Opinion: President Lincoln responsible for Dakota execution

"During his term as president, Abraham Lincoln was responsible for the largest mass execution – and the greatest act of clemency – in our nation’s history.

Indeed, as every schoolchild is aware, the history of our government’s relations with the American Indians is disgraceful. Congress never made a treaty that it wasn’t more than willing to break at the slightest provocation. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, tribe after tribe was left with no recourse other than rebellion or starvation, and the Dakota Sioux were no exception.

In 1851 – 10 years before the Civil War – the United States signed two treaties with the Sioux that resulted in the Indians’ ceding huge portions of the Minnesota Territory. In exchange, they were promised compensation in the form of cash and trade goods, and directed to live on a reservation along the upper Minnesota River. The thoroughly corrupt Bureau of Indian Affairs was responsible for overseeing the terms of the treaties. Not surprisingly, many of the trade goods were substandard and overvalued by several hundred percent, and the promised payments were often not forthcoming – stolen by Washington functionaries, or simply channeled directly to the crooked traders and Indian agents."

Get the Story:
Ron Soodalter: Lincoln and the Sioux (The New York Times 8/20)

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Editorial: Resentment festers 150 years after the Dakota War (8/13)

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