Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In Remembrance


On this day 120 years ago, 150 Sioux people were massacred by the U.S. Army beside Wounded Knee creek in South Dakota. Almost half of them were women and children.

The phenomenon known as the Ghost Dance in late 1890 had led to a resurgence of resistance by the native tribes, who had been ordered to reservations created by the U.S. government. The Ghost Dance vision foresaw the return of the buffalo, and a new freedom for the Indian. Officials feared it would lead to native uprisings against whites.

On Dec. 29, 1890, Big Foot’s Sioux band was retreating as ordered to the Pine Ridge reservation. On the 29th, surrounded by a force of more than 350 men armed with cannon and guns, the Sioux had given up what rifles they had and were powwowing with cavalry leaders about the ordered retreat.

During the powwow, a single gunshot was heard. Immediately the cavalry, including cannon, erupted into gunfire at point-blank range. Half of the Sioux people were killed outright, along with 25 soldiers from “friendly fire.” Many of the remaining Sioux were tracked and killed. A few survived to make the trip to Pine Ridge.

Wounded Knee Creek

In the frozen waste of the Badlands I sigh
under the snow for those who fell here

I remember the red-stained white snow
churned into mud and blood by fear

I hold in my white arms the memory
of frightened people running like deer

Between my banks the water still flows
to honor them, tear by helpless tear

(© Chris Alba)

If you click on the photo above, a Sioux invocation from the archives of Edward Curtis, you’ll go to YouTube for an awesome ballad by Robbie Robertson about the massacre at Wounded Knee.

There’s a very fine book about the westward expansion of the U.S and its destruction of the Native American people, called Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, by Dee Brown. It culminates with the massacre at Wounded Knee, which is generally considered to be the end of the Indian Wars. You can find Wikipedia’s discussion of it HERE.

11 comments:

Monkey Man said...

A terrific remembrance, Chris. If my history is correct, the shot was from a lone, older tribesman who dropped his rifle on accident and it fired a chambered round. Thus began the hair trigger reaction from the cavalry. Tragic and horrible.

clean and crazy said...

what a beautiful memoriam, thank you for this.

Magpie said...

This is too sad and such an ugly time in our Nation's history.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

wow! touching!

Birdie said...

this is another of your gem posts Chris, at least to me! These people were wise, so very wise and so strong and brave and beautiful despite all that has happened to them ... thank you for this wonderful post! happy day and a very happy new year to you dear Chris, may it be one of strong health, love and joy to you and yours! hugs!!

Brian Miller said...

a wonderful remembrance of a tragic day in history chris...

Syd said...

We have taken so much from so many--native americans, african americans, japanese americans, and so many more. One of these days we will be taken from by those that have suffered. It is inevitable that this nation will be changed forever by those who were so persecuted.

Woman in a Window said...

Some days we pull the trigger more slowly. Some days the deer are sitting.

We learn so very slowly.

What you wrote here is so important. Thanks for this.

xo
erin

Georgina Dollface said...

Thank you for writing this. In Canada, we have our own shameful past in which our own government, alongside church leaders, removed hundreds of Aboriginal children from their homes, families and communities and warehoused them in Residential Schools where they were sexually abused and beaten. Many of the children just "disappeared". I was appalled to learn that the last residential school didn't close until 1984. - G

Marla said...

Beautiful Chris. I am fascinated by history and read and watch everything I can regarding this time. There is so much of it that involves Oklahoma as well. Someday, I must tell you about some of the Native Americans I have met and their stories.

Titus said...

Really just a thank you, EO.
I've read the book twice, last time over ten years ago now. Maybe it's time again. It was one of my father's favourite books too.
Just finished Silko's 'Ceremony' too.

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