Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Wounded Knee Massacre: Never Forget, Never Forgive.

                                             
                                                         poster by Bruce Carter

Today in history, between 150 and 300 Lakota Sioux people were killed in a massacre near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Earlier that fall,  native American Indians had began hosting ritual Ghost Dances to celebrate and bring back the native way of life. The Ghost Dance ritual spread through native communities in the Dakota revitalising native culture, but terrifying White officials known as Indian Agents. White officials unsuccessfully attempted to outlaw the Ghost Dance. 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 event’s common name, “The Battle of Wounded Knee,” obscures the true horrors of that day. For this was no “battle” — it was a massacre. The military  on the morning of December 29th with a force of over 500 soldiers. found a pneumonia-stricken chief with his cold and frightened followers. Big Foot explained that he was not a hostile, but instead was trying to meet with other chiefs to arrange a peaceful solution to the crisis with the soldiers. When the troops moved to disarm Big Foot’s Lakota warriors, who remained peaceful,  a deaf and confused Lakota misfired his gun into the air, a shot that was the only impetus U.S. forces  to unleash overwhelming force onto the bed-ridden chief and his fleeing people and initiate a slaughter.
By the end of the brutal and unnecessary violence,  hundreds  of native Indian  lives were lost including the Lakotan Chief Big Foot. The massacre, the violent climax of decades of white duplicity, greed, murder and theft, is often considered the "last showdown" between the United States and the native people of the American frontier.In the aftermath as many as 300 Lakota Sioux men, women and children were killed, many shot in the back while attempting to flee. Their bodies left to freeze  in a mass grave. It serves today as a constant   reminder  and example of the brutal mistreatment and oppression bestowed upon the Indians. 
 

 A mass grave after the Wounded Knee Massacre at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota in 1890

In 2008 a petition was  launched demanding that the U.S reclaim the medal of Honour  that was given to 22 members of  the 7th Cavalry  for their role in the massacre of defenceless Indians , and to remove any  recognition the U.S military bestowed to its entities for the massacre and to obtain  the return  of personal items taken from the Lakota people.https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/12-20-1890/
The federal government tried to forever erase the memory of Wounded Knee. The village that sprang up on the site of the massacre was named Brennan after a Bureau of Indian Affairs official. But the Lakota people never forgot. Much as the “Ghost Dance” was the first truly pan-Indian movement, Wounded Knee became a pan-Indian site for memorializing the dead, recalling the pain, remembering the Indians’ hopes for a different kind of world, mourning the death of those hopes, and mobilizing to protest contemporary conditions that are the legacies of white Americans’ war of genocide against the Indian tribes that peopled North America before they got there.
The deaths at Wounded Knee marked an important and tragic point in American history for Native Americans. But after Wounded Knee came hunger, disease, malnutrition, and population decline and thousands  more Native Americans were killed or forced into reservations by the U.S. government throughout American history. Over 80 years later in  1973 the American Indian Movement (A.I.M ) occupied Wounded Knee, noting its historic significance, choosing this place,  because it alluded to physical loss and injury. When AIM challenged people to “Remember Wounded Knee,” there were multiple meanings at play,  AIM encouraged people to not only remember this history, but to also correct the normative white history that has become the standard American narrative, often stripped of the violence and injustice Native Americans faced.
 After a 71 day stand off ensured with federal law enforcement officials. Leonard Peltier an A.I.M leader was asked  by traditional people at Pine Ridge  in South Dakota to support and protect them. He was later illegally arrested by means  of coerced and fraudulent testimony for the murder of 2 F.B.I agents.After a trial in which irregularities and discrimination were on the agenda, he was convicted of a jury made up of whites alone. In Fargo, a city known for anti-Indian sentiments, and by a judge known for his racism. Discordant testimonies were used.He was always denied the review of the trial, despite the fact that new testimonies and evidence exonerated him. In 2020 he ran as the vice-presidential running mate of Gloria La Riva on the ticket of the Party for Socialism and Liberation  in the presidential campaign, but was forced to resign from the ticket for health reasons in early August 2020, and was replaced with Sunil Freeman.. Today after forty-four years  hard prison and long periods of isolation, he is now one of the longest held political prisoners in the United States,who continues to suffer the injustice of being denied his freedom because of being a native American, of having fought for the rights of his  people to which he belongs, and for not having renounced his struggles. 
Two  earlier posts of relevance  can be found here:- 

http://teifidancer-teifidancer.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/leonard-peltier-day.html.

https://teifidancer-teifidancer.blogspot.com/2016/05/40-years-after-american-indian-movement.html

After the Wounded Knee occupation, nearly 1200 Indian activists were arrested, and the incident began the FBI and BIA instigated "Reign of Terror." and during  the three years following , 64 tribal members were unsolved murder victims, 300 harassed and beaten, and 562 arrests were made, and of these arrests only 15 people were convicted of any crime. A large price to pay for a movement to live as a free people on the land of one's ancestors.
Past and present, the Sioux and other American Indians have charted a path of defiance and independence despite genocidal efforts by European conquerors and American settlers. Today, as I remember these ancestors lost on December 29th, 1890, their peace on earth shattered, all those winters ago, this particularly brutal chapter in the violent effort to wipe out America’s first peoples, a horrific event that has resonated with native american writers ever since. For Native Americans today, the slaughter of unarmed women and children dominates a painful history of U.S. government Indian policies centered on assimilation and genocide.American Indians are still fighting injustices and fighting to recover from injustices of the past.A proud people wo have been  massacred, brutalized, humiliated and reduced by the "progress" brought by the "whites" and their capitalist society to survive in the absence of rights and without a future worthy of its name.  Wounded Knee: Never Forget, Never Forgive. 

Dancing Towards Wounded Knee :The Hope and Tragedy of the Ghost Dance Religion



 Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee - Buffy Sainte Marie


Indian legislation on the desk of a do-right Congressman
Now, he don't know much about the issue
so he picks up the phone and he asks advice from the
Senator out in Indian country
A darling of the energy companies who are
ripping off what's left of the reservations. Huh.

1.
I learned a safety rule
I don't know who to thank
Don't stand between the reservation and the
corporate bank
They send in federal tanks
It isn't nice but it's reality
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Huh.

2.
They got these energy companies that want the land
and they've got churches by the dozen who want to
guide our hands
and sign Mother Earth over to pollution, war and
greed
Get rich... get rich quick.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Huh.

3. We got the federal marshals
We got the covert spies
We got the liars by the fire
We got the FBIs
They lie in court and get nailed
and still Peltier goes off to jail
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Huh.

4.
My girlfriend Annie Mae talked about uranium
Her head was filled with bullets and her body dumped
The FBI cut off her hands and told us she'd died of  exposure
Loo loo loo loo loo

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Huh.

We had the Goldrush Wars
Aw, didn't we learn to crawl and still our history gets
written in a liar's scrawl
They tell ‘ya “Honey, you can still be an Indian
d-d-down at the ‘Y'
on Saturday nights”

Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Huh!

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