--the obliteration of a People.... the continued oppression.... the purposeful extermination.
When I asked, after the movie was over, if there were any way through the pain, any way through this, the heads shook 'no'. And the lived stories came forth. The present suffering. The punishments endured for being Lakhota. The runaway attempts --from the schools, children sent even as far away as Pennsylvania. The cutting off of the hair.
The stealing of names. How the children had to have "Christian" names. I have seen that evidence in the baptismal records here. Before the 1890s, all the names were phonetically spelled Lakhota names. After the 1890s, all the names were European first names, and the surnames permanently assigned --taken from the mother or father's Lakhota name.
The stealing of the language --the children punished for speaking in Lakhota. (And even now, as I go to the symbols page to properly 'write' the word 'Lakhota', I cannot find an 'h' with a small 'v' shape over it indicating a soft guttural 'h' sound.... La-kh(g)o-ta.)
The stealing of the religion --imposing Christianity as part of the 'civilizing' process. Requiring church attendance.
When I read some of the Psalms, to put words to the anguish, I felt I had taken a wrong turn. Only. This. Present. Moment. Do not impose an historical perspective. So I backed away from that.
And, I admitted, that if I had even an ounce of Native blood in me, I would, if I could, dance the Ghost Dance --obliterate the white people, send them all to the nether world, restore the land, restore the buffalo, restore the people.
In February 1890, the United States government broke a Lakota treaty by adjusting the Great Sioux Reservation of South Dakota (an area that formerly encompassed the majority of the state) and breaking it up into five smaller reservations. The government was accommodating white homesteaders from the eastern United States; in addition, it intended to "break up tribal relationships" and "conform Indians to the white man's ways, peaceably if they will, or forcibly if they must." On the reduced reservations, the government allocated family units on 320-acre plots for individual households. The Lakota were expected to farm and raise livestock, and to send their children to boarding schools. With the goal of assimilation, the schools taught English and Christianity, as well as European-American cultural practices. Generally, they forbade inclusion of Native American traditional culture and language.
To help support the Sioux during the period of transition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was to supplement the Sioux with food and to hire white farmers as teachers for the people. The farming plan failed to take into account the difficulty which Sioux farmers would have in trying to cultivate crops in the semi-arid region of South Dakota. By the end of the 1890 growing season, a time of intense heat and low rainfall, it was clear that the land was unable to produce substantial agricultural yields. Unfortunately, this was also the time when the government's patience with supporting the so-called "lazy Indians" ran out. They cut rations for the Sioux in half. With the bison having been virtually eradicated a few years earlier, the Sioux were at risk of starvation.
The people turned to the Ghost Dance ritual, which frightened the supervising agents of the BIA. Kicking Bear was forced to leave Standing Rock, but when the dances continued unabated, Agent McLaughlin asked for more troops. He claimed the Hunkpapa spiritual leader Sitting Bull was the real leader of the movement. A former agent, Valentine McGillycuddy, saw nothing extraordinary in the dances and ridiculed the panic that seemed to have overcome the agencies, saying: "The coming of the troops has frightened the Indians. If the Seventh-Day Adventists prepare the ascension robes for the Second Coming of the Savior, the United States Army is not put in motion to prevent them. Why should not the Indians have the same privilege? If the troops remain, trouble is sure to come."
Nonetheless, thousands of additional U.S. Army troops were deployed to the reservation. On December 15, 1890, Sitting Bull was arrested for failing to stop his people from practicing the Ghost Dance. During the incident, one of Sitting Bull's men, Catch the Bear, fired at Lieutenant "Bull Head," striking his right side. He instantly wheeled and shot Sitting Bull, hitting him in the left side, between the tenth and eleventh ribs; this exchange resulted in deaths on both sides, including that of Sitting Bull.
Big Foot, also known as Spotted Elk, was a Miniconjou leader on the U.S. Army's list of "trouble-making" Indians. He was stopped while en route to convene with the remaining Sioux chiefs. U.S. Army officers forced him to relocate with his people to a small camp close to the Pine Ridge Agency. Here the soldiers could more closely watch the old chief. That evening, December 28, the small band of Sioux erected their tipis on the banks of Wounded Knee Creek. The following day, during an attempt by the officers to collect weapons from the band, one young, deaf Sioux warrior refused to relinquish his arms. A struggle followed in which somebody's weapon discharged into the air. One U.S. officer gave the command to open fire, and the Sioux responded by taking up previously confiscated weapons; the U.S. forces responded with carbine firearms and several rapid-fire light-artillery (Hotchkiss) guns mounted on the overlooking hill. When the fighting had concluded, 25 U.S. soldiers lay dead, many killed by friendly fire. Amongst the 153 dead Sioux, most were women and children. Following the massacre, chief Kicking Bear officially surrendered his weapon to General Nelson A. Miles.
Some put the death toll at closer to 300 dead Lakhota, because those fleeing the scene were hunted down and murdered in the days that followed.
Twenty U.S. soldiers received Medals of Honor for their actions. American Indian and human rights activists have referred to these as "Medals of Dis-Honor" and called for the awards to be rescinded, but none of them have ever been revoked.
Following the Wounded Knee Massacre, interest and participation in the Ghost Dance movement dropped dramatically for fear of continued violence against practitioners of the religion.
Historian Will G. Robinson noted that in contrast, only three Medals of Honor were awarded among the 64,000 South Dakotans who fought for four years of World War II.
For healing to truly begin, the pain must be acknowledged. The pain must be recognized. The pain must be hallowed. No romantic stuff. The agony and the death cry, the vomit of blood. It must be seen and heard.
And it has to be not okay. None of us can rush healing. It takes away the holiness. And the creative potential.
It has to be not okay. Right now, there is no way through.
And, yesterday, by a chance I knew nothing of, it was the 40th anniversary of the return of the site of the massacre and mass burial to the People.
At prayer this morning (fro Jeremiah 4)
I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and lo, there was no one at all,
and all the birds of the air had fled.
I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the LORD, before his fierce anger.
For thus says the LORD: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.
Because of this the earth shall mourn,
and the heavens above grow black;
for I have spoken, I have purposed;
I have not relented nor will I turn back.
--and this (from John 5)
Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.It has to be not okay...