The Mayo Clinic

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What was the Accusation?

On August 31st 2018, Chief Analytics Officer and Vice-President of the Mayo Clinic delivered a letter of apology to the Santee Dakota people for the clinic’s role in the desecration of Marpiya te najin (also known as “Cut Nose”), one of 38 Native Americans executed on December 26, 1862 on a direct order from President Abraham Lincoln.  The mass hanging in Mankato, Minnesota was a result of months of violence between the Santee people, white settlers, and the U.S. government after the government tried to starve the Santee into submission.  Some of the tribal members responded to the starvation by kidnapping, torturing, and murdering their enemies.  The government arrested and planned to execute 300 Santee men, but Lincoln narrowed the list to 38, among them Marpiya te najin.  The men were put on trial and provided lawyers, although they couldn’t understand any of the charges since translators were not provided.  All were found guilty by the court. Following the hangings, the body of Cut Nose was buried on a shallow riverbank.  A young doctor, William Mayo, stole the body from its grave, brought it to his office, dissected it, melted off the flesh, and made a skeleton that he could study and allow his children to play with.  Mayo was unconcerned with the fact that his actions violated an important Santee religious belief, which is that the spirit of an unburied body would suffer the fate of wandering the earth forever as a lost soul.  The Santee people felt this abuse very deeply and longed for recognition of the injustices the tribe had faced from the starvation to the hangings to the desecration of the body to the eventual governmental removal of their people from Minnesota.  In an effort to provide some reconciliation 156 years later, Bolton provided the letter of apology on behalf of the Mayo Clinic to the ancestors of Marpiya te najin.  The Clinic also created a scholarship that would provide one member of the tribe a scholarship every year.  The descendants of Cut Nose responded to the gesture warmly and indicated it would provide some healing after generations of grief.

Key Apologia Strategies:

Corrective Action




To the descendants of Marpiya te najin,

It is an honor to write you to request permission to name an endowed scholarship in honor and in memory of your ancestor, Marpiya te najin.

This full scholarship will be awarded to a meritorious American Indian medical school candidate, or alternatively be designated for American Indian students in the Mayo Clinic School of Health Science, the Mayo Clinic Graduate School or the Mayo Clinic Nursing programs.

Our hope is the Marpiya te najin Scholarship helps carry on your ancestor’s legacy of leadership.  We will make sure that scholarship recipients understand the impact made on the world by the man for whom the award is named.

We look forward to continuing efforts to heal, build and strengthen the relationship between Mayo Clinic and the Dakota people.  We were moved by a prayer written by the great leader and chief of the Minnesota Dakota, Mr. Ernest Wabasha, which was read at his recent funeral:

“I want to pray for the future that we all get along together and that we have understanding and respect for each other.  I want to ask the Creator, the Grandfather, to help the people, to protect and guide us, to unite us all as human beings, to help us live in harmony and peace, and to live as brothers and sisters.”

It is our prayer that we can live these values in memory and in honor of your ancestor, Marpiya te najin.

Our grateful thanks for your consideration of this request.


John H. Noseworthy, M. D., President & CEO, Mayo Clinic

Jeffrey W. Bolton, Vice President, Mayo Clinic


Hansen, M. (2018, September 16). Hansen: After more than 150 years, the Mayo Clinic finally apologizes to a Nebraska tribe. Live Well Nebraska. Retrieved from:

Kiger, J. (2018, September 20). Mayo accompanies apology with scholarship. The Post Bulletin. Retrieved from:

McKinney, M. (2018, September 19). In hopes of healing, Mayo creates scholarship as apology for misuse of Dakota leader’s body. Star Tribune. Retrieved from: