A Mankato city council member is asking President Barack Obama to pardon the 38 Dakota men hanged in a mass execution on a cold winter day near the end of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
On Dec. 26, 1862, thousands of spectators gathered in the frontier town of Mankato and watched as 38 Dakota men were led out of a prison to a specially made scaffold and hanged. The largest mass execution in U.S. history remains among the darkest chapters in U.S. history.
Now a petition has been started by City Council member Jack Consadine, who says he felt compelled to bring the issue to the White House after he studied more about the history of the hangings, KTOE radio reports.
"I based it primarily on the discrepancies in the trial," Consadine told KTOE. "There were no defense attorneys. No defense was allowed. Also, the trials were only 3 to 5 minutes long. They were conducted in English and the Dakota didn't understand the trial process."
Consadine notes that from the viewpoint of the Dakota, they had had their land and homes stolen and were left to starve.
There are some who disagree with Consadine, and say the Dakota's war tactics were brutal, the Associated Press reports. The petition as of Sunday had less than 700 signatures and needs 100,000 before the president would consider it.
There is little dispute that in 1862, Minnesota leaders wanted the Dakota gone one way or another, the Pioneer Press reported. Gov. Alexander Ramsey told the state Legislature that the Dakota "must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of Minnesota."
Remembrance ceremonies were held in Mankato in December 2012 for the 150th anniversary of the hangings. A memorial monument was unveiled in Mankato. The Minnesota History Center created a special exhibit to examine the U.S. Dakota War.