Posts Tagged ‘Wounded Knee’

The Wounded Knee Memorial has been neglected for many years until Tribal member steps in to restore it. (Photo by Karin Eagle, courtesy of Native Sun News)

The Wounded Knee Memorial has been neglected for many years until Tribal member steps in to restore it. (Photo by Karin Eagle, courtesy of Native Sun News)

Story and photo by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer

WOUNDED KNEE – On a cold, windy morning, the mass grave site of the victims of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre is lonely and desolate.

The grave itself is surrounded by a cemetery, and backed by a log cabin church. Trash blows in from the surrounding area, empty beer boxes blowing up against and getting hung up on the chain link fence. There is little honor and reverence to be found in what should be the most revered site of the Lakota people.

With a strong mind and a generous heart, one Oglala man has taken on the responsibility of caring for the resting place of those victims of such a tragic and devastating event in the history of the Lakota people.

Julian Brown Eyes, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and owner of Competitive Masonry out of Rapid City, has taken the initiative in redoing the brick area surround the mass grave.

Donating all the materials needed as well as asking his employees, all Natives, to volunteer for such a poignant task, the renovation is being done at no cost to the descendants or the tribes who have people buried there.

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One hundred and twenty years ago yesterday, the Lakota people made the deadly ride to Wounded Knee that ended in massacre.

For the past 23 years, those wishing to remember their ancestors sacrifices have also made the ride. The commemoration is now taking on another element, with young members, most under 30, making the ride.

The Big Foot Memorial Ride is a way to connect the youth to the past and build a “bridge to the next generation,” as the Rapid City Journal reports.

    Participants travel on horseback from camp to camp, braving the cold – and sometimes worse, like last week’s ice storm or last year’s Christmas blizzard.

    Jeremiah Young Bull Bear said the weather only highlights the spiritual aspects of the ride.

    “Like the elder riders always say, if you’re not suffering in some way – if you’re hungry, you’re sore, you get sick – if you’re not feeling any of those things, you’re not feeling the spirituality of the ride,” he said. “Anything spiritual, there’s always a sacrifice.”

    “I don’t think of the coldness when I ride,” Lip said. “I think of our ancestors and how they rode.”

    The entire Native community participates in one way or another. Phyllis Wilcox of Wanblee couldn’t ride this year, so she spent two days cooking – 15 turkeys, five gallons of mashed potatoes and 25 pounds of flour for frybread – for 90 hungry riders who arrived in Kyle on Christmas.

Jenna Cederberg

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Each Saturday, Buffalo Post runs a selection of stories from Native Sun News.

Photo and story by Evelyn Broecher
Native Sun News Correspondent


RAPID CITY – Thelma Conroy-Rios, an American Indian activist, has been accused as an accessory in the 1975 murder of Anna Mae Aquash. She blames her situation on an “irresponsible media addicted to sensationalism.” She said, “To me, these people abuse me when they print lies.”

But, who is Thelma Rios and, how did this Allen country girl get from the reservation to infamous AIM extremist on trial for accessory to murder?

have to have my picture taken this way, because my grandmother is always sitting on my shoulder and always with me,” Rios said as she looked at her family photos. (Native Sun News photo)

have to have my picture taken this way, because my grandmother is always sitting on my shoulder and always with me,” Rios said as she looked at her family photos. (Native Sun News photo)

Rios appears to be as confused as anyone about the charges against her. “Everyone knew my house was safe and clean. Alcohol was never allowed in my home. My home was open to all people in need, including people of all races, religions, and ages.” She said she opened her home to the homeless, and domestic violence victims, kids off the street, and elders in need.

“I have lived this way for 40 years, Rios said. “I was even a licensed foster parent. The Department of Social Services would bring me Indian children no one could handle. Even the police department would bring people who needed help to my home.”

“That’s why I don’t understand how anyone could even think I could stand by and watch any woman be kidnapped, abused, or tied-up,” Rios said, referring to prior testimony of events leading to the murder of Aquash.

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James Swan takes part in a drum circle while singing a song praising Leonard Peltier at the Tribal Sovereignty Forum at Mount Rushmore on Sunday, August 29, 2010. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Rapid City Journal)

James Swan takes part in a drum circle while singing a song praising Leonard Peltier at the Tribal Sovereignty Forum at Mount Rushmore on Sunday, August 29, 2010. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Rapid City Journal)

Forty years ago, a group of Native American activists occupied Mount Rushmore for three months as a way to draw attention to the myriad problems facing Indian people in the United States. Yesterday, a reunion by some of the original participants recalled that time, and looked ahead to dealing with the problems that remain. The Rapid City Journal’s Jomay Steen has the story:

MOUNT RUSHMORE NATIONAL MEMORIAL — “Today is a lesson in history,” Robert Cook, former president of the National Indian Education Association, said Sunday at Mount Rushmore.

“It feels good that we had people who stood up and risked being arrested, losing their freedom at a place that represents freedom,” Cook said, recalling a group of Native American activists who protested and held a three-month-long occupation of the memorial 40 years ago, bringing national attention to Native issues. It wasn’t done on a whim, Cook said, but involved courage to stand up for their beliefs.

A group of the California-based United Native Americans climbed to the top of Mount Rushmore 40 years ago and began a their occupation to educate the nation about Native tribal sovereignty, treaty rights and poverty.

On Sunday, some of the original activists, their children and grandchildren gathered to commemorate the day that the group first scaled the mountain and to revisit those issues that still plague the people living on reservations in South Dakota.

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When you hear the words “politics” and “Wounded Knee” together, you tend to think of the American Indian Movement standoff there with the FBI in 1973.

But “Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre,” by Amherst history professor Heather Cox Richardson — takes a look at the climate that allowed the massacre of Chief Big Foot and his followers, most of them unarmed, on Dec. 29, 1890.

As author Stew Magnuson writes in his blog, A View from A Washichu, the book covers a lot of familiar territory about that awful day. And it doesn’t answer lingering questions, such as who fired the first shot. But, as Magnuson writes:

    I’ve never believed that it mattered. The Army should not have been on the reservation in the first place. The bigger question then is why U.S. troops came to the South Dakota reservations to quell the seemingly harmless religious rituals that were part of the Ghost Dance religion? Hysteria in neighboring white communities over the perceived dangers of the dancing was certainly one factor.

    So who is at fault?

    In short, the Republicans, Richardson asserts.

In his review of the book for the Chicago Tribune, Steve Fiffer writes that “Heather Cox Richardson’s superb new book should come labeled: Warning! Reading the contents may lead to depression.”

All of which makes us want to read more. Good thing the weekend’s coming up!

Gwen Florio

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The famed – or infamous, depending on one’s point of view – Sturgis motorcycle rally is going on this week in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and this story by the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal‘s Ruth Brown talks about a cultural exchange that’s part of it. No, we’re not talking comparisons of bikes and tattoos. It’s about two motorcycle runs involving Native people:

ironponySharing traditional stories and legends of the Native American people sets two motorcycle runs apart from the others during the Sturgis rally.

The Iron Pony Inter-Tribal Honor Run began Saturday, Aug. 7, in Wounded Knee. Native people from throughout the country are participating and sharing stories about their tribes.

“It’s a cultural exchange, and we can talk about each other’s tribes and share stories,” said Rex Carolyn, who is organizing the ride. “When everyone leaves they will go home knowing something about other tribes and tell their tribe about it. That’s how we preserve our culture. That’s how we make people understand.”

The Iron Pony Run began at Wounded Knee and moves to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation powwow grounds before moving on to Red Shirt Table.

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Writer Stew Magnuson (“The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder: And Other True Stories from the Nebraska-Pine Ridge Border Towns”) today memorializes Billy Gibbons, who died last month at the age of 75.

In his blog, A View from a Washichu, Magnuson writes here that:


    Gibbons was the son of a Lakota woman, Elsie Long Cat, and a white father, William Gibbons. Billy was raised in Wounded Knee, but had made Gordon, Nebr., his home since the 1950s.

    He was a man who had both feet firmly, and proudly, planted in both cultures. And maybe it’s no accident that he made a Nebraska border town his home.

    Gibbons came to Gordon and began a drywall business after serving in the Korean War. That how he made a living. More important was how he lived.

Magnuson describes how, among other things, Gibbons helped him defuse a potential confrontation after an American Indian Movement protest in 1972.

It’s a lovely tribute. Check it out.

Gwen Florio

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Historic markers tell the story of the Rosebud Battle. (Bob Zellar/Billings Gazette)

Historic markers tell the story of the Rosebud Battle. (Bob Zellar/Billings Gazette)

The Rosebud Battlefield in southern Montana is now par with Wounded Knee, the Alamo and Mount Vernon in terms of National Historic Landmark status.

This week, a celebration on the 134th anniversary of the historic battle there between an alliance of Oglala Sioux and Cheyenne against the U.S. Army, marked that status. Lorna Thackeray of the Billings Gazette writes about it here.

    The drum group Last Bear played and sang at the celebration for the Rosebud Battlefield. (Bob Zellar/Billings Gazette)

    The drum group Last Bear played and sang at the celebration for the Rosebud Battlefield. (Bob Zellar/Billings Gazette)

    Estimates of the Sioux and Cheyenne force ranged between 1,000 and 1,500 warriors. The battle raged through six hours with soldiers and Indians advancing and retreating over the battlefield.

    The Cheyenne call the battle site Kase’eetsevo’ – Where the Girl Saved Her Brother. The name comes from the actions of Buffalo Calf Trail Woman, who rescued her brother, Chief Comes In Sight, when his horse was shot out from under him.

    By 2:30 that afternoon, with no clear victory for either side, the battle wound down. Crook lost 10 men and 21 more were wounded. The Sioux lost about 25 warriors and one Cheyenne was killed. Crazy Horse estimated the wounded at 63.

    The major result was that [Gen. George] Crook withdrew his column to Wyoming, spoiling the government’s plan for a three-pronged assault.

    A week later, and about 30 miles away, the same alliance of Sioux and Cheyenne were camped along the Little Bighorn River when Lt. Col. George Custer ordered an attack.

As William Walks Along, a member of the Northern Cheyenne’s Rosebud and Wolf Mountain National Historic Landmark Committee, told the people at this week’s ceremony, “events like this anchor me to the Earth.”

Thackeray recounts his comments that such sits have to be preserved so future generations will know their history.

“It is our duty,” Walks Along said.

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Wounded Knee

Today’s Rapid City Journal has this piece by Jim Kent of Hot Springs, S.D. Here it is in full:

The only thing worse than poor communication is no communication. That’s what happened on the Pine Ridge Reservation this weekend at Wounded Knee – where, perhaps, the greatest miscommunication and, unquestionably, one of the greatest tragedies in American history occurred.

As Saturday’s noon hour approached, so did three Colorado Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters. Their destination – Wounded Knee.

Most local residents had heard about their arrival via the moccasin trail – which now includes the Internet and social networking sites like Facebook. Due to the history behind the massacre, as well as the military occupation of the area by federal forces in 1973, the Wounded Knee community was livid.

I fully understand the seriousness of the history involved. Twenty-five years ago, I sent a medal I’d received in the Marine Corps to the White House in protest of the Medals of Honor awarded to the 7th Cavalry after the massacre.

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Heidi Bell Gease of the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal wrote a good summary of incident this past weekend in which protesters rebuffed three Colorado National Guard helicopters trying to land at Wounded Knee. In this story, in its entirety below, Gease lays it all out:

Oglala Sioux Tribal President Theresa Two Bulls apologized to tribal members Monday for giving permission for three Colorado Army National Guard helicopters to land near the Wounded Knee Massacre site Saturday as part of an educational program.

“I did not intend to be disrespectful,” she said during an Oglala Sioux Tribal Council meeting in Pine Ridge. “I just wanted to open the door, to start communication, and I apologize that there’s a lack of communication.”

But descendants of massacre victims and survivors, many of whom protested the Black Hawk helicopters’ arrival Saturday, said the way the visit was handled was “disrespectful and appalling.”

“That’s a sacred site,” said Phyllis Hollow Horn, president of the Wounded Knee community. “Blood was spilled there by our relatives, by the United States 7th Cavalry.”

That was the story Guardsmen came to hear. According to a news release from Two Bulls’ office, the Colorado National Guard requested permission about two weeks ago to visit Wounded Knee. At the site, massacre descendant Marie Fox Belly was to tell the Guardsmen how U.S. soldiers killed nearly 300 Native Americans there on Dec. 29, 1890.

“The opportunity to hear the true stories from the descendants of the Wounded Knee Massacre would enable the National Guard members to realize the consequences of weak leadership,” the news release states.

Two Bulls said she informed Wounded Knee District tribal council representatives Garfield Little Dog and Philip Jumping Eagle of the visit but received no response. She also informed the local Community Action Program (CAP) office and spoke on KILI radio about the Guard’s visit.

Somehow, though, Wounded Knee residents didn’t get the message until Friday or Saturday. For them, seeing three Black Hawk helicopters descending over the mass grave site where their ancestors lie buried touched off deep-seated fears and emotions.

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