Slavery, Native American Style, is memorialized today, on the 41st anniversary of the seizure of the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, February 27, 1973. A group of over 200 members of the American Indian Movement and their followers occupied Wounded Knee, the site of the infamous Wounded Knee Indian Massacre, where on December 29, 1890, over 300 men, women, children and the elderly were butchered and left to freeze grotesquely in the snow. Historians and students document Civil War atrocities committed by Southern Armies, but sometimes forget the war crimes of Union forces against the original inhabitants of North America. The United States highest military recognition, the Congressional Medal of Honor, was awarded to 20 officers and troopers of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, whose heroism was documented by the taking of body parts, as trophies of the vicious and one-sided battle. The war to end slavery of the black man was a noble and honorable cause, however the battle to free and honor the dignity of the Native American lies buried in the shame, humiliation and ignorance of all non native Americans.
The occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 was the end result of years of corruption and white dominated reservation influence. Members and supporters of the American Indian Movement or AIM were heavily armed and the Federal Government forces cordoned off the town and laid siege to the area for 73 days, from February 27 to May 5, 1973. The press and media were held at a distance, for their own protection, as continuing gun fire erupted on a daily basis. Reporters were also sequestered for most of the confrontation, in order to suppress the over whelming negative impact and end the native rebellion. The remoteness of the Pine Ridge Reservation and its squalid living conditions would also reflect poorly on the United States efforts to dispel its continuing policy of subjugation of reservation inhabitants. However, publicity of the siege leaked and many influential notables voiced their support and forced the government to end another possible massacre and embarrassment for the Federal Government. The final tally was 2 AIM and 1 dead FBI Agent, no dynamic change of policy or reservation politics and the intimidation, harassment, poverty and killing continued.
Slavery, submission to a dominating influence, according to the Federal Government is no longer an accepted policy or business in this country. In fact its abolishment is celebrated, especially in this period of the 150th year since the Civil War. The plight of the inner city and rural minorities has been addressed constantly by politicians and their minions, the progress of affirmative action, civil rights and upward mobility are extolled, the education and employee opportunities are unlimited, the poor, homeless, drug and alcohol addicted are being warehoused and the prisons have become second homes to many non violent offenders. Present and Past administrations continue a dynamic rhetoric regarding real change. It’s all bark and no bite.
The American Native was forcibly moved and corralled onto some of the most uninhabitable land on this continent. Barely fed and clothed, institutionalized by corrupt, greedy and uncaring Federal Agencies. Swept under the social carpet by politicians and land barons, under the guise of minority reform and charitable and humanitarian welfare. Nonsense! It is obvious that either no one cares or the shame of the matter is more than most can endure. Who cares, out of sight, out of mind. If you think the “old guy” is on a rant, you are right. He cares and has for over 50 years. A vested interest in ancestral heritage is at issue and when this student relates the atrocities of the white on black massacres during the Civil War, it brings up vivid memories of personal tragedies.
Since the Pine Ridge Reservation is Federal Land, all can visit, even if you might not be welcome, step back in time and witness the poverty, the contempt, the alcohol and drug abuse, violent crime, malnutrition, broken families, wounded veterans, homeless and hopeless American Natives, awaiting their monthly government dole. If it wasn’t so flat, barren and desolate, one might think you’re in Chicago or Detroit. Slavery, Native American Style, is alive and well in South Dakota and is remembered on the 41st Anniversary of the siege of Wounded Knee.