One hundred and twenty-seven winters ago, on December 29, 1890, a few 150 Lakota men, women and children were massacred by the US 7th Calvary Regiment near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Some quote the actual number closer to 300.
Snowfall was heavy which December week. The Lakota ancestors murdered that day were abandoned in brutal frigid wintry plains of the reservation in front of a burial party came to bury them in 1 mass grave. The photograph of Big Foot’s suspended and contorted body is a sign for most American Indians of exactly what happened to our ancestors.
Some of those who lived were finally taken to the Episcopal mission in Pine Ridge. Finally, some of them were able to give an oral history of what happened. One poignant fact of the massacre has stayed in my mind as reading it, and every time I think about Wounded Knee, I remember this:
“IT WAS THE FOURTH DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1890. WHEN THE FIRST TORN AND BLEEDING BODIES WERE CARRIED INTO THE CANDLELIT CHURCH, THOSE WHO WERE CONSCIOUS COULD SEE CHRISTMAS GREENERY HANGING FROM THE OPEN RAFTERS. ACROSS THE CHANCEL FRONT ABOVE THE PULPIT WAS STRUNG A CRUDELY LETTERED BANNER: “PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO MEN,” writes Dee Brown in “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.”
There was no peace on earth for the Lakota four days after Christmas. Later, as absurd as it may sound, some 20 US Calvary soldiers were given the Medal of Honor for murdering innocent Lakota men, women and kids. What an insult to people who lost their lives. What an insult to humankind.
The Wounded Knee Massacre is a sign for most American Indians of exactly what happened to our ancestors. History records the Wounded Knee Massacre was the final conflict of the American Indian warfare. Regrettably, it’s when most American history books drop American Indians from background, too. As when we no longer exist.
Fortunately, American Indians have lived one generation after another since Wounded Knee. It’s for us who remain to remember our ancestors as we all create for a better life for people we experience today. We are also educated to prepare for the next seven generations, but because we do, we must remember our ancestors.