“We have to look at President Lincoln every day we’re in this space,” DFL Minnesota Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn recently bemoaned on the House floor.
The progressive lawmaker’s anti-Lincoln position came up during debate on an education bill as she critiqued the way indigenous history is taught in Minnesota schools.
Her specific complaint regarding America’s 16th president centered around a series of executions that saw 38 Dakota men hanged in Mankato under Lincoln’s approval. Becker-Finn retold the story on the House floor, upset that the executions drew a bloodthirsty crowd that reportedly clashed with law enforcement and cheered when the gallows dropped.
These executions often draw criticism from Minnesota Democrats. This is not the first time they’ve critiqued the presence of his image in the House chambers either. Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, now a senator, once described images of Lincoln at the Capitol as “monuments to genocide” and expressed her desire for vandals to destroy them.
What Becker-Finn and others neglect to mention, however, is that Lincoln’s involvement in the 1862 executions actually prevented many more Native Americans from being killed. By personally reviewing each case, he ensured that only those who could be blamed for a series of raids that left hundreds of Minnesotans dead were hanged.
Becker-Finn portrayed the executions as senseless, racially motivated and genocidal. “We aren’t supposed to exist. Native people aren’t supposed to exist,” she said, accusing Minnesota of trying to eliminate its indigenous population. However, she apparently ignored the history that precluded the hangings. As Alpha News has previously detailed:
On Aug. 17, 1862, four Dakota men fired on some white farmers, killing women and children in a dispute over the farmers’ chicken eggs in Acton Township near modern day Grove City, Minnesota. The four Dakota then retreated to their village where they convinced tribal leaders to go to war with the Minnesotans.
The next day, Dakota warriors attacked farms and settlements in the area. They killed hundreds of Minnesotans, taking hundreds more as prisoners, including women and children. The Milford Township was among the most affected areas, losing over 50 of its residents. A monument now stands to commemorate the lives lost there.
The Dakota offensive continued, gaining steam and instigating the largest battle over a U.S. town since 1776 at New Ulm.
However, the war was short lived as the Dakota surrendered just a few weeks later on Sept. 26 to secure the safe release of POWs taken by the Americans.
After the war, a U.S. military commission tried many Dakota for war crimes, convicting 303 of rape and murder. However, the trials were shoddy and did not uphold proper legal standards. For this reason, Lincoln intervened.
Widely regarded Lincoln historian Harold Holzer told the Associated Press that the 16th president personally reviewed “every one of these capital cases.” After his review, the number of Dakota set to be executed was slashed from 303 to just 39 fighters whom the president believed there was sufficient evidence to bring punishment against. This number was later decreased to 38.
“After carefully reviewing the army trial records, the president authorized the execution of the thirty-seven Dakotas found guilty of murder and the two convicted of rape, thus sparing the lives of 264 condemned men,” notes the Center for Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois.
Lincoln then commuted the sentences of the other Dakota, ensuring that they would not face punishment for their alleged roles in the Dakota offensive. He did this despite heavy political pressure from his own party, per the AP.
Becker-Finn further blasted “this elaborate carving that has the problematic state seal” that hangs above the speaker’s podium in the House chambers. She suggested that the image negatively portrays a native warrior who stands aside a pioneer