Tag Archives: Wounded Knee

Remembering the Wounded Knee Massacre – Dec 29, 1890

The opening of the fight at Wounded Knee illustration

The opening of the fight at Wounded Knee illustration

On December 29, 1890, the massacre of Sioux warriors, women and children along Wounded Knee Creek in southwestern South Dakota marked the final chapter in the long war between the United States and the Native American tribes indigenous to the Great Plains.

For the entirety of his 27 years, Black Elk’s somber eyes had watched as the way of life for his fellow Lakota Sioux withered on the Great Plains. The medicine man had witnessed a generation of broken treaties and shattered dreams. He had watched as the white men “came in like a river” after gold was discovered in the Dakota Territory’s Black Hills in 1874, and he had been there two years later when Custer and his men were annihilated at Little Big Horn.

He had seen the Lakota’s traditional hunting grounds evaporate as white men decimated the native buffalo population. The Lakota, who once roamed as free as the bison on the Great Plains, were now mostly confined to government reservations.

Life for the Sioux had become as bleak as the weather that gripped the snow-dusted prairies of South Dakota in the winter of 1890. A glimmer of hope, however, had begun to arise with the new Ghost Dance spiritual movement, which preached that Native Americans had been confined to reservations because they had angered the gods by abandoning their traditional customs. Leaders promised that the buffalo would return, relatives would be resurrected and the white man would be cast away if the Native Americans performed a ritual “ghost dance.”

As the movement began to spread, white settlers grew increasingly alarmed and feared it as a prelude to an armed uprising. “Indians are dancing in the snow and are wild and crazy,” telegrammed a frightened government agent stationed on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation to the commissioner of Indian affairs on November 15, 1890.

General Nelson Miles

General Nelson Miles

“We need protection and we need it now.” General Nelson Miles arrived on the prairie with 5,000 troops as part of the Seventh Cavalry, Custer’s old command, and ordered the arrest of several Sioux leaders.

When on December 15, 1890, Indian police tried to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was mistakenly believed to have been joining the Ghost Dancers, the noted Sioux leader was killed in the melee. On December 28, the cavalry caught up with Chief Big Foot, who was leading a band of upwards of 350 people to join Chief Red Cloud, near the banks of Wounded Knee Creek, which winds through the prairies and badlands of southwest South Dakota. The American forces arrested Big Foot—too ill with pneumonia to sit up, let alone walk—and positioned their Hotchkiss guns on a rise overlooking the Lakota camp.

As a bugle blared the following morning — December 29 — American soldiers mounted their horses and surrounded the Native American camp. A medicine man who started to perform the ghost dance cried out, “Do not fear but let your hearts be strong. Many soldiers are about us and have many bullets, but I am assured their bullets cannot penetrate us.” He implored the heavens to scatter the soldiers like the dust he threw into the air.

The cavalry, however, went teepee to teepee seizing axes, rifles and other weapons. As the soldiers attempted to confiscate a weapon they spotted under the blanket of a deaf man who could not hear their orders, a gunshot suddenly rang out. It was not clear which side shot first, but within seconds the American soldiers launched a hail of bullets from rifles, revolvers and rapid-fire Hotchkiss guns into the teepees. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Lakota offered meek resistance.

Big Foot, leader of the Sioux, lying in the snow where he was killed during the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Big Foot was shot where he lay on the ground. Boys who only moments before were playing leapfrog were mowed down. In just a matter of minutes, at least 150 Sioux (some historians put the number at twice as high) were killed along with 25 American soldiers. Nearly half the victims were women and children.

The dead were carried to the nearby Episcopal church and laid in two rows underneath festive wreaths and other Christmas decorations. Days later a burial party arrived, dug a pit and dumped in the frozen bodies. For decades, survivors of the massacre lobbied in vain for compensation, while the U.S. Army awarded 20 Medals of Honor to members of the Seventh Cavalry for their roles in the bloodbath.

When Black Elk closed his wizened eyes in 1931, he could still envision the horror. “When I look back now from this high hill of my old age,” he told writer John G. Neihardt for his 1932 book “Black Elk Speaks,” “I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there.”

Bodies of Lakota Sioux at Big Foot’s camp following the Wounded Knee Massacre.

It was not the last time blood flowed next to Wounded Knee Creek. In February 1973 activists with the American Indian Movement seized and occupied the site for 71 days to protest the U.S. government’s mistreatment of Native Americans. The standoff resulted in the deaths of two Native Americans.

By Christopher Klein


With Echoes Of Wounded Knee, Tribes Mount Prairie Occupation To Block North Dakota Pipeline


Nantinki Young–known as Tink — stirs large pot of soup for protesters gathered along the banks of the Cannonball River in North Dakota (William Yardley/LA Times)

Baltimore SunBy William Yardley, Aug, 27, 2016

Long before Lewis and Clark paddled by, Native Americans built homes here at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers, using the thick earth to guard against brutal winters and hard summer heat. They were called the Mandan people.

Now, Native Americans are living here again. They sleep in teepees and nylon tents. They ride horses and drive quad cabs. They string banners between trees and, when they can get a signal, they post messages with hashtags such as #ReZpectOurWater, #NoDakotaAccess and #NODAPL. For weeks, they have been arriving from the scattered patches of the United States where the government put their ancestors to protest what they say is one indignity too many in a history that has included extermination and exploitation.

It is called the Dakota Access oil pipeline and it could carry more than 400,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the Bakken region of western North Dakota across South Dakota and Iowa to connect with an existing pipeline in Illinois.

Native Americans protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in southern North Dakota (James MacPherson)

Native Americans protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in southern North Dakota (James MacPherson)

The 1,100-mile pipeline, which is estimated to cost $3.7 billion, is nearly halfway complete. But construction on a section that would sink beneath the Missouri River, just north of the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux, has been halted under orders from the sheriff of Morton County, Kyle Kirchmeier. He said protesters, nearly 30 of whom have been arrested in recent weeks, were creating safety issues.

Yet the protesters say they are creating something very different – new resistance against what they say is a seemingly endless number of pipelines, export terminals and rail lines that would transport fossil fuels across or near tribal reservations, risking pollution to air, water and land.

“Every time there’s a project of this magnitude, so the nation can benefit, there’s a cost,” Dave Archambault, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, who was among those arrested, said in an interview. “That cost is born by tribal nations.”

Archambault and other native leaders have been caught off guard by the support they have received. What began with a handful of natives establishing a prayer camp along the river this spring has now drawn international environmental groups and prompted Hollywood celebrities, including Susan Sarandon and Shailene Woodley, to join them, whether here or in a protest last week in Washington, D.C., or on social media.

“Inspired by the Standing Rock Sioux’s efforts to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Leonardo DiCaprio posted on Twitter this week.

Tech Big Crow, 18, cares for Blue, one of the horses he and others have brought to the protest site, at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers. (William Yardley/LA Times)

Tech Big Crow, 18, cares for Blue, one of the horses he and others have brought to the protest site, at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers. (William Yardley/LA Times)

Lawyers from Earthjustice are representing the Standing Rock Sioux in a legal effort to stop construction of the pipeline. They claim that the Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Historic Preservation Act when it approved the project and that a more stringent environmental review should be done. They say the pipeline and its construction would damage ancestral sites of the Standing Rock Sioux and put the tribe’s water supply at risk.

On Thursday, nearly three dozen environmental groups wrote to President Obama, who visited the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in 2014 with Michelle Obama, saying the Corps approved the project using a fast-track process, known as permit 12, that was inadequate given its size and the many sensitive areas it would cross.

The Corps of Engineers argued in court in Washington this week that the Standing Rock Sioux and other parties had ample time to express concerns during a review process and that the pipeline was properly approved. Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas company building it, says the pipeline will increase the nation’s energy independence and that it is a safer means of transport than rail.

The judge over seeing the case, James A. Boasberg of United States District Court, said this week that he will rule no later than Sept. 9 on a request by the Standing Rock Sioux to stop construction and reconsider permits the project has received.

The pipeline has met resistance elsewhere along its route, including from farmers in Iowa concerned about soil damage and property owners whose land is being taken by eminent domain. But nothing compares to what has taken hold here between the rivers.

Nantinki Young, who goes by Tink, is a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe from South Dakota; she runs the cook shack here. Winona, who did not give her last name, is Penobscot. She left Maine on Monday and drove 2,100 miles to put together a recycling program for the hundreds of new residents of the protest camp.

And then there is Clyde Bellecourt. He is Ojibwe. He came from Minnesota, but may be better associated with Wounded Knee, S.D. Not the massacre in 1890, but the standoff in 1973, when the group he helped found, the American Indian Movement, suddenly became a household name, the image of Indian activism.

Clyde Bellecourt, 80, who helped found the American Indian Movement in the 1960s, said he sees “fresh energy” among younger Native Americans fighting to stop the Dakota Access pipeline. (William Yardley/LA Times)

Clyde Bellecourt, 80, who helped found the American Indian Movement in the 1960s, said he sees “fresh energy” among younger Native Americans fighting to stop the Dakota Access pipeline. (William Yardley/LA Times)

He is 80 now. Sitting in a folding chair not far from the Buick where he keeps copies of a flyer promoting his new memoir, he likes what he sees.

“My life is almost over, but there’s fresh energy here,” he said. “Save the children – that’s what this is all about.”

Protesters have vowed to stay at least until Judge Boasberg rules and potentially much longer. Monitors from Amnesty International have arrived. An employee of the federal Indian Health Service established a first aid tent. Vans carpooled people to showers.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux formed Spirit Resistance Radio, at 87.9 FM, to broadcast updates. An Art Market opened to sell handmade crafts. There was talk, lighthearted for now, about establishing a school that would teach children at the camp site in native languages.

The Morton County Sheriff’s office has blocked one of the main routes to the camp from Bismarck, the state capital, forcing some protesters to drive a lengthier route to the site. Law enforcement is planning to escort school buses that travel through the area, though protesters say they want nothing but peace and prayers.

People have been practicing nonviolent direct action tactics, preparing to try to stop construction should it start again. A lawyer from Colorado working pro bono asked protesters to fill out forms “if you think that you have a clean record and you want to be arrestable.”

Jasilyn Charger, 20, is among a group of young natives who ran together from North Dakota to Washington to protest the pipeline. She remembers the early days of the protest, when just a handful of people prayed by the river.

“When we started this, people thought we were crazy,” she said. “But look at where we are today.”

Don Cuny, 65, was among those impressed with how robust the camp had become. Like Bellecourt, he was at Wounded Knee when natives led a 71-day standoff in the town on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. That effort was driven in part by a goal to rewrite treaties with the government.

“This kind of reminds me of back in Wounded Knee,” said Cuny, who goes by Cuny Dog.  “Except that I’m gaining weight. At Wounded Knee, I lost weight.”

Man Arrested For Painting ‘AIM’ On US Flag Gets $55000 In Lawsuit


Associated Press | July 22, 2016 

PITTSBURGH – A man arrested for painting the letters “AIM” on an American flag that he flew upside-down at his house in protest has settled his free speech lawsuit against the township for more than $55,000.

Supervisors in Allegheny Township, Blair County, have approved letting their insurance company pay Joshuaa Brubaker, the Altoona Mirror first reported Friday. The supervisors approved a resolution on July 12 advising township police to no longer enforce the state’s flag desecration laws as part of the settlement, notice of which was filed Tuesday in federal court in Johnstown.

“The problem is that every couple years we get a report that someone’s been charged with insulting the flag or desecrating the flag under Pennsylvania laws,” said Sara Rose, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who filed the lawsuit in February. “The U.S. Supreme Court law is very clear that you cannot charge someone with using the flag for expressive purposes, like drawing on it or burning it.”

Brubaker, 39, is part Native American and says “AIM” stands for the American Indian Movement. Brubaker flew the flag on his porch in May 2014 about 90 miles east of Pittsburgh. He was protesting plans to route the proposed Keystone Pipeline through Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

Wounded Knee is the site of a U.S. Cavalry massacre of some 200 Lakota Indians in 1890. In 1973, the Indian reservation town of the same name was seized by AIM and other activists in a 71-day standoff with federal law enforcement.

The dispute with the township began when another resident — an Army veteran who also happens to be part Native American — was offended by the display and contacted police.

Leo Berg III, who was then assistant chief but now heads the township department, seized the flag and charged Brubaker with violating two state laws: insulting the national flag, a second-degree misdemeanor that carries up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine, and flag desecration, a third-degree misdemeanor carrying up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

A Blair County judge dismissed the criminal charges against Brubaker a few months after they were filed, finding they didn’t apply in a case involving political speech.

Brubaker told The Associated Press when the lawsuit was filed why he displayed the flag the way he did.

“I figured with this generation, if someone drove by this house and saw AIM” that they’d search for the term online and learn more about the group and its causes, Brubaker said. Flying a flag upside-down is also a distress signal, and Brubaker said he believed the country is in distress.

Brubaker must pay his own attorneys’ fees and expenses and any taxes out of the $55,844 he’ll receive, according to the settlement.


Lakota Publisher ‘Tim Giago’ Plans To Purchase Wounded Knee Site


By Red Power Media, Staff

Tim Giago to purchase Wounded Knee property.

For years, Oglala Sioux Tribe officials have been unable to reach an agreement to purchase the historic Wounded Knee massacre site, which occurred on December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek (Lakota: Čhaŋkpé Ópi Wakpála) on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

In a July 2013, interview with the Daily Mail, Johnny Depp, the actor who portrayed Tonto in Disney’s Lone Ranger movie announced that he was ready to buy Wounded Knee and return it to the Native American people, but Depp failed to keep his word.

Now according to KELOLAND TV,‎ Lakota journalist Tim Giago, who spent his childhood living near the Wounded Knee site, believes he has a plan that will work.

It begins with with a private landowner Jim Czywczynski, who owns key property at the site, including the location of the old Wounded Knee Trading Post.

“I talked to Jim Czywczynski and he gave me the exclusive rights to purchase that Wounded Knee property,” Giago said.

Giago has established a non-profit organization called the National Historic Site of Wounded Knee Inc to use in fundraising and buying of the property for $$3.9 million.

“But the intent of purchasing the land is to set up a trust and put the land in trust for all nine tribes of the Great Sioux Nation,” Giago said. “Every tribe in South Dakota has an historic connection, I think, this sacred ground, Wounded Knee.”

Giago said the Wounded Knee Trading Post was built in the late 1920s along Wounded Knee Creek, in part of the area where the massacre occurred. The business was burned during the American Indian Movement occupation in 1973, as activist’s protested alleged civil-rights violations and racism.

Giago, who argued that the owners of the Trading Post were victimized by that takeover, had a personal relationship with the creek and the Trading Post long before 1973. His father worked at the Trading Post and the family lived nearby when Giago was a child in the 1930s. Giago played in and around the Trading Post and along the creek.

The 81-year-old Lakota journalist wants something done – something that will last and have meaning. It would start with a museum at the massacre site, just across the highway from the cemetery where many are buried, telling the story and honoring the victims.

“I’d like to see a Native American Holocaust Museum built on the site Giago told ICTMN.

Czywczynski thinks Giago is the right man to make that happen. Giago’s has wide connections on the reservation, across South Dakota and far beyond, along with respect as an elder in the Native American community, Czywczynski said.

Tim Giago, is a renowned Lakota journalist, publisher and founder of the Lakota Times, Native Sun News and Indian Country Today.

The Future Generations Ride

Photography by Ken Machionno

Photography by Ken Machionno


Every December, hundreds of American Indian riders pay tribute to those who died in The Wounded Knee Massacre by tracing the path of their ancestors.

It is called Oomaka Tokatakiya, the Future Generations Ride, and it is an epic journey spanning nearly 300 miles of historic and sometimes hostile territory. It will take place this year as it has for the last quarter of a century, with some 300 riders and their horses departing in mid-December to trace the paths of their ancestors across the South Dakota landscape, and find in themselves a strength and power that will change their lives.

Our history books in school would tell us that it was the last armed conflict of the American Indian Wars. Today we know it as the Wounded Knee Massacre. On December 29, 1890, the Seventh Cavalry opened fire with Hotchkiss cannons on 350 Indians, mostly women and children. Followers of the peaceful Big Foot, the Miniconjou and Hunkpapa Lakota people were traveling in the dead of winter in an effort to reach Red Cloud in Pine Ridge, where they hoped to find a safe respite and avoid further conflict with the United States.

The soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry, numbering approximately 500, intercepted the fleeing people and made them camp near Wounded Knee Creek on the night of December 28. In the morning, they gave the order for all of the Lakota people to surrender their arms, which they did — except for one. A deaf man named Black Coyote refused. There was a struggle and a shot was fired. Within moments, the Hotchkiss guns, which encircled the camp, blazed down on the unarmed Lakota and the soldiers.

In less than an hour it was over. The Indians who were not killed by the guns were murdered by hand. The dead and dying were left on the ground as a blizzard closed in. Their frozen bodies would be buried days later in a mass grave when the blizzard finally passed.

Twenty Congressional Medals of Honor were given to members of the Seventh Cavalry who participated in the massacre. For the Lakota people, in many ways it was the end.

“I did not know then how much was ended,” Oglala Lakota medicine man Black Elk wrote decades later in his memoir, Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux.

“When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream … . [T]he nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.”

In 1986, almost a century after the tragic massacre, the scars remained heavy on the hearts and lives of the Lakota people. “It was a sad time in our lives; depression was strong,” recalls Alex White Plume, former tribal president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation. “Our [traditional Lakota] way was not here.”

Oglala Sioux member Karen Ducheneaux recalls how that began to change. “Before the first ride in 1986, several people began having dreams about following the path taken by our ancestors in 1890 before their massacre at Wounded Knee. One of these people was Birgil Kills Straight, the organizer of the first Si Tanka Wokiksuye Ride.”

Nineteen riders, including White Plume and his younger brother Percy, and one woman, Vevina White Hawk, committed themselves to that vision. They retraced the journey of Big Foot and his band on horseback in the dead of winter and called it Si Tanka Wokiksuye, or the Big Foot Memorial Ride. “We rode the spirit trail to bring back all our ceremonies,” White Plume says.

The second year, the group of riders grew to include Ducheneaux and her family. “We were supposed to go on the first ride but couldn’t get our horses to Bridger [Montana],” she explains. “I was 16 years old the first year we went on the Big Foot Ride; my little brother was only 3 and had to ride in the wagon.”

From 1986 to 1989, the riders prepared for the Wounded Knee centennial. And then, in 1990, they undertook the Wiping the Tears of Seven Generations ride.

“The ride was extended to include the route Sitting Bull’s people took after his assassination in 1890,” Ducheneaux says. “The reason the ride was so important was because the Lakota usually do a ‘wiping of the tears ceremony’ a year after a loss. But after what happened at Wounded Knee, we were a broken people who were herded back onto our reservations virtually without protest.

What they did to our people was so unthinkable that we were too damaged to do the wiping of the tears after a year — and really, we remained in mourning for those people who died in that horrific way for 100 years. The ride in 1990 was an attempt to move forward from that time of mourning and healing and face the future as a recovered people.”

Today the annual ride is called Oomaka Tokatakiya — the Future Generations Ride. The young people who participate are now the sixth and seventh generations of Lakota since that dark time in American history, when massacre was considered the best way to deal with the “Indian problem.” The tribe believes that this is the generation upon whom its future
depends — the generation that elders have seen in visions, the generation that will restore the sacred hoop.

Ducheneaux and her brother have grown up on the ride, and her commitment to it has remained strong. “I went on four of the original Big Foot Rides, a wopila [giving thanks] ride, and seven of the Oomaka Tokatakiya rides. I was one of the organizers for the last six I went on.

“By the time I went on the Oomaka Tokatakiya ride, my little brother was 11. Because being on the ride had taught me so much, and given me the strength I had, I wanted to make that opportunity available for another generation the way it had been provided for me.”

The Future Generations Ride is about spiritual strength and physical sacrifice. It is about healing, honoring the ancestors, embracing one’s own power, coming together as a people. And beneath all of it, carrying both body and spirit, is the horse.

Breath steaming from their nostrils, thick winter coats shrugging the snow, these veterans of the journey lead the way across the frozen terrain in minus-20-degree weather, taking each step with purpose. They come in every color and in a variety of shapes, but the horses all possess heart and stamina.

The stuff of legend and folklore is real on this ride. The people trust their lives to their horses, and their horses carry them across sweeping plains and bristling interstates, through snowdrifts and settlements, sometimes as many as 35 miles in a day.

Large and heavy-boned, many of the equines have a strong quarter horse influence. Others are traditional Appaloosas. There are animals that, beneath their shaggy coats, move with the collected grace of the Spanish Barb. There are beloved family horses whose pedigrees may not be listed in any registry.

“As far as the horses, I always took quarter horses,” Ducheneaux says. “I like their disposition and their build, and that’s the kind my family raises. Some people took Arabians because they claimed they had better stamina. Those horses are amazing; they learn their strength just as the riders do. The first couple of days they are kind of played-out, but they hit their stride and just keep going.

“It’s a beautiful thing to suffer with a horse that you know well. You’re having such a hard time and you just keep thinking, This horse is doing all the work. A good horse is like a good dog: They will give their all for you; they will give their life for you. They are so selfless. I was lucky to have a few good horses in my life.”

Ducheneaux pauses. “It makes me cry to think about my horses and all they sacrificed to carry me to Wounded Knee, over and over.”

On December 15, 2014, the riders will depart again to make the epic two-week journey. They will gather at Sitting Bull Camp, near Bullhead, South Dakota, to ride nearly 300 miles on horseback to the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre.

What began as a small and determined band of American Indian people healing the wounds carried by their nations for a century has become a group of hundreds, devoted to their children and their future.

People from around the world will join them. Native communities will come out to greet them. Children will look up to the riders — some as young as 7 — and see in them positive role models. They will feel proud to be Lakota. They will feel the power of the Horse Nation.