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A Call for Posthumous Justice

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On the day after Christmas, 1862, thirty-eight Dakotans were hanged for allegedly killing almost 500 settlers along the Minnesota frontier—the largest mass hanging in U.S. history. As Robert K. Elder reports in The New York Times, President Lincoln had commuted the sentence of one of the condemned just days before. But perhaps as a result of mistaken identity, We-Chank-Wash-ta-don-pee, a.k.a. Chaska, died with the others. As the 150th anniversary of the execution approaches, a movement is underway to accord Chaska a posthumous federal pardon. “A wrong would be righted,” said Democratic Congressman James L. Oberstar of Minnesota, calling such a pardon “a grand gesture.”