MORTON, MINN., DEC. 25 -- A mile from his home on the Lower Sioux Reservation, Dakota tribal chairman David Larsen drives by one of several local monuments to his people's darkest moment.

"I feel a tug at my heart," says Larsen, 46, as his car rolls past a plaque marking the site of military trials that sent 38 Dakota to the gallows.

In the largest mass execution in U.S. history, the Dakota were publicly hanged 125 years ago Saturday in nearby Mankato for battling white settlers, battles that resulted in the deaths of some 500 whites and an unknown number of Dakota deaths.

Larsen says he is angry and bitter that white history still blames the Indians.

Minnesota's "Year of Reconciliation," a series of proclamations and symposiums on the 1862 conflict, ends Saturday. Larsen and others on the 250-member reservation in southwestern Minnesota say they're glad it is finally over.

"It's a farce," said Vernell Wabasha, manager of a reservation pottery shop. Her husband's great-great-grandfather was a principal chief at the time of the conflict.

"As far as I'm concerned, there wasn't any change {this year}, except more white people coming in looking at us again," she said. "You can't change history. It's history, and it's gonna be that way. The whole year should have been looking ahead at Indians' future, changing things."

Added Larsen: "People are still making a buck off our hard times. It's just so frustrating. What gets me is this could have been so much better if they had at least got some of us involved."

State officials and academicians who planned the Year of Reconciliation have deemed it a success.

"We discover by reconciling our past, we find ways to build our futures together," said Gov. Rudy Perpich at an Oct. 31 ceremony dedicating a historical marker at a onetime Dakota internment camp.

Accounts differ as to how the 1862 conflict started.

History books say four Dakota stole eggs from a white settler's farm after an unsuccessful hunting trip and that, by the time they left the farm, five whites were dead.

Dakota dispute that account, saying that the conflict began decades earlier when whites invaded their territory, driving away the game the Dakota depended on for food.

"People have been feeling bad about {the Dakota Conflict} on both sides," said Roger Head, executive director of the state Indian Affairs Council. "People just didn't want to talk about it.

"I think we have accomplished our goals -- reconciliation," Head said. "I really believe there's a greater understanding."

Larsen and other Indian leaders did participate in the forums and ceremonies, though he insists he was included "only after I raised Cain."

Media coverage, he said, brought the Dakota some of their only positive public relations in 200 years. The St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch ran an extensive series on the Dakota Conflict over the year and led an editorial campaign for a posthumous pardon for the 38 hanged.

Yet here on the reservation, the pardon proposal is dismissed as one more guilt-motivated gesture. The Dakota contend the post-war trials, held just outside today's reservation boundary, were a mockery that sent mostly innocent Indians to their deaths or prison.

"How can they pardon somebody when the people didn't do anything wrong?" Wabasha asked.

"Once again, they didn't ask us," said Larsen, a school counselor in nearby Redwood Falls. "They just went ahead and did this."

After hearing of the Indians' objections, proponents of the pardon quietly dropped the idea, said Patrice Vick, a spokeswoman for the governor.

A real accomplishment of the Year of Reconciliation, Larsen said, is promotion of a more neutral vocabulary for describing the conflict and its participants. The traditional white name for the war -- "The Great Sioux Uprising" -- is anathema to the Indians.

The Dakota dislike the European term "Sioux" because they say it connotes fierceness and defiance. "Dakota," Larsen explained, means "friend" in the Indian tongue. They also reject the term "uprising," contending their ancestors were provoked by cruel treatment and betrayal.