The Baum Festival went on as planned in the summer of 1997. Because of conflicting opinions, the Apology and Pledge, were, in the end, not part of the program that took place in the town of Aberdeen.
JS Dill, March 11, 1998
He was a devoted family man, apparently a sensitive and kind individual, and he wrote books that were forerunners of today's concerns with diversity. But in his newspaper he twice advocated genocide of Native Americans. He was L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, acclaimed world-wide as the Great American Fairy Tale.
From 1888 to 1891, nine years before he published the first of his fourteen Oz books, Baum lived in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He edited a newspaper during the terrible time of anti-Indian feeling leading up to the killing of Sitting Bull and the massacre at Wounded Knee. He twice wrote editorials calling for the extermination of the entire Sioux Nation. Baum was not alone in his horrifying calls for genocide. Many historians believe that it was newspaper-induced hysteria that led to the massacre.
Baum's books are a sharp contrast to this call of genocide. Difference is valued in his stories; he describes groups of creatures with different characteristics and beliefs who work out the logistics of living together in respect and harmony. Oz is a multicultural kingdom. How could someone with such a vision have called for the mass murder of an entire group of people?
The fabric of Oz is love, the emotional connection, life-form to life-form, that creates respect, recognition and acceptance. Baum didn't practice that with the Lakota. Instead he abstracted these people, stripped away their humanness, and turned them into a concept, a "vanishing race", thereby setting up the conditions to think them out of existence.
The gift that Baum gives us is the mirroring of ourselves. Genocide happens not only because of the action of evil people, but also because of the inaction of the good-hearted. Baum knee-jerked the "right," acceptable, normal, main-stream reaction during the fabricated Indian scare of 1890, and was, thereby, one more agent of the genocide. Had he stood up to the government, had he questioned, as a good journalist should, the reports of "Indian uprisings," and had he been joined by journalists around the state and country, the massacre might never have happened.
There were some who stood up, but because they were few, their voices were ignored, invalidated or silenced. General Nelson A. Miles, the Commander of the Army in the West, for example, tried three times (unsuccessfully) to court-martial the officer in charge at the time of the massacre. Any hopes he entertained for a bid at the Presidency were dashed by his stand for justice.
L. Frank Baum did not stand for justice at the time of Wounded Knee. He stood with the majority of whites: with government officials, with military authorities, with settlers, with other members of the press and with representatives of Christian churches. He stood publicly on the popular side, the side of injustice.
Today we also need to make a stand. We who live in Aberdeen, or in other parts of South Dakota, or outside the state, would like to attend a conference dedicated to better understanding L. Frank Baum and his time in South Dakota. We recognize, however, that before we can plan to celebrate the Aberdeen days of this man, we need to acknowledge his two calls for genocide.
Whereas:L. Frank Baum edited a newspaper in Aberdeen from January 1890 to the spring of 1891, the time of the buildup toward the massacre at Wounded Knee and the massacre which followed the killing of Sitting Bull, and
Whereas:Baum twice in editorials in his newspaper called for the total extermination of the Lakota people, and
Whereas:The newspaper editorials written by L. Frank Baum and other editors in the area contributed to the climate of fear and hatred that led to themassacre at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890, and Whereas: General Nelson A. Miles, who was the commanding general at the time of Wounded Knee in 1890 described the event as "...the cruel and unjustifiable massacre of Indian men and innocent women and children at Wounded Knee on the Red Cloud Reservation, South Dakota," and
Whereas:Aberdeen is planning a festival to commemorate L. Frank Baum and his time in Aberdeen,
We take the following action:
We ApologizeWe apologize to the Lakota people for the part that our community and nation played in the killing of their relatives.
We Apologize[in as much that as] residents of Aberdeen, some of us are descendants of settlers who lived in Aberdeen at the time of the Wounded Knee massacre and who read L. Frank Baum's editorials and made no protest against them as far as we know;
We Pledge...that as we celebrate the multicultural vision of L. Frank Baum's fourteen Oz books, along with the rich outpouring of his creative genius in other works, we will also acknowledge and keep fresh in memory his calls for genocide. Further, we pledge that we will work to stop the continuing injustice toward Native Americans. We extend our hands in friendship to the Lakota/Nakota/Dakota nations and ask them to work with us to create, during the Aberdeen L. Frank Baum Conference and Festival, a Native American encampment in Aberdeen, re-creating the encampment of the Dakota band during Aberdeen's July 4, 1890 celebration. We celebrate the traditions of friendship and cooperation between Indians and non-Indians which were developing in the period preceding the massacre and will do our best to further those traditions.
We would like to see justice today for the Lakota and other Native American people. In view of the Candy Rough Surface murder case in Mobridge which went unsolved for fifteen years, and the two unsolved murders of Native American women in Aberdeen, we need to shine the light on these issues of the 1990's. Let us not slide back to the 1890's when the slaughter of Native American men, women and children was accepted and, in the case of the Wounded Knee massacre, rewarded with medals of honor.
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Baum Petition Responses
Rescind the medals of dis-Honor
Dr. Wagner's Testimony Regarding the Massacre at Wounded Knee
Wounded Knee Home Page
First NationsCumulative Index
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