Like Grass Before the Sickle
Shortly before the time of the massacre. On front, Big Foot's frozen body.
December 29 marks the 125th anniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre, when soldiers from the U.S. 7th Cavalry gunned down almost 300 cold, hungry, unarmed Lakota Sioux men, women and children who had come together for a Ghost Dance. For days, the bodies of Chief Big Foot (Spotted Elk) and his band lay frozen in the snow; they were eventually buried in a rough mass grave. After decades of Native-American demands for an apology - during which time the massacre was consistently, insidiously dubbed a "battle" in U.S. history books - Congress expressed “deep regret to the Sioux people and in particular to the descendants of the victims and survivors of this terrible tragedy…” They declared the event a massacre, but declined to use the word "apology."
Today, many Native Americans still struggle to reclaim that history, and heal the wounds from a final atrocity that many argue heralded the end of the culture of the Plains Indians. In 1986, members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe began an annual 13-day Big Foot Memorial Ride, retracing on horseback the difficult journey taken in 1890 by Chief Big Foot and his people to Pine Ridge in order to release their spirits. Over time, the pilgrimage has evolved into a means of renewal and passing on of history to younger generations that continue to carry its scars. Says one Sioux, "Wounded Knee is today." Video below captures some of the searing horror of Wounded Knee. Warning: graphic.
"I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from the high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream." - Black Elk.