The University of Wisconsin, Madison has refused to give in to student government demands to brand Abraham Lincoln a genocidal oppressor.
Student activists and native rights groups organized on campus earlier in 2016 to demand that the university either remove the statue of Abraham Lincoln or add a plaque at its base calling out his role in the oppression and genocide of Wisconsin’s Native Americans. They accused him of being complicit in the death of 38 “innocent” indigenous men in a “massacre.”
According to the activists, the president who made the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves from their bonds in the southern states, played a huge role in the so-called “Dakota 38 massacre.” Katrina Morrison, the chair of the Associated Students of Madison, told the Daily Cardinal on Tuesday that she wanted the school to recognize Lincoln’s “brutality towards indigenous people.”
“We wanted a plaque near Lincoln because we wanted the university to recognize his part in the Dakota 38 massacre,” she explained. “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.”
Wunk Sheek, an indigenous student organization, supported the measure and added that the university’s refusal to “acknowledge the impact that [the statue] is having on their students” was offensive.
“I think the plaque is the least the university can do,” said Mariah Skenandore of Wunk Sheek. “If we don’t keep advocating for ourselves, no one is going to advocate for us.”
The Minnesota Historical Society’s historical records show that Abraham Lincoln signed an order to execute Dakota soldiers who had been proved guilty of committing rape, or who participated in “massacres” of civilians outside of official “battles.” However, it was later revealed that two of the men were mistakenly executed, one of whom was acquitted, and another who identified himself as someone else.
UW Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank denied their student government’s request, stating that Lincoln only accepted the sentences of men “involved in either killing or raping” and that he was therefore quite restrained when it came to passing sentences.
“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 stated. “I do not see a reason to prominently label [the killings of natives] on the Lincoln statue.”