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.