Wounded Knee - Much More
Than Gun Confiscation

By Devvy
Exclusive to Rense

The past few months I've received many emails referring to gun confiscation and the Wounded Knee massacre, which happened on December 29, 1890. But, there is a lot more to the story as they say.

A good friend sent me the 'Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee' DVD; a made for cable film. You can watch the trailer here. That movie is based on the book of the same title by Dee Brown. While given generally excellent reviews, some have pointed out a few discrepancies with what's in the film and what is true history:

"So, let us undo some of the most important snafus first:

"The film opens with a young Ohiyesa -- Charles Eastman living in the village at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Eastman was never there. "Sitting Bull physically lashes his men for attempting to flee Canada for their old homeland. This was never the case. Sitting Bull did use the akicita (similar to law enforcement officers) to keep people from leaving Canada. The film accurately portrays why Sitting Bull took the actions he did. Sitting Bull surrenders at Standing Rock instead of Ft. Buford. Charles Eastman was not the right-hand man to Dawes in developing what would later become the Dawes Act."

Not having read Ms. Brown's book, I have no way to judge, but I do highly recommend watching the DVD. The cinematography is excellent, similiar to Dances with Wolves starring Kevin Costner, which took Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards in 1990. I believe the producers made a good decision not to use 'big' Hollywood names, athough a couple of the characters are known names; Adian Quinn and Anna Paquin. It's easy to sterotype actors and actresses, so using not so famous people made it more realistic.

Just as a parental warning, there are two very violent scenes in the movie. Little Big Horn where Native Americans did the killing and Wounded Knee where Native Americans are slaughtered. It's not pretty; both are a terrible stain in our history.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee deals with  the clash between the U.S. government and the Lakota who were led by Lakota Sioux Chief Sitting Bull. His actual death came at the hands of an Indian policeman at the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota; he was shot and killed.

Most Americans have some basic understanding of what happened to Native Americans when the U.S. government decided to round them up, steal their land and put the many different tribes onto "indian reservations". Naturally, that didn't sit well with Native Americans and so they fought back. But, being out gunned and out numbered, the days of freedom to roam the open land came to a bloody, violent end.

I would say it was all about greed. As the railroads and land barons made their way across the territories, the only thing that stood in the way of "progess" were "the indians". When gold was discovered in the Black Hills in the mid-1870s, what was once the land of free men, women and children became a war zone. Wounded Knee was about rounding up free men and women and forcing them to stay "contained" on reservations. The U.S. government entered into treaties with tribes and five minutes later broke them. Round them all up so as not to allow "red men" to mix with polite society. I don't think anyone can deny that was the mindset back then.

One would think history could have been written in a different way, but it was not to be and too many people died.

One of the more interesting things my friend mentioned was to look at the object around the neck of Chief Sitting Bull in the movie. It's a crucifix prompting some to wonder if Sitting Bull was Catholic or did he merely find the crucifix an ornament he wanted to wear? Interesting question so I did some research:

"Iyotake, 1831-1890) one of the most famous of the Unkpapa Sioux, a Lakota Medicine Man and Chief, was considered the last Sioux to surrender to a land-grabbing, aggressive and oppressive US Government. He is famous for his tribe’s defeat of Colonel George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of the Greasy Grass (aka the Little Big Horn or Custer’s Last Stand). In his later life he converted to the Catholic Church being instructed by Bishop Marty of Dakota, and, after his death, was buried in a Catholic graveyard."

What has always bothered me is the way Native Americans were treated by so-called "Christians" simply because their skin was a little different in color or that they "looked" different. As with slavery, until the day I die, I will never understand how people could own another human being or simply shoot Native Americans - children, women, it didn't matter - just because they were different.

I know myself and I know had I been alive during the slave period, I would never, ever have condoned owning another human being. Yes, I know the history of the south and I know black Americans also owned slaves. That doesn't make it right. I also know there is no way I could have ever treated Native Americans the way they were treated by those who came to take from them. It took a long, long time until Native Americans were treated with decency and respect.

The massacre at Wounded Knee is a perfect example of mankind losing its humanity. Tragically, it continues in various parts of the world on a daily basis.

One of the worst things back then and now is the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The alleged intention was to "help" Native Americans after they were rounded up like cattle, but in some regards, they were treated worse by BIA agents than other people:

"In a powerful and moving speech at a ceremony commemorating the Bureau of Indian Affairs' l75th anniversary, Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin Gover today apologized for the ethnic cleansing and cultural an nihilation the BIA had wrought against American Indian and Alaska Native people in years past. Speaking before an estimated audience of 300 people, most of whom were BIA employees, he observed that the event was not an occasion for celebration, but a time for reflection and contrition.

"We desperately wish that we could change this history," Gover said, "but of course we cannot. On behalf of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, I extend this formal apology to Indian people for the historical conduct of this agency."

"Gover pointed out that the agency's lengthy cultural assault on American Indians and Alaska Natives for most of its history, particularly on the children sent to BIA boarding schools and their parents, has yielded a trauma of shame, fear, and anger that has passed from generation to generation fueling the alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence that continues to plague Indian country. "These wrongs," he said, "must be acknowledged if the healing is to begin."

That was back in 2000. Not much has changed. Conditions on many reservations are still poor; they are racked with violence and alcohol issues. For decades, I've been a firm supporter of abolishing the BIA and turning over the 320 reservations to Native Americans and let them manage their own lives. With 55.7 million acres, the possibilities for financial growth are endless. Some Native Americans disagree with me, but if you give an adult a baby bottle, how on earth do you expect them to be an adult?

Native Americans have "come a long way" over the centuries and believe it or not, what are referred to as Indian Casinos. have in some cases gone a long way in helping Native American tribes build their future and live fulfilling lives while not abandoning their heritage and culture. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed in 1988, which set the stage for casino revenues owned by Native American tribes. Billions of dollars since then have help some with education and infrastructure, but a lot of factors have hampered growth efforts. In 2006, the benevolent in Congress passed new laws making it easier for some tribes protect their own casino interests from those tribes that are outside reservations.

But, not everyone has benefited from Indian Gaming:

Casinos Not Paying Off for Indians

"The plaque outside the Apache Gold Casino declares the $40 million hotel, golf and gambling resort has “helped enable the San Carlos Apache Tribe to give a better quality of life to its tribal members.” But seven years after the casino opened — and four years after the debut of a glittering new complex — many Apache families still crowd in small apartments or mobile homes. The reservation’s unemployment rate has climbed from 42 percent in 1991 to 58 percent in 1997, the latest year available. The number of tribal members receiving welfare has jumped 20 percent. And the tribal government still grants home sites without water and sewer connections.

“We get no help from the casino, no money, nothing,” said Pauline Randall, 75, a lifelong resident of San Carlos.

$8 Billion and Little Change

"Similar complaints echo across the 1.8 million acre reservation in east Arizona, but they could just as easily be heard on many other Indian reservations across the country that have built casinos in the past decade. Despite an explosion of Indian gambling revenues — from $100 million in 1988 to $8.26 billion a decade later — an Associated Press computer analysis of federal unemployment, poverty and public assistance records indicates the majority of American Indians have benefited little."

I don't claim to be an expert on Native American affairs, but it seems to me there needs to be better leadership and allocation of money -- especially for education. Kids who read succeed and children given a proper education have a much better chance at making it in life as we know. A couple of decades ago in a chance encounter, I was priviledged to meet and speak with the late Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation. Her mission was to bring her people out of poverty and become self-reliant.

Unfortunately, like so many industries, Indian gaming has suffered financially since 2008:

Native American Tribes Seek More Federal Aid As Casinos Struggle

In better financial times, Pequots distributed stipends of more than $100,000 a year to adult tribe members

"The Pequots at one point were so thriving, they distributed stipends of more than $100,000 a year to adult members. But in 2008 their financial situation changed after taking on a costly expansion of the 30-story MGM Grand hotel and casino just as the recession hit. The next year, the tribe defaulted on debt exceeding $2 billion, the AP story said."

I think there should be some audits of casinos nationwide to see where they're going wrong and what can be done to turn things around. Audits done by the tribes using outside firms, not the U.S. government. Billions of dollars and little change is not progress. With all the talented, educated Native Americans in this country, I do believe better can get done.




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