications in the near future."

Alice said that she proudly wears her Mazaadidi jacket, given to her upon high school graduation, with the name of her great-great-great grandmother embroidered on the back: "She Shall Radiate in Her Path Like the Sun."