David Martinez lecture : Remembering the Thirty-Eight: Abraham Lincoln, the Dakota, and the U.S. War on Barbarism
David Martinez (Gila River Pima) is the author of 'Dakota Philosopher: Charles Eastman and American Indian Thought' (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2009) and editor of 'The American Indian Intellectual Tradition: An Anthology of Writings from 1772 to 1972' (Cornell University Press, 2011). He has also published articles in Wicazo Sa Review, Canadian Journal of Native Studies, the American Indian Quarterly, and the American Indian Culture and Research Journal. His areas of concentration are American Indian intellectual history, art and aesthetics, and folklore studies. He is currently in the initial stage of developing a book-length project on the works and legacy of Vine Deloria, Jr.
“On the orders of President Abraham Lincoln, thirty-eight Dakota prisoners-of-war were hanged on December 26, 1862, in what remains the largest mass execution in United States history. Supposedly, Lincoln’s actions were another example of his storied political and legal wisdom. Since the number executed for having participated in the “massacre” of white American citizens in the 1862 US-Dakota War could have been as many as three hundred and three, reducing the number condemned is presumed to be another act of magnanimity on Lincoln’s part. What this paper argues is that Lincoln possessed the power to acquit all the condemned, and should have in light of the fact that the Military Commission did not have jurisdiction.”