Old West Lifestyle & Stories

Santee Sioux Hanging

Execution of 38 Santee Sioux IndiansFor almost 50 years the Santee Sioux, located in Minnesota, were mistreated by almost everyone with whom they came into contact. First, white settlers invaded the Minnesota Valley where they traditionally lived. With pressure both from settlers and the army, they relocated to a reservation. On the reservation they came under the authority of corrupt Indian Agents. The agents demanded a kickback on all the rations they distributed. When the Sioux realized they couldn’t live on what was left of the rations and refused to give them the normal kickback, the agents withheld all food distribution. On the verge of starvation, the Indians sought help. But no one came to their aid.
Reaching the limits of endurance, the Santee Sioux left the reservation, and started killing settlers and taking women and children as hostages. It was called the “Minnesota Uprising,” and was part of the battles that affected the area for much of the last half of the 1800’s. The army took off after the Sioux, and underestimating their fighting ability, 13 soldiers were killed, with another 45 wounded. Finally, General Sibley, with a large force of soldiers defeated the Sioux, forcing most of the Indians to surrender, and recovering the hostages.
The captured Sioux were tried. The abuse piled upon the Indians was not a factor in the trial. And on November 5, 1862, 300 Santee Sioux were found guilty of raping and murdering white settlers. They were all sentenced to be hanged.
But the mass hanging didn’t take place… because President Abraham Lincoln heard about the trial and the conditions that caused their crimes, and commuted the sentences of 262 of the Sioux. But in December 38 of the leaders were hanged in mass.

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