Mayo issues an apology 156 years in the making

For 156 years, the Santee Dakota people have waited for what happened in a casino conference room in Santee, Neb., a few weeks ago.

The Mayo Clinic apologized for the desecration of Marpiya Okinajin, known as “Cut Nose,” who was hanged in 1862 in Mankato, Minn., one of 38 Native Americans executed under orders from President Abraham Lincoln in the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

The Santee tribe was forced from Minnesota.

Cut Nose was buried in a shallow grave. But a doctor dug up the body, “carted the corpse to his office, dissected it, melted off the flesh and made a skeleton he studied and allowed his children to play with,” columnist Matthew Hansen writes at the Omaha World Herald.

The doctor was William Mayo, founder of the Mayo Clinic, where Cut Nose’s skull remained on display until it was returned in 1998. Mayo had a practice in Le Sueur, Minn.

Earlier this year, officials of the Mayo Clinic contacted a descendant who is also a Mayo employee, and asked if it would be OK to establish a scholarship that would allow one Native American student a year to go to medical school free.

She said it would, but for some unfinished business. An apology.

So about two weeks ago, in announcing the scholarship in Nebraska, the Mayo Clinic apologized, Hansen says.

(h/t: Mike Dougherty)

  • AL287

    It is clear that American mistreatment of Native Americans went far beyond the stealing of their ancestral homelands and suppressing their languages and cultures.

    Native American burials are sacred and revered. Did Dr. Mayo hate Native Americans that much?

    This takes the Mayo Clinic a few more rungs down the respectability ladder for me.

    With his documentary to be released on PBS shortly, I wonder how Ken Burns would feel about this information.

    • Barton

      I don’t think it was hate. I think it was complete indifference, sadly.

  • Guest

    It is never too late to do the right thing

  • Guest

    This was a reflection in the whole mindset that “heathens” didn’t have a soul and in no way had rights equal to whites / skilled workers / nobles. The idea that royalty IS different was a part of the “our side is better” sincere knowledge that class is real.

    “Steamboat blew up. Was anybody killed? Nope, just a N….”

  • BReynolds33

    There’s a lot to unpack in this. Wow.

    Lincoln, a demi-god in the American religion, was a mass murderer. Mayo, a hero in Minnesota, defiled the dead and was a grave robber. It took 156 years for the business he started to admit he was wrong. They still had a stolen skull on display 20 years ago.

    Oh, and the only place we’ll hear about this is from Bob. Which is not uncommon.

    I need some time to process all of this.

    • // we’ll hear about this is from Bob.

      The Omaha World Herald, actually.

      But I don’t suppose this was in the Ken Burns Mayo documentary.

      • catharine Richert

        I’ve see the doc and this moment in Mayo history is definitely not in it.

        • Jeff

          It might have been after the credits with the outtakes and bloopers.

    • Jimbo

      Mass murderer? Haha. Good one. That’s a rather simplistic view of the Dakota Uprising. The context was complicated, but 800 settlers being killed in cold blood isn’t fake news. 38 men were executed for this crime. A murderous rampage isn’t excused by the US Govt cheating the Indians of their treaty payment, just as this rampage doesn’t somehow excuse all of the murderous awfulness done to Natives by the US Army and US policies. Neither one excuses the other. The world isn’t black and white and the Native Americans weren’t innocent noble savages living in communal harmony with nature and each other (ask the tribes pushed out by the Ojibwe about the tender mercies of inter-tribal warfare and executions). The Native Americans were flawed human beings capable of wonderful and ugly acts, just like everyone. Educated yourself:

      • The Resistance

        Your own Wikipedia link shows that “some trials lasted less than 5 minutes. No one explained the proceedings to the defendants, nor were the Sioux represented by defense attorneys.” Two who escaped “were captured, drugged, and returned to the United States”.

        Yeah, I guess there were Good People on Both Sides and the context for melting and dissecting flesh was complicated.

        • Jimbo

          Two of the admitted ring leaders (not among the 38) were found in Canada and forcibly returned and executed, as they should have been. There were no good Natives executing settlers, so that’s not a correct summary of my comment, but nice try. And I had nothing to say about Mayo, I was commenting on Burt’s silly insult of A Lincoln. Read. Think. Comprehend. Then comment.

          • lindblomeagles

            I’m still at a loss as to why this incident in Mankato resonates with you. I need a little more info here.

          • The Resistance

            Who is Burt and what are you talking about?

      • BReynolds33

        I would “educated” myself, but I’m aware of this history. I was unaware of Lincoln’s role in it. It’s also going to land flat when trials were a farce, mass executions are unnecessary, and the context surrounding the events cannot be as easily separated as you seem to want them to be.

        So, while I appreciate the condescending tone (no, seriously), I’m not really in the mood for a half-truth laden lecture from a stranger on the internet today. Thanks anyway. Maybe try back another time.

        • Jimbo

          I’m sure that makes the 800 cold blooded murders of settlers that had nothing to do with the late annuity payments justified. Too funny. Ah well, go back to your Natives as innocents in the garden myth. Tone intentional and well justified based on your spurious foolish assertion.

          • lindblomeagles

            Jim, why are you still trying to hold a grudge against Native Americans? Is the audience missing something here? I’ll be frank with you, American settlers killed off practically all the tribes living in the United States, and they did that for a number of reasons, some justified, most not. What are you not telling us about yourself?

      • lindblomeagles

        Maybe I’m missing something but what does the Dakota’s behavior have to do with our own behavior? In a healthy marriage, the hubby and the wife do bad things every so often. But, they apologize and work to be better people. If we did something wrong to the Native Americans, why shouldn’t we apologize for that? Why should we say, “Oh we’re not perfect. Besides, you did wrong too?” Where does that ultimately get us in the long run?

    • Jay Sieling

      It’s important to remember that the list of tried and condemned Dakota numbered over 300. Bishop Henry Whipple lobbied Lincoln on “this whole Indian thing until I felt it to my boots”. Lincoln went through the list and pared it down to the final 38. Sibley, Stephen Riggs and others lobbied for the hanging of the whole 300 – and more.

      • lindblomeagles

        Jay’s right.

  • lindblomeagles

    The discussion about this is pretty interesting. Let me first say that in general, its never a good idea to mass execute anybody, really. I think what has maybe been forgotten in this discussion was Americans were honestly looking for any excuse to kill or move Native Americans off the land. I know Jimbo went on some tangent about 800 innocent Minnesota victims who were hurt by Native violence. But, you have to look at what was happening in the United States as a whole, and really the Native American people, even the peaceful ones, were subjugated to “savage” status in every State of the Union, and had been systematically removed for one reason or another. In the wake of such removal, the attitudes of Americans during this period often was indifference, and that indifference was reinforced by a social, economical, and certainly political caste system that told whites “Hey, you can do whatever, whenever, to someone, anyone, of a lower status. You don’t even have to think about the consequences.” So Mayo was doing pretty much what he was told to do, which is value American lives, and dehumanize colored peoples lives. The hospital, which was totally operating in a different time than the man, has less of an excuse. Keeping a Native American skull robbed from somebody’s grave WELL INTO THE 70s, 80s, and 90s, is simply abhorrent. There’s no excuse for the hospital waiting THAT long to remove the skull, AND THIS LONG (2018) to issue an apology, which is the subject of Bob’s story. Multicultural times these have been, since at least the early 1980s.

    • permalink

      Where do you get the “colored peoples lives” from?

      • Kellpa07

        I can’t believe someone would use that phrase in 2018. Meaning her comment, not your questioning of it.

        • lindblomeagles

          Most people equate the NAACP to Jesse Jackson or the Reverend Al Sharpton. Founded in the early 1900s before their time, the letters of the NAACP literally is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In fact, the very term “colored” is an old term, still in use today, rather than each individual name of a minority group (Asian American, Latino American, African American, Native American – gets pretty wordy after awhile saying the same these four things in a sentence regarding all races.

      • lindblomeagles

        Colored peoples’ lives means the lives of Native Americans (referred in Mayo’s time as savages), the lives of African Americans (which, were referred in Mayo’s time as Negros, Slaves, or Freedmen), and the lives of Chinese Immigrants (who, in Mayo’s time, were hired by railroad companies, especially along the Pacific Coast and Rocky Mountain system, to lay track, and the subject of the soon to be passed Chinese Exclusion Act, the first official anti-immigrant law passed by the U.S. Congress). Again Permalink, the times Mayo lived in, these individuals HAD no rights above or equal to that of white male Americans, and were often referred by white male Americans as red, black, and yellow during Mayo’s time, hence, people of color.