The latest assault on the civil liberties of the American people in the name of fighting terrorism is President Bush’s recent decision to use U.S. military tribunals to try foreigners accused of terrorist attacks and to decide on sentences, including the death penalty. This is a horrible idea with a horrible precedent: the largest mass execution in U.S. history.
In 1851 the Santee Sioux Indians in Minnesota sold twenty-four million acres of land to the federal government for $1.4 million. By August of 1862 thousands of white settlers continued to pour into the Indian lands even though none of the money had been paid to the Santee Sioux. There was a crop failure that year, and the Indians were starving. The Lincoln administration refused to pay them the money they were owed, breaking yet another Indian treaty, and the starving Sioux revolted.
A short “war” ensued, with Lincoln putting one of his favorite generals, General John Pope, in charge of federal forces in Minnesota. Pope announced that “It is my purpose to utterly exterminate the Sioux . . . . They are to be treated as maniacs or wild beasts, and by no means as people with whom treaties or compromise can be made.” (Similar statements were being made at the time by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who said that to all Southern secessionists, “why, death is mercy”).
The Santee Sioux were overwhelmed by the federal army by October of 1862, at which time General Pope held hundreds of Indian men, women, and children who were considered to be prisoners of war. The men were all herded into forts where military “trials” were held, each of which lasted about ten minutes according to David A. Nichols in Lincoln and the Indians. They were all found guilty of murder and sentenced to death even though the lack of hard evidence was manifest and they were not given any semblance of a proper defense. Most were condemned to death by virtue o the fact that they were merely present during a battle, during a declared (by the Indians) war.
Minnesota political authorities wanted the federal army to immediately execute all 303 of the condemned men. Lincoln, however, was concerned that such a mass execution of so many men who had so obviously been railroaded would be looked upon in a bad light by the European powers who, at the time, were threatening to support the Confederate cause in the War for Southern Independence. His compromise was to pare the list of condemned down to 39, with a promise to the Minnesota political establishment that the federal army would eventually kill or remove every last Indian from the state. As a sweetener to the deal Lincoln also offered Minnesota $2 million in federal funds…..
- Un-Civil War: When North Fought South, It Was Indians Who Lost (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- Native Times: Emergency Needs in Indian Country (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters on Columbus Day (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- What Indians fought at the battle of The Little Bighorn (wiki.answers.com)
- October 10 is Native American Day in South Dakota (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)