Mankato powwow becomes healing event after 4-year-old girl killed by falling tree branch

Members of the indigenous community came together for a healing event on Saturday following the death of Nytalia Ashes, the 4-year-old girl killed when a tree branch fell onto her tent during storms early Friday morning in Mankato.

Saturday at Land of Memories Park, a celebration of Native American history had become in part a celebration of life after the sudden death of one of this community’s youngest.

"Friday morning was a real tragedy for a four-year-old girl who has been coming to this pow wow since she was a newborn," said powwow organizer Dave Brave Heart.

The girl’s family had just celebrated her fourth birthday. But early Friday morning, Nytalia Ashes of South Dakota’s Yankton Sioux Tribe was killed when violent storms ripped through the campground.

"This huge wind came through, and it lasted about 15 seconds, but it was an incredible wind," said Brave Heart.

In the strength of the storm, the unexpected happened as Nytalia lay in her tent with her family. Then, in the wake of tragedy, the community wrestled with whether to cancel the powwow altogether.

"This family has requested that we continue, but right now they need their privacy and they need their space and grief so we’re trying to be as supportive as possible," said spiritual leader Raymond Owen.

During Saturday’s events, a traditional blanket dance became a fundraising dance for Nytalia’s family.

"It’s quite an expense to bury someone and they have to take her body back to Sioux Falls where she’s from," explained Brave Heart.