UW refuses to blame Lincoln for 'massacre' of Native Americans
The statue of Abraham Lincoln sits outside Bascom Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The University of Wisconsin, Madison is ignoring a student government demand for a disclaimer on an Abraham Lincoln statue accusing him of complicity in the death of 38 Native Americans.
Katrina Morrison, chair of the Associated Students of Madison, told The Daily Cardinal that while she appreciates “Lincoln’s role in creating land-grant institutions,” she supports the motion to place an informative plaque on his statue to recognize what she called “his brutality towards indigenous people.”
"I do not see a reason to prominently label [the killings of natives] on the Lincoln statue."
“We wanted a plaque near Lincoln because we wanted the university to recognize his part in the Dakota 38 massacre,” she elaborated. “I think that [not putting a plaque on the statue] is a mistake, and I think that the history is irrefutable. It is clear that he played a huge role in the massacre and was killing innocent people for no reason.”
Mariah Skenandore, co-president of an indigenous student organization known as Wunk Sheek, likewise supported the measure, saying the university doesn’t “acknowledge the impact that it is having on their students” who have to encounter the statue on a daily basis.
“I think the plaque is the least the university can do,” she added. “If we don’t keep advocating for ourselves, no one is going to advocate for us.”
According to the Minnesota Historical Society, at the end of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, Lincoln had ordered the execution of Dakota soldiers who had “been proved guilty of violating females,” or who had participated in the “massacres” of civilians outside of official “battles.”
It was later discovered, however, that two of the men had been mistakenly executed, one of whom was acquitted and another who had accidentally misidentified himself.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank ultimately decided to ignore the student government’s request, pointing out that Lincoln only accepted the sentences of those who were “involved in either killing or raping,” and therefore actually played a “restraining role” in the matter.
“Abe is actually here because he was the person who really created public universities in the states throughout this country in a very real way,” she concluded. “I do not see a reason to prominently label [the killings of natives] on the Lincoln statue.”
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