Monday, February 20, 2017

More for a Happy Presidents Day

On December 26, 1862, Abraham Lincoln executed 38 "Indians and half-breeds" in Minnesota for the crime of attempting to feed themselves without relying on government hand-outs.  [It's more complicated than that, of course, but I'm attempting to present the aboriginal view].  It was the largest mass hanging in U.S. history and explains why American tribal members have a rather low regard for the 16th president.

Save for one, the executed were all baptized Christians, most of them Episcopalians.

Then-bishop of Minnesota, The Rt. Rev. Henry Benjamin Whipple, had intervened in the proposed action and convinced Lincoln to execute the 38 instead of the over-300 who were originally to be hanged.  Although his actions are generally regarded as heroic, there are some in the aboriginal community who fault him for not successfully saving all of the prisoners.  This is a rather raw controversy in parts of the greater Church, as the reader may imagine.

The Rev. Robert Two Bulls, a contemporary Episcopal priest, is attempting to have the slain Episcopalians named as official martyrs with their own date on our calendar.  My opinion in this matter is, for now, my own, although I'm rankled when some of the more conservative laity and clergy of the church are dismissive of this initiative as they think it mere political correctness or an example of tedious Episcopal trendiness.

The history of American Indian Episcopalians is largely unknown and rarely taught in any of the Church's seminaries.  While a small body of scholars is attempting to address that curricular shortcoming, as we commonly open our regard to many, many of the marginalized groups within our communion, perhaps some consideration could be granted to a collection of people of color who have remained faithful, sometimes in the midst of great hardship and persecution.

As they walked to the gallows on their final day, the contemporary newspaper accounts reported that the condemned sang their tribal "death song".  In reality, the Martyrs of Mankato were singing "Onward, Christian Soldiers" in the Dakota language of their tribe.

[*In regards to the term "American Indian", as opposed to that of "Native American" that is preferred by bi-coastal whites, I refer the reader to this.]