Thursday, December 29, 2005

another anniversary: Wounded Knee

bigfoot at wounded knee-lg
Chief Big Foot, dead in the snow

from Wikipedia:

The Wounded Knee Massacre was the last major armed conflict between the Great Sioux Nation and the United States of America, and was later described as a "massacre" in a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. On December 29, 1890, the cavalry troops of the U.S. 7th Cavalry opened fire...against a surrounded encampment of Minneconjou Lakota Sioux, while cavalry troops were disarming them. Since the very thorough disarmament had almost been completed, the Sioux fought back using their hands, weapons from cavalry casualties, or weapons recovered from the stacks of seized weapons. 153 largely disarmed Sioux were killed during the chaotic conflict, as well as 25 cavalrymen deaths largely from friendly fire. An unknown number of the approximately 150 unaccounted for Sioux died from exposure after fleeing the chaos...

Reaction to the battle among the American public was generally favorable. Twenty Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded to federal soldiers. Currently, Native Americans are urgently seeking the recall of what they refer to as "Medals of Dis-Honor."
wounded knee-mass grave
digging a mass grave

...Many non-natives living near the reservations interpreted the battle as a defeat of a murderous cult, though some confused Ghost Dancers with Native Americans in general. In an editorial in response to the event, a young newspaper editor, L. Frank Baum, later famous as the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ,wrote in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer on January 3 ,1891:

The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth. In this lies future safety for our settlers and the soldiers who are under incompetent commands. Otherwise, we may expect future years to be as full of trouble with the redskins as those have been in the past.
Baum was being bitterly ironic of course, but the first thing I wondered as I read it was how many Americans possess that same attitude that Baum criticized, about the Arab world today?

wounded knee monument today aoa-dot-gov

The black and white photos are from a Native American site, Last of the Independents,
which has additional info on Wounded Knee and the Ghost Dance.

The color photo is of the Wounded Knee memorial today,
courtesy The US Health and Human Services Department.