A Massacre Survivor Speaks...

postcard courtesy of john smith: "...an odd coincidence that I should be looking at this postcard today,
December 29 [2007], which I did not know is the date of the infamy. I read the survivor's account
and I send this photograph of Beard and his brothers to you."

portrait of dewey beard

portraits of wounded knee warriors

He liked to talk about the past...In Lakota, he was called Wasee Maza - Iron Tail - and years after the massacre, General Nelson Miles had invited him to Washington and introduced Beard to a number of military officials. Among those he met was Admiral George Dewey, naval hero of Manila Bay and the Spanish-American War. Later, he formed his own name by taking an old Sioux nickname -Beard - and adding it to the admiral's surname.
"At eighteen, Beard [born in 1857] had been among a group of warriors who had crossed the Little Bighorn in the final moments of the battle. [Now] at thirty-three, he and his family were camped in Big Foot's village. Years later, the last Lakota survivor of both Custer and Wounded Knee talked at length about the fight inside the council grounds, about the flight from the Miniconju village into the ravine. Beard spoke through an interpreter, who both summarized and quoted him directly:

"The struggle for the gun was short, the muzzle pointed upward toward the east and the gun discharged. In an instant a volley followed as one shot, and the people began falling. He saw everybody was rolling and kicking on the ground. He looked southeastward and he did not know what he was going to do. He had only one knife. He looked eastward and saw the soldiers were firing on Indians and stepping backwards and firing. His thought was to rush on the soldiers and take a gun from one of them. He rushed toward on the west to get a gun. While he was running, he could see nothing for the smoke; through the rifts he could see the brass buttons of the uniforms; he rushed up to a soldier whose gun rested over Dewey's shoulder and was discharged when the muzzle was near his ear, and it deafened him for a while. Then he grabbed the gun and wrenched it away from the soldier. When he got the gun, he drew his knife and stabbed the soldier in the breast...While Dewey was on this soldier, some other soldiers were shooting at him, but missed him and killed soldiers on the other side. When he got up he ran right through the soldiers toward the ravine, and he was the last Indian to go into the ravine. The soldiers were shooting at him from nearly all directions, and they shot him down...Dewey tried to get to the ravine and succeeded in getting on his feet...Right on the edge of the ravine on the south side were soldiers shooting at the Indians who were running down into the ravine, the soldiers' shots sounded like fire crackers and hail in a storm; a great many Indians were killed and wounded down there...

"When he went to the bottom of the ravine, he saw many little children lying dead in the ravine. He was now pretty weak from his wounds. Now when he saw all those little infants lying there dead in their blood, his feeling was that even if he ate one of the soldiers, it would not appease his anger...The Indians all knew that Dewy was wounded, but those in the ravine wanted him to help them. So he fought with his life to defend his own people. He took his courage to do that - "I was pretty weak and now fell down.' A man with a gunshot wound through the lower jaw had a belt of cartridges, which he offered Beard and asked to try and help them again.

"'When he gave me the cartridges, I told him I was badly wounded and pretty weak, too. While I was lying on my back, I looked down the ravine and saw these women, girls and little girls and boys coming up, I saw soldiers on both sides of the ravine shoot at them until they had killed every one of them."

"He saw a young woman among them coming and crying and calling, "Mother! Mother!' She was wounded under her chin, close to her throat, and the bullet had passed through a braid of her hair and carried some of it into the wound, and then the bullet had entered from the front side of the shoulder and passed out the back side. Her Mother had been shot behind her. Dewey was sitting up and he called to her to come to him. When she came close to him, she fell to the ground. He caught her by the dress and drew her to him across his legs. When the women who the soldiers were shooting at got a little past him, he told this girl to follow them on the run, and she went up the ravine.

"He got himself up and followed up the ravine. He saw many dead men, women, and children lying in the ravine. When he went a little way up, he heard singing; going a little way farther, he came upon his mother who was moving slowly, being very badly wounded. She had a soldier's revolver in her hand, swinging it as she went. Dewey does not know how she got it. When he caught up to her she said, 'My son, pass by me; I am going to fall down now.' As she went up, soldiers on both sides of the ravine shot at her and killed her. 'I returned fire upon them, defending my mother. When I shot at the soldiers in a northern direction, I looked back at my mother and she had already fallen down. I passed right on from my dead mother and met a man coming down the ravine who was wounded in the knee...

"Dewey was wounded so that his right arm was disabled; he placed the thumb of his right hand between his teeth and carried his Winchester on his left shoulder, and then he ran towards where he has heard that White Lance [his brother] was killed. As he ran, he saw lots of women and children lying along the ravine, some alive and some dead. He saw some young men just above, and these he addressed, saying to them to take courage and do all they could to defend the women. 'I have,' he said, 'a bad wound and am not able to defend them; I could not aim the gun,' and so he told the young men this way. It was now in the ravine just like prairie fire when it reaches brush and grass...; it was like hail coming down; an awful fire was concentrated on them now and nothing could be seen for the smoke. In the bottom of the ravine, the bullets raised more dust than there was smoke, so that they could not see one another.

"When Dewy came up into the 'pit,' he saw White Lance upon top of the bank, and was rolling on down towards the brink to get down into the ravine. He was badly wounded and at first was half dead, but later revived from his injuries. When Dewey went into the 'pit,' he found his brother William Horn Cloud lying or sitting against the bank shot through the breast, but yet alive; but he died that night. 'Just when I saw my wounded brother William, I saw White Lance slide down the bank and stand by William. Then William said to White Lance, "Shake hands with me, I am dizzy now"' While they had this conversation, Dewey said, 'My dear brothers, be men and take courage. A few minutes ago, our father told us this way, and you heard it. Our father told us that the all people of the world born of the same father and mother, when any great tragedy comes, it is better that all of them should die together than that they should die separately at different times, one by one...'

"White Lance and William shook hands. Then White Lance and Dewey lifted their brother up and stood him on his feet; then they placed him on White Lances's shoulder. White Lance was wounded in several places and weak from loss of blood, but he succeeded in bearing William to the bottom of the ravine...Dewey said they now heard the Hotchkiss or Gatling guns shooting at them along the bank. Now there went up from these dying people a medley of death songs...Each one sings a different death song if he chooses. The death song is expressive of their wish to die. It is also a requiem for the dead...'At this time, I was unable to do anything more and I took a rest, telling my brothers to keep up their courage.' The cannon were pouring in their shots and breaking down the banks which were giving protection to the fighting Indians...The Hotchkiss had been shooting rapidly and one Indian had gotten killed by it. His body was penetrated in the pit of the stomach by a Hotchkiss shell, which tore a hole through his body six inches in diameter. The man was insensible, but breathed for an hour before he died... "In this same place there was a young woman with a pole in hand and a black blanket on it. When she would raise it up, the soldiers would whistle and yell and pour volleys into it. One woman here spoke to Beard and told him to come in among them and help them. He answered that he would stay where he was and make a fight for them; and that he did not care if he got killed, for the infants were all dead now, and he would like to die among the infants. When he was saying this, the soldiers were all shooting furiously... "Dewey laid down again in the same little hollow and reloaded his gun. The soldiers across from him were shooting at him while he was reloading. While he was reloading, he heard a horseman coming along the brink of the ravine - could hear the foot falls. This man as he came along gave orders to the men which he supposed were to fire on the women in the pit for a fusillade was instantly opened on them...

"The sun was going down; it was pretty near sundown...He saw five Oglala Sioux on horseback. He called them, but they were afraid and ran away, but he kept on calling and going till they all stood still and he came upon them. He went on with them a little way and soon he met his brother Joseph coming toward them on horseback. Dewey asked, 'Where are you going?' Joe answered, 'All my brothers and parents are dead, and I have to go in and be killed, too; therefore I have come back.' Dewey said, "You better come with us; don't go there; they are all killed there,' and the five Oglalas joined with Beard in the same appeal. Now the Oglalas left these two brothers. The Joe got off his horse and told Dewey to get on. Dewey was covered with blood. He mounted the horse and Joe walked along slowly. After a little, a mounted Indian relation came up behind them. The three went together over to White Clay Creek...

"Dewey's little infant, Wet Feet, died afterwards in the next March. This child was nursing its dead mother who was shot in the breast. It swallowed blood and from this vomited and was never well, was always sick till it died."


Wounded Knee...a collection