annonOn December 15, 1890 authorities feared that the Sioux’s new GhostDance religion might inspire an uprising. Sitting Bull permitted GrandRiver people to join the antiwhite Ghost Dance cult and was thereforearrested by troops. In the fracas that followed, he was shot twice in thehead.Sitting Bull’ followers were apprehended and brought to the U.SArmy Camp at Wounded Knee Creek in southwestern South Dakota.Moving among the tipis, soldiers lifted women’s dresses andtouched their private parts, ripping from them essential cooking andsewing utensils. The men sitting in the council heard the angry shrieks oftheir wives, mothers, and daughters. Several Lakota, offended by theabusive actions of the cavalry, stubbornly waited to have their weaponstaken from them.
It was a show of honor in front of their elders, for fewof them were old enough to have fought in the “Indian Wars” fifteen yearsbefore.That night, everyone was tired out by the hard trip. James Asay, aPine Ridge trader and whiskey runner, brought a ten-gallon keg of whiskeyto the Seventh Cavalry officers. Many of the Indian men were kept up allnight by the drunken Cavalry where the soldiers kept asking them how oldthey were. The soldiers were hoping to discover which of the men had beenat the Battle of Little Bighorn where Custer was killed.
On the bitterly cold morning of December 29, 1890, Alice GhostHorse,a thirteen- year old Lakota girl rode her horse through the U.S Army camplooking for her father, one of the Indian men who had been rounded upearlier that day.Less than fifty yards away she could see her father sitting on theground with other disarmed men from Chief Big Foot’s band, surrounded bymore than 500 heavily armed soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry. She lookedNorth up the hill where four “guns on wheels” were mounted. Trooperswatched silently on each side of the Hotchkiss battery.To one side Alice noticed a familiar figure standing with handsraised above his head, his arms turned upward in prayer. It was themedicine man by the name of Yellow Bird.
He stood facing the east, rightby the fire pit which was now covered with dirt. He was praying andcrying. He was saying to the spotted eagles that he wanted to die insteadof his people.
He must have sense that something was going to happen. Hepicked up some dirt from the fire place and threw it up in the air andsaid, “This is the way I want to go, back to dust.”Seventh Cavalry interpreter Phillip F. Wells, whose knowledge ofthe Lakota language was poor, later told military investigators that a mannamed Yellow Bird stood up at Wounded Knee and deliberately incited theLakota to fight.Colonel Forsyth gave a bizarre order: each soldier was told to aimhis unloaded gun at an Indians forehead and to pull the trigger. AfterWells translated the demeaning order to the astonished Lakota, they couldnot comprehend this foolishness. Looking at each other, their faces grew”wild with fear.”Alice then saw two or three sergeants grab a deaf man named BlackCoyote who had yet to be disarmed.
His friends had been so busy talkingthat they had left him uniformed. The soldiers tore off his blanket,roughly twirling him around. He raised his rifle above his head to keep itaway from them.
In the midst of yelling, jerking, and twisting, thestruggle ended unexpectedly when the rifle pointed toward the east enddischarged in the crisp morning air.Lieutenant James Mann screamed, “Fire! Fire on them!” On commandthe troops opened fire in an explosive volley, enclosing both attackersand victims in a dark curtain of pungent smoke.That day over three hundred elderly men, women, and children, alldisarmed were brutally murdered. After the genocidal procedure occurred, ablizzard hit, and it was on the forth day that search parties were sentout to bury the dead.A newspaper reporter accompanying the burial party described thefirst body they found as that of a male about twelve years old. The boyhad been shot.He was wearing a “ghost shirt” embolized with an eagle, buffalo, andmorning-star insignia. They believed that these symbols of powerfulspirits would protect them from the soldier’s bullets.
Many of the wounded survivors later died or were secretly carriedaway in the night by Lakota from other bands. The dead were buried inhidden locations, and carefully concealed from federal officials who laterunderestimated the death toll at 146, over two hundred less than theactual number butchered an their own land.The frozen bodies were taken to the top of the hill overlookingthe valley where they had died. Gravediggers carved a gaping hole form theearth, six feet deep, ten wide, sixty long. When the orders were given tobury the first load, three soldiers jumped into the grave and each corpsewas given to them one at a time. They stripped them of all salablearticles from the bodies as if they were skinning rabbits.Without prayer services of any kind, the Lakota dead were layeredin a mass grave, first one naked row across the bottom of the trench, andold army blankets were placed over them, then another row of limp bodieslengthwise.
And so on they continued until the last mound of dirt wasshoveled on.BIA TakeoverIn 1968, the Indian activist group known as AIM was born. Theactual founding members remain unknown, but Dennis Banks, ClydeBellecourt, and George Miller were prominent in its foundation. The groupwas initially organized to deal with discriminatory practices of thepolice in the arrest of Indians and to fight for the rights of AmericanIndians.
In November 1972, members of AIM marched and protested in front ofthe White House in Washington D.C. They had come to complain about thetreatment of the bureau towards them. The group of over 500 then decidedto take over the BIA building.
During the instrumental week-long occupation, the Indianscomfortably settled in the building. Cooking, dishwashing, and cleaningwas organized. Guards were appointed and children were looked after. Thiswas amazing considering the amount of people in the building.
Then theinevitable arrival of the police surrounded the building. Uniformed inriot gear, the police began to beat Indians standing around the vicinityand haul them to jail. A rainstorm of office materials were thrown at thepolice.
Many were discouraged and kept their distance from the entrance.Inside the building, it was not totally chaotic but somewhat of anorganized confusion. Women and children ran for safety and the brave graspvarious weapons and stood their ground. Many were prepared to die in theconfrontation.Indian Reorganization ActThe Indian Reorganization Act, a major reform of U.S policy towardAmerican Indians, was enacted by Congress on June 18, 1934 as a result ofa decade of criticism of conditions on the reservations. It forbade thefurther allotment of tribal lands to individual Indians. It destroyed theold, traditional form of Indian self- government.
Power was mainly left tohalf-blood tribal presidents whose alliance was mainly to the U.Sgovernment.Dicky Wilson was the worst of this type. He was accused ofillegally converting tribal funds and having people beaten and murdered.He also had Russel Means, a AIM leader, beaten up and sent to thehospital.
After that situation, AIM decided to fight back.Siege of Wounded KneeIn February 1973, members of AIM gathered around a courthouse toattend the trial of Wesly Bad Heart who had been stabbed to death by awhite man.Not surprisingly, the murderer was acquitted. The group refused to acceptthe decision.
The coiled tension was about to be released by the abusiveactions of the police. Troopers used an array of riot weapons to controlthe masses. Indians set buildings on fire and broke into stores.
Thefighting lasted till midafternoon.The group then decided to head to Wounded Knee, an Oglala Siouxhamlet on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Everyone begansetting up tents and making bunkers around the Sacred Heart Church. Only afew had rifles and there was only one automatic weapon an AK-47. Manystood silent as they stood on where many of there people were butchered.
Around the vicinity stood the Gildersleeve Trading Post and SacredHeart Church. Both had been desecretions of the slaughtered Indians fromthe Original Battle of Wounded Knee. There was a store that sold postcardswith the images of the dead corpses. The church that overlooked the valleywas taken over by the Indians. They stormed in and began to dance Indianfashion. A FBI car arrived to monitor their actions. We challenged them torepeat the massacre that occurred almost a hundred years ago.
During the ten-week long takeover at Wounded Knee, the time wasmostly past in boredom. Women were sent to stores to buy food while othersprepared it. The brave and strong women carried weapons. A white man’shome became a hospital ran by woman. More and more feds arrived tosurround the area and some shot at people.
Some were strolling around inarmored vehicles others walked through the vicinity with attack dogs.Reporters and politicians had also arrived. When food became short, theybegan hunting for elks and bulls. One day a plane flew through and droppedfour hundred pounds of food.
Everyone began to swarm around it and unpackit. It was filled with powdered milk, beans, flour, rice, coffee,bandages, vitamins, and antibiotics.Two Indians were dead and many were injured. When an Indian wasshot at and badly hurt, they asked the feds to cease fire. They began towave a white flag. The two thousand Indians had stood their ground atWounded Knee.