December 29 marks the 119th anniversary of what has come to be known as the Wounded Knee Massacre. It is often cited as the last major Indian Battle involving United States troops. The Wounded Knee Massacre, December 29, 1890, took place along the banks of the Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota on what is now known as the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation.
Wounded Knee has become symbolic of US Army abuse towards native peoples. In fact, Wounded Knee became an armed camp as late as 1973 as militant American Indians battled federal officials one more time. Basically local Lakota called for an outside radical group to come straighten out things at Pine Ridge Reservation. Several people on both sides were killed and/or wounded. (see video link below)
Several posts and comments have been about the Souix and about Pine Ridge specifically. Many of the young people on that reservation have become involved with gangs. When one stops and thinks about the tragedy these people have seen, it is almost understandable. The Souix were programmed for a life of poverty by our government. The Souix were not all one big tribe, but a nation of various tribes. The Souix reservation was carved up into 5 smaller reservations. The Black Hills, sacred lands to the Lakota, were taken from them. Some of their lands were sold for a pittance. Children were sent off to boarding school, had their long hair cut off, were given white names and were not allowed to speak their own native language. Most of this history has happened since the Massacre at Wounded Knee.
My grandmother was born October 30, 1890. I knew her quite well. She was not an Indian but I often try to put things in time perspective. Somehow the fact that this massacre happened after her birth makes it harder to accept, hard to deal with as it certainly is not part of ancient history. In fact, 1890 is getting darn close to modern times. The auto had been invented and the airplane was only a decade or so off. How can things like this massacre happen in the United States of America?
The poverty on some of these reservations is simply unimaginable. These people are the real Native Americans, not us. Do we have an obligation to make certain that Native Americans and Native American culture survive? Can they survive in the extreme poverty that many who have not assimilated still live? What do we have to do?
Are American Indians often their own worst enemies? Are their spokespeople standing on principle rather than practicality? In 1980 the Supreme Court awarded the Lakota $106 million dollars for the Black Hills treaty violation. They refused to take the money. They wanted the land. At what point do they decide that they will never get the land back and to take the money? Are those who are standing on pride representing all the people? I can only imagine what $106 million dollars would do to help overcome some of the root problems on reservations.
There are several resources:
http://www.kiliradio.org/ The radio voice of the Lakota Nation.
We Shall Remain (full episodes on PBS. Wounded Knee 1973 is Episode 5)