It was the 29th day of the Moon of Popping Trees (December) in 1890. Peace was sleeping within the warm winter wind under the murderous eyes of Gatling and Hotchkiss guns, dug into the ridges surrounding the Lakota encampment.
Chief Spotted Elk ("Bigfoot" was the name soldiers gave him), flying the flag of truce within his encampment, was dying from pneumonia. His people were dying from fear of the white soldiers who had come to take revenge for the defeat of their unit, the 7th Cavalry, at Little Bighorn in The Moon When the Chokecherries are Ripe (June) in 1876. All the soldiers needed was the smallest excuse to begin the massacre.
A single shot, according to a reporter on the scene, was fired from the soldiers, and with that, the smallest excuse was manufactured. When the rain of ammunition ceased, over 300 Lakota people lay dead from gunfire, cannonfire, or manual butchering within the encampment and within adjacent ravines up to two miles away. The dead were Lakota men who had been disarmed before the weapons fire began, women, many with babes in arms or waiting to be born, and children The soldiers walked away from their crime against humanity and left the dead where they lay. That night, the sky cried snow and the warm winter wind of peace was supplanted by the cold winter wind of grief. For four days, the dead laid where they were, frozen into grotesque shapes of lifelessness. Finally, the soldiers came and loaded the dead like cordwood in wagons, and hauled their loads to hastily dug mass graves, where the dead were thrown in - the bodies of men, women, and children whose spirits walked the encampment and ravines, wailing. The mass graves were filled and the soldiers left. Twenty-seven Congressional Medals of Honor [sic] for "bravery" were awarded to the soldiers who participated in that heinous murder for their parts in fighting the allegedly hostile "war parties" attacking them that day.
The spirits of the slain continue their walking and wailing. Red Willow in great profusion, grown from the blood of all those who fell along the banks of the creek that day, still grows thickly along Wounded Knee Creek. Peace never again slept within the winds that blew along Wounded Knee Creek.
The Massacre of Wounded Knee became a symbol for my people, the Lakota Nation, of the lies and deceit of the "Great White Father in Washington" and the U.S. Government. Their words of encouragement and promises of help and peace were seen for the malevolent intent hidden behind the facade. As more and more land promised to us forever was taken away on the whims of Congress, our place to live became smaller and our pain and confusion grew. The mass graves at Wounded Knee became a symbol to us to never forget and never to trust again. The voices of our slain relatives can still be heard, crying out from soil, the waters, the air, and we vow time and time again to never forget, to be strong, to help our nation heal and live well again.
Now the U.S. Government wants to take from us 1,800 acres (including "lands, and all mineral rights, water rights, easements, permanent structures, and fixtures on such land") to turn our sacred site, the burial grounds, and "the historic landscape of Wounded Knee" into a national park. The government claims that it wants to do this so that it can " express its commitment to acknowledge and learn from our history, including the Wounded Knee Massacre, in order to provide a proper foundation for building an ever more humane, enlightened, and just society for the future (quoted from the enabling legislation). " To do so, the U.S. Government wants to remove and relocate any individuals and families living within that 1,800 acres and restore the landscape to the government's vision of 1890 historical conditions. Any buildings and fixtures currently within the 1,800 acres that are not found to coincide with that vision will be destroyed. The government also wants to build a visitors' center, an amphitheater, roads, and trails, and to relocate the three main roads that intersect at the current Wounded Knee memorial and one mass grave site. These activities are wholly inappropriate for a cemetery and burial site and will disturb the spirits of the people buried there.
The enabling legislation to create the national park was introduced simultaneously to both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives on February 9, 1995, by the Congressional Delegation from South Dakota. On February 15, 1995, HR877 was referred to the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Lands, where it remains at this time. The Senate bill, S382, was referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and the House bill, HR877, was referred to the House Committee on Resources, where it remains at this time. The opinions of the residents of Wounded Knee and the members of the Wounded Knee Landowners Association were not solicited prior to this bill being written or submitted, nor were we invited to or notified of the one Congressional hearing that occurred on this issue.
We stand opposed to the creation of this national park for all of the reasons given here and many others. We are asking you to help us in our fight to save this sacred site from development. Please join your voice with ours in opposing the creation of this national park. Write your representatives and senators. Write the members of the Congressional committee and subcommittee currently reviewing the bills. It is most effective to generate a large number of brief e-mail postings or postal service letters that simply state little more than the following: "Please vote NO to HR877/S382. Signed, (your name, postal address, telephone number)." Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers.
For more information, please contact Gerald Ice, P.O. Box 199, Wounded Knee, SD, 57794, (605) 867-1591.
Wounded Knee...a collection