Did you Forget?
I worked hard on this blog in the efforts to be precise in its recall. In this effort, several points of view were consulted and consolidated to create as accurate of a picture as someone of this time period possibly can get. I also want to say that I don’t feel responsible for what happened, as you and I were not there, but I want to make sure what happened was known. Too often, history books, usually written by the victors, are inaccurate accounts of events that passed. Look at the typical US History book. Never did I read in a history text that Europeans (and Christopher Columbus, too) raped, plummaged, and stole the land from the pre-existing dwellers, the Originals. Rarely, beyond a brief mention of the Trail of Tears will you read about how horrible our forefathers were to the Natives. And then, when someone knows that tragedy happened, they really cannot grasp it until it slaps them in the face. Take my ex-roommate for example. He knew the Holocaust occurred, but before watching Schindler’s List, he did not grasp the gravity of the event. I have many Native friends, and as I listen to them, and then do my own research, I see the roots of this country fed upon the blood of many, and many of those were not patriots and glorified in books and movies, but rather of simple people who simply wanted to be left alone to experience the same freedoms that people came to this land for. The relationship between the Natives and Europeans has been a bloody and disgraceful genocide, one that was not publically recognized until the last decade or so. This genocide is not so ancient, but rather continued up through the 70’s with COINTELPRO, and through George Bush Sr/s administration with his forced sterilization program proposal for Natives. I want people to be aware of just how evil of a society we are, and to put an end to it.
This blog is to mark the anniversary of one of the last massacres here in the USA on December 29, 1890. The Hyper links below will give you information about the massacre and the people involved and also about the Mankato Mass Hangings of 1862. It is suggested that people look closely at the photos because this is 1890 not 1940’s where Hitler did MASS BURIALS and MURDERS. The vicious Hitler-style genocide was all done here in the good ‘ole U.S.A. first. December 16th, 1862, Abraham Lincoln passed judgment on 38 Indians in Mankato, Minnesota to be murdered on December 26th of 1862. The Indian people were only protecting their lands from the settlers who came and destroyed the forests and land. The actual explanations of three cases were found on the homepage listed below. If a person could not speak English the odds were really high against them. The chances are the so-called attorneys did not care one way or another, just as long as they were compensated for their time, possibly with a bottle of whiskey or a whore for a night. It makes me wonder how many attorneys could fluently speak any Lakota. This makes question to a fair trial or not! It looks like the deck was stacked in favor of the non-Indians because all agreed that their stories were truthful because they made a swear on a black covered book called a bible. When Indians made a vow on a Sacred Pipe, the vow was not broken nor were lies spoken. “This is supposed to still be respected to this day”.
On December 16, 1862, President Lincoln authorized the execution of 38 Dakota. The following quote was taken off of The Dakota Conflict Trials homepage, which is:
“Ordered that of the Indians and half-breeds sentences to be hanged by the military commission, composed of Colonel Crooks, Lt. Colonel Marshall, Captain Grant, Captain Bailey, and Lieutenant Olin and lately sitting on Minnesota, you cause to be executed on Friday the 19th day of December, instant the following names, to witness (38 names listed by case number of record: 2, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 19, 22, 24, 35, 67, 68, 69, 70, 96, 115, 121, 138, 155, 170, 175, 178, 210, 225, 254, 265, 279, 318, 327, 333, 342, 359, 373, 377, 382, 383). The other prisoners you will hold subject to further orders, taking care that they will neither escape nor are subject to any unlawful violence.”
Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States
There were actually 300 sentenced to death, but Lincoln decided that the number was too high, so he changed it to 38. On December 26, 1862, in Mankato, MN, 38 Sioux Indians were hung. This is the largest mass execution in American history.
The scene at 10:00 AM on December 26, 1862. The actual explanations of three cases were found on the homepage listed above. The following is a short description of them:
Case 2: Te-he-hdo-ne-cha was charged with murder, he was then charged with rape. The courts found him guilty of the first charge of murder; he was then found guilty of the second charge of rape. He was then sentenced to be hung by the neck until he was dead.
Case 4: Tazoo was charged with murder, he was also charged with rape. The courts found him guilty of the fist charge of murder; he was then found guilt for the second charge of rape. He also was sentenced to be hung by the neck until he was dead.
Case 178: Na-pay-shne was charged with the participation of murders, outrages, and robberies done by the Sioux Indians on the MN frontier. The courts found him guilty of the charge and sentenced him to be hung by the neck until dead.
Before the men were executed they were allowed to meet with their families one last time. When the men were being brought to the scaffold they were chanting and singing Dakota songs. Three drumbeats signaled the movement of the execution. The town was then filled with cheers. The bodies of the 38 men were buried in a single grave on the edge of the town.
Massacre At Wounded Knee
Wounded Knee Lakota
December 29, 1890
The Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 (which was originally referred to by the United States army as the Battle of Wounded Knee — a descriptive moniker that remains highly contested by the Native American community) is known as the event that ended the last of the Indian wars in America. As the year came to a close, the Seventh Cavalry of the United States Army brought an horrific end to the century-long U.S. government-Indian armed conflicts. The memory of that day still evokes passionate emotional and politicized responses from present-day Native Americans and their supporters. The Wounded Knee Massacre, according to scholars, symbolizes not only a culmination of a clash of cultures and the failure of governmental Indian policies, but also the end of the American frontier. Although it did bring an end to the Ghost Dance religion, it did not, however, represent the demise of the Lakota culture, which still thrives today.
The Hope of the Ghost Dance
The once proud Sioux found their free-roaming life destroyed, the buffalo gone, themselves confined to reservations dependent on Indian Agents for their existence. A phenomenon swept the American west in 1888 by Paiute holy man Wovoka from Nevada.
Wovoka, son of the mystic Tavibo, drew on his father’s teachings and his own vision during an eclipse of the sun. He began spreading the “gospel” that came to be known as the Ghost Dance Religion. He claimed that the earth would soon perish and then come alive again in a pure, aboriginal state, to be inherited by the Indians, including the dead, for an eternal existence free from suffering. To earn this new reality, however, Indians had to live harmoniously and honestly, cleanse themselves often, and shun the ways of the whites, especially alcohol, the destroyer. Wovoka also discouraged the practice of mourning, because the dead would soon be resurrected, demanding instead the performance of prayers, meditation, chanting, and especially dancing through which one might briefly die and catch a glimpse of the paradise-to-come, replete with lush green prairie grass, large buffalo herds and Indian ancestors. In desperation, many emissaries, not excluding the Sioux in South Dakota, traveled to Nevada to hear his words in the attempt to return to the day of their glory.
Such great leaders as Kicking Bear, a Miniconjou Teton Lakota, made a pilgrimage to Nevada to learn about this new “religion”. The Originals saw salvation in this new mysticism. Wovoka called himself the Messiah and prophesied that the dead would soon join the living in a world in which the Indians could live in the old way surrounded by plentiful game. A tidal wave of new soil would cover the earth, bury the whites, and restore the prairie. To hasten the event, the Indians were to dance the Ghost Dance. Many dancers wore brightly colored shirts emblazoned with images of eagles and buffaloes.
These “Ghost Shirts” they believed would protect them from the bluecoats’ bullets. Kicking Bear, together with Short Bull,
another Miniconjou mystic, gave another interpretation, choosing to disregard Wovoka’s anti-violence and emphasizing the possible elimination of the whites. Special Ghost Dance Shirts, they claimed, would protect them against the white man’s bullets. During the fall of 1890, the Ghost Dance spread through the Sioux villages of the Dakota reservations, revitalizing the Indians and bringing fear to the whites. White officials became alarmed at the religious fervor and activism and in December 1890 banned the Ghost Dance on Lakota reservations. When the rites continued, a desperate Indian Agent at Pine Ridge wired his superiors in Washington, “Indians are dancing in the snow and are wild and crazy. We need protection and we need it now. The leaders should be arrested and confined at some military post until the matter is quieted, and this should be done now.” Officials called in troops to Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations in South Dakota. The military, led by veteran General Nelson Miles, geared itself for another campaign.
The order went out to arrest Chief Sitting Bull at the Standing Rock Reservation. The presence of the troops exacerbated the situation. Short Bull and Kicking Bear led their followers to the northwest corner of the Pine Ridge reservation, to a sheltered escarpment known as the Stronghold. The dancers sent word to Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapas to join them. Before he could set out from the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, however, Indian police arrested him. A scuffle ensued in which Sitting Bull and seven of his warriors were slain in the attempt on December 15th, while six of the policemen were killed. After Sitting Bull’s death, Big Foot feared for the safety of his band, which consisted in large part of widows of the Plains wars and their children. Big Foot himself had been placed on the list of “fomenters of disturbances,” and his arrest had been ordered by General Miles. It was known that Big Foot often lived along the Cheyenne River in South Dakota.
But, Big Foot and his followers had already departed south to Pine Ridge after hearing of Sitting Bull’s death. Asked there by Red Cloud and other supporters of the whites, in an effort to bring tranquility, Big Foot led his people south to seek protection at the Pine Ridge Reservation. However, he fell ill from pneumonia on the trip and was forced to travel in the back of a wagon.. Miles sent out the infamous Seventh Calvary led by Major Whitside to locate the renegades. They scoured the Badlands and finally intercepted the Sioux chief Big Foot and some 350 of his followers camped on the banks of Porcupine Creek, 30 miles east of Pine Ridge on December 28th resting for the night. As the band saw 4 troops of cavalry approaching, a white flag was immediately run up over Big Foot’s wagon. The Indians offered no resistance. Big Foot, ill with pneumonia, rode in a wagon. Surrounding their camp was a force of U.S. troops charged with the responsibility of arresting Big Foot and disarming his warriors. Whitside informed him of his orders to take the band to their camp on Wounded Knee Creek (Cankpe Opi Wakpala), five miles westward. Big Foot replied that they were going that way, to Pine Ridge. The Major wanted to disarm the Indians right then but was dissuaded by his scout John Shangreau, in order to avoid a fight on the spot. They agreed to wait to undertake this until they reached camp. Then, in a moment of sympathy, the Major ordered his army ambulance brought forward to accept the ill Minneconjou Chief, providing a warmer and more comfortable ride. They then proceeded toward the camp at Wounded Knee Creek, led by two cavalry troops with the other two troops bringing up the rear with their Hotchkiss guns. They reached the camp at twilight. They were assigned a camp site just to the south of the cavalry camp, given rations, and provided with several tents as there was a shortage of tepee covers. A stove was provided for Big Foot’s tent and the doctor was sent to give aid to the chief.
During the night the rest of the Seventh Cavalry and Colonel Forsyth marched in and set up north of Major Whitside’s troops. Colonel John Forsyth took over command of the operation and informed Major Whitside that he had orders to take the band to the railroad to be shipped to a military prison in Omaha. Two more Hotchkiss guns were placed beside the two already positioned on top of the rise overlooking the camp to guarantee against escape. The guns were aimed directly at the lodges. Two troops of cavalry were posted around the Indian tents. The soldiers now numbered around 500; At the camp, the Indians were carefully counted; there were 120 men and 230 women and children. December 29th, 1890 In the morning a bugle call awakened the camp and the men were told to come to the center of the camp for a talk. The chief racked with pneumonia and dying, sat among his warriors and powwowed with the army officers. When the two groups met, Big Foot raised up from his bed of blankets to greet Major Samuel Whitside of the Seventh Cavalry. His blankets were stained with blood and blood dripped from his nose as he spoke. Colonel James Forsyth was in command during the negotiations with Big Foot. The scene was tense. Trouble had been brewing for months due to ignorance and hate. After the talk they would move to Pine Ridge. Big Foot was brought out and seated before his tent. The older men of the band gathered around him. Hardtack was issued for breakfast. Then the Indians were informed that they would be disarmed. They stacked their guns in the center, but the soldiers were not satisfied. The soldiers went through the tents, bringing out bundles and tearing them open, throwing knives, axes, and tent stakes into the pile. Then they ordered searches of the individual warriors. The Indians became very angry but only one spoke out, the medicine man, Yellow Bird. He danced a few steps of the Ghost Dance and chanted in Sioux, telling the Indians that the bullets would not hurt them, they would go right by. The search found only two rifles, one brand new, belonging to a young man named Black Coyote. He raised it over his head and cried out that he had spent much money for the rifle and that it belonged to him. Black Coyote was deaf and therefore did not respond promptly to the demands of the soldiers. He would have been convinced to put it down by the Sioux, but that option was not possible. He was grabbed by the soldiers and spun around. A scuffle ensued. Suddenly the sound of a shot pierced the early morning gloom; its source is not clear but it began the killing. Within seconds the charged atmosphere erupted as Indian braves scurried to retrieve whatever arms they could grab from the pile of confiscated rifles and troopers fired volley after volley into the Sioux camp.
From the heights above, the army’s Hotchkiss guns raked the Indian teepees with grapeshot. When the Hotchkiss guns opened up, shrapnel shredded the lodges, killing men, women and children, indiscriminately. They tried to run but were shot down “like buffalo,” women and children alike.
The small revolving cannon fired a 1.65 inch shell. Corporal Paul Weinert, one of the Soldiers manning a Hotchkiss, received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Wounded Knee. The 1.65 inch Hotchkiss gun a light gun intended to be packed on mules to accompany either a fast moving cavalry troop or an army maneuvering in rough country. During the Spanish American War they were also seeing use as an infantry close support gun. The gun and accessories could be packed on two mules, with 72 rounds on each ammunition mule. Packed with the gun was a draught pole and harness so the gun could be pulled in smooth country. The 1.65″ Hotchkiss Mountain Gun fired two types of projectiles. A common shell, either base fused or nose fused or a canister. The common shell would explode on contact showering the enemy with jagged shell fragments. The canister would rip open at the muzzle spraying the enemy with a fan shaped pattern of hardened lead ½ inch balls. This projectile was used at close range. The early cartridge case did not have a primer. Instead there was a hole in the center covered internally with a diaphragm. The gun was fired by a friction primer inserted into the back of the breech housing.
Clouds of gun smoke filled the air as men, women and children scrambled for their lives.
Many ran for a ravine next to the camp only to be cut down in a withering cross fire. When the mass insanity of the soldiers ended and the smoke cleared, the shooting stopped, 153 dead were counted, including Big Foot; but many of the wounded had crawled off to die alone. This brutal, unnecessary violence lasted less than an hour. One estimate place the final death toll at 350 Indian men, women and children.
Twenty-five soldiers died and 39 were wounded, most by their own shrapnel and bullets.
The wounded soldiers were started back to the Pine Ridge agency.
Then a detail of soldiers went over the battlefield, gathering up any Indians that were still alive and placing them in wagons. As a blizzard was approaching from the North, the dead were left where they had fallen. The wagons with the wounded arrived at Pine Ridge after dark. They contained only 4 Sioux men and 47 women and children. These people were left outside in wagons in the bitter cold while a search was made for housing for them.
Finally the Holy Cross Episcopal mission was opened, the benches removed and hay scattered over the floor as bedding for the wounded Sioux. As they were brought in, those who were conscious could see the Christmas decorations hanging from the rafters.
A few days later after the blizzard, a civilian burial party returned to the battlefield to complete the job.
They found the bodies including that of Big Foot
and Yellow Bird frozen into contorted shapes. Scattered fighting continued until January 18th, but the massacre at Wounded Knee effectively squelched the Ghost Dance movement and ended the Indian Wars.
The bodies of the slaughtered Natives were robbed and then further desecrated
by being thrown into a mass grave without proper rituals.
Forsyth was later removed from command for his actions that day and charged with killing the innocents, but exonerated.
“I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream … The nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead. “
—- Black Elk
Wounded Knee became a catch phrase for all the wrongs inflicted on Native Americans by the descendants of Europeans. In 1973, Indian activist, drawing on the courage of their ancestors, would stage another confrontation there. The Wounded Knee site played another significant role in the history of the Sioux nation, in 1973 in the second siege of Wounded Knee.
The siege began as an occupation of the church at Wounded Knee in protest of the government of Dickie Wilson, the officially sanctioned government of the reservation. This government was so corrupt that several groups had sprung up to provide alternate paths to accomplish their ends by cooperative efforts. These groups supported the young people who occupied the church. There had been almost open warfare on the reservation for some time before the occupation. Now the tribal government called in the troops to lay siege to the church. Many accounts of this period are available.
The books that I recommend can be found in the acknowledgements. There are also tributes to those who fell in the “battles” in both sieges at Wounded Knee in the lyrics of modern Native American musicians. Among these are Bury my heart at Wounded Knee by Buffy Sainte-Marie and For Anna Mae Pictou Aquash by Joy Harjo & Poetic Justice.
There is a movement now to make a national monument of the Wounded Knee site. At first glance it would appear to provide a small amount of historical balance, a recognition that many of our fellow human beings, our Indian brothers and sisters, were massacred here by a troop of ignorant and scared men paid by the United States government to make sure that no trouble was caused for the white men seeking their fortunes in this “new territory.” But this is not our monument, our sacred place. It belongs to the Sioux. It must be honored in their way; not with paved parking lots and souvenirs, rangers to give a sanitized version of what happened here to tourists who will stop for a few hours and spend a few dollars.
There is active opposition to this park proposal from within the Pine Ridge community. The park opponents have a detailed list of reasons for their opposition.
A collection of documents and statements concerning Wounded Knee is available online. There is also information on the American Indian Movement (AIM).
Eyewitness to a Massacre
Philip Wells was a mixed-blood Sioux who served as an interpreter for the Army. He later recounted what he saw that Monday morning:
“I was interpreting for General Forsyth (Forsyth was actually a colonel) just before the battle of Wounded Knee, December 29, 1890. The captured Indians had been ordered to give up their arms, but Big Foot replied that his people had no arms. Forsyth said to me, ‘Tell Big Foot he says the Indians have no arms, yet yesterday they were well armed when they surrendered. He is deceiving me. Tell him he need have no fear in giving up his arms, as I wish to treat him kindly.’ Big Foot replied, ‘They have no guns, except such as you have found.’ Forsyth declared, ‘You are lying to me in return for my kindness.’ During this time a medicine man, gaudily dressed and fantastically painted, executed the maneuvers of the ghost dance, raising and throwing dust into the air. He exclaimed ‘Ha! Ha!’ as he did so, meaning he was about to do something terrible, and said, ‘I have lived long enough,’ meaning he would fight until he died. Turning to the young warriors who were squatted together, he said ‘Do not fear, but let your hearts be strong. Many soldiers are about us and have many bullets, but I am assured their bullets cannot penetrate us. The prairie is large, and their bullets will fly over the prairies and will not come toward us. If they do come toward us, they will float away like dust in the air.’
I turned to Major Whitside and said, ‘That man is making mischief,’ and repeated what he had said. Whitside replied, ‘Go direct to Colonel Forsyth and tell him about it,’ which I did. Forsyth and I went to the circle of warriors where he told me to tell the medicine man to sit down and keep quiet, but he paid no attention to the order. Forsyth repeated the order. Big Foot’s brother-in-law answered, ‘He will sit down when he gets around the circle.’ When the medicine man came to the end of the circle, he squatted down. A cavalry sergeant exclaimed, ‘There goes an Indian with a gun under his blanket!’ Forsyth ordered him to take the gun from the Indian, which he did. Whitside then said to me, ‘Tell the Indians it is necessary that they be searched one at a time.’ The young warriors paid no attention to what I told them. I heard someone on my left exclaim, ‘Look out! Look out!’ I saw five or six young warriors cast off their blankets and pull guns out from under them and brandish them in the air. One of the warriors shot into the soldiers, who were ordered to fire into the Indians.
I looked in the direction of the medicine man. He or some other medicine man approached to within three or four feet of me with a long cheese knife, ground to a sharp point and raised to stab me He stabbed me during the melee and nearly cut off my nose. I held him off until I could swing my rifle to hit him, which I did. I shot and killed him in self-defense.
Troop ‘K’ was drawn up between the tents of the women and children and the main body of the Indians, who had been summoned to deliver their arms. The Indians began firing into ‘Troop K’ to gain the canyon of Wounded Knee creek. In doing so they exposed their women and children to their own fire. Captain Wallace was killed at this time while standing in front of his troops. A bullet, striking him in the forehead, plowed away the top of his head. I started to pull off my nose, which was hung by the skin, but Lieutenant Guy Preston shouted, ‘My God Man! Don’t do that! That can be saved.’ He then led me away from the scene of the trouble.”
Brown, Dee, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1971);
Jensen, Richard, et. al, Eyewitness at Wounded Knee (1991);
Utley, Robert M., The Last Days of the Sioux Nation (1963);
Wells, Philip, “Ninety-six Years among the Indians of the Northwest”, North Dakota History, 15, no. 2 (1948).
The book To Have This Land by Philip S. Hall, from the University of South Dakota Press, clearly shows the effect of white settlement in the Dakotas on calls for opening up the Great Sioux Reservation to white settlement. This pressure was a great factor leading to the Wounded Knee Massacre.
Lakota Accounts of Wounded Knee (1890) are available from the PBS web site for the series The West
“WOKIKSUYE CANKPE OPI”
(“Remember Wounded Knee”)
Help mend the Sacred Hoop that was broken at Cankpe Opi (Wounded Knee). There were 18 MEDALS OF DIS-HONOR awarded to members of the 7th Calvary (Custer’s old outfit) for the massacre of 350 innocent men, women, and little children at Cankpe Opi, in 1890. The Medal of Honor, is the highest award of the military, for uncommon valor and bravery in battle with an armed enemy, NOT FOR A MASSACRE of unarmed people who had surrendered and were under a white flag of truce. There can be no healing until these medals are recalled. As long as the government is still honoring them, there is the shame and disgrace of it, for all of us to bear.
There was a grievous wrong committed back in 1890, but there is even a more grievous wrong being committed today by honoring the soldiers that committed this “cruel and unjustifiable massacre”, in the words of their own commanding officer, General Nelson A. Miles Express your opinions to those that can affect a change.
Write now, while this is still fresh in your memory, and be a part of the mending of the Sacred Hoop that was broken by this horrible massacre. You can make a difference! Why these medals are still being honored by the government. Why haven’t they been recalled? We do not honor the medals Hitler gave his troops…
Thank-you Arthur Medicine Eagle Sonier
President: Zibiodey/ River Heart Metis Aboriginal Community
Up Where We Belong by Buffy Sainte-Marie