Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, December 29, 2008


a year of mornng thanks

Wounded Knee, 1890

I wish I were there right now. I've been there a half dozen times at least, but this morning I think it would be wonderful to be standing in the wind and cold at Wounded Knee. On December 29, 1890, the final "battle" of the Sioux Indian Wars took place eight hours more or less straight west of here at a lonely stretch of short grass prairie, right at the heart of the Great Plains. I wish I were there.

I've told the story so often that I don't care to go through it all again, but it's always sad to know how few people--even here in 'Siouxland'--know anything at all of the story. It wasn't a battle at all; it was a massacre. Who knows how many Sioux died--200? Maybe more. It's almost inevitable that my own great-grandparents, Dutch immigrants then living just on the east side of the Missouri River in the brand new state of South Dakota, took refuge with many of their friends, fearing a major hostile uprising. Repurcussions of the "battle" ran out for hundreds of miles, like circles in a pond where a stone's been thrown.

If you want to understand at least something of the way in which Anglo homesteaders took over what was then Siouxland, start your study with the massacre at Wounded Knee. It's all there. After the massacre, after a freakish snowstorm that turned the whole place white, some locals got together and tossed the Sioux dead into a trench at the top of the hill above the battlefield. Still today, it's marked--that mass grave on American soil.

I was there, even in the picture above. I was there, just as we all were. That fact is inescapble--or so it seems to me. We were all there, every one of us, red and white.

It's a moral lesson I'm honestly thankful to have learned. I'm not Native, and I was born after the Second World War. No matter. I was there at Wounded Knee. We all were.

This morning, even though the story is rife with horror, I'm thankful to know what happened there, just east of Pine Ridge--thankful at least to know.

3 comments:

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

I'm not sure I was there. I can't apologize for those men because I'm not sure they were sorry. Reparations for their evil takes nothing away from the victim's pain nor the perpetrator's guilt. The massacre doesn't erase my righteousness or any of my good. And it takes nothing away from the fact that I might still have been here, somewhere in the great midwest. Nor does it take anything away from the achievements gathered by great people over time. That doesn't mean it wasn't profoundly evil. It was. I'm often terrified and saddened by people's evil capabilities. But I'm not sure that I was there. IN the year 2009, I'll simply and hopefully act well within my community.

I claim the sin of Adam, but my blood won't repair the guilt of others let alone my own sin...another man bore that cross. My color or Dutch heritage doesn't place me in any spot they have previously been.

Joel said...

Interesting post--on a number of levels. I've often wondered about how we share guilt by virtue of our being entagled in the web of humanity (especially in regards to "original sin"). My observation is that this is not a popular idea in our culture--we're rather individualistic here, too. My sin is my sin, your sin is your sin, and that's that. I was especially struck by this when comparing with other cultures. A few years ago, after the Virginia Tech shootings, Korean classmates walked the halls of the Seminary hanging their head in shame and offering constant apologies--because the shooter was a Korean. Somehow, they saw themselves as caught up in his guilt.

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

I guess to claim the guilt of others seems to me like false humility and a bit self-righteous. It actually feels quite CRC...which, of course, I am. But Christians should live more communally and less individualistically too, I don't know. I just don't understand I suppose.