Monday, December 29, 2014

The massacre at Wounded Knee: December 29, 1890 -- and today

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

December 29 is the anniversary of the massacre of the Lakota at Wounded Knee by elements of the US Army, which took place in 1890. As painful as it is to read the details of this massacre, it is vitally important to know them. 

It is vitally important so that those whose lives were taken are not forgotten.

It is also vitally important because, as Lakota Holy Man Black Elk explains, a people's dream died there at Wounded Knee.

It is also vitally important because the mass murder that resulted in the crushing of this dream at Wounded Knee is also an example of mass mind control, in that an entire society was needed to support the army that did the killing in gross violation of natural law. It is vitally important that we understand how this could happen, and understand the illusions that were at work to enable members of that society to support those criminal actions, and to enable the soldiers and officers to perpetrate those actions, in gross violation of natural law.

It is also vitally important because the events which led up to the massacre fit into the pattern of centuries-long enmity by the descendants of the western Roman Empire and its literalistic religious and political systems against direct unmediated contact with the spirit realm.

We who are alive today should all consider the details of this massacre, as painful as it is to do so.

Lakota holy man Black Elk (1863 - 1950) describes the massacre at Wounded Knee:
It was now near the end of the Moon of Popping Trees, and I was twenty-seven years old (December, 1890). We heard that Big Foot was coming down from the Badlands with nearly four hundred people. Some of these were from Sitting Bull's band. They had run away when Sitting Bull was killed, and joined Big Foot on Good River. There were only about a hundred warriors in this band, and all the others were women and children and some old men. They were all starving and freezing, and Big Foot was so sick they had to bring him along in a pony drag. They had all run away to hide in the Badlands, and they were coming in now because they were starving and freezing. When they crossed Smoky Earth River, they followed up Medicine Root Creek to its head. Soldiers were over there looking for them. The soldiers had everything and were not freezing and starving. Near Porcupine Butte the soldiers came up to the Big Foots, and they surrendered and went along with the soldiers to Wounded Knee Creek where the Brennan store is now.
It was in the evening when we heard that the Big Foots were camped over there with the soldiers, about fifteen miles by the old road from where we were. It was the next morning (December 29, 1890) that something terrible happened.
[. . .]
I heard from my friend, Dog Chief, how the troubled started, and he was right there by Yellow Bird when it happened. This is the way it was:
In the morning the soldiers began to take all the guns away from the Big Foots, who were camped in the flat below the little hill where the monument and burying ground are now. The people had stacked most of their guns, and even their knives, by the tepee where Big Foot was lying sick. Soldiers were on the little hill and all around, and there were soldiers across the dry gulch to the south and over east along Wounded Knee Creek too. The people were nearly surrounded, and the wagon-guns were pointing at them.
Some had not yet given up their guns, and so the soldiers were searching all the tepees, throwing things around and poking into everything. There was a man called Yellow Bird, and he and another man were standing in front of the tepee where Big Foot was lying sick. They had white sheets around and over them, and eyeholes to look through, and they had guns under these. An officer came to search them. He took the other man's gun, and the started to take Yellow Bird's. But Yellow Bird would not let go. He wrestled with the officer, and while they were wrestling, the gun went off and killed the officer. Wasichus and some others have said he meant to do this, but Dog Chief was standing right there, and he told me it was not so. As soon as the gun went off, Dog Chief told me, an officer shot and killed Big Foot who was lying sick inside the tepee. 
Then suddenly nobody knew what was happening, except that the soldiers were all shooting and the wagon-guns began going off right in among the people.
Many were shot down right there. The women and children ran into the gulch and up west, dropping all the time, for the soldiers shot them as they ran. There were only about a hundred warriors and there were nearly five hundred soldiers. The warriors rushed to where they had piled their guns and knives. They fought the soldiers with only their hands until they got their guns. 
Dog Chief saw Yellow Bird run into a tepee with his gun, and from there he killed soldiers until the tepee caught fire. Then he died full of bullets.
It was a good winter day when all this happened. The sun was shining. But after the soldiers marched away from their dirty work, a heavy snow began to fall. The wind came up in the night. There was a big blizzard, and it grew very cold. The snow drifted deep in the crooked gulch, and it was one long grave of butchered women and children and babies, who had never done any harm and were only trying to run away. Black Elk Speaks, 194 - 201.
The basic details of the massacre described above are supported by the account of contemporary James Mooney, in his report published in 1896:
On the morning of December 29, 1890, preparations were made to disarm the Indians preparatory to taking them to the agency and thence to the railroad. In obedience to instructions the Indians had pitched their tipis on the open plain a short distance west of the creek and surrounded on all sides by the soldiers. In the center of the camp the Indians had hoisted a white flag as a sign of peace and a guarantee of safety. Behind them was a dry ravine running into the creek, and on a slight rise in the front was posted the battery of four Hotchkiss machine guns, trained directly on the Indian camp. In front, behind, and on both flanks of the camp were posted the various troops of cavalry, a portion of the two troops, together with the Indian scouts, being dismounted and drawn up in front of the Indians at the distance of only a few yards from them. Big Foot himself was ill of pneumonia in his tipi, and Colonel Forsyth, who had taken command as senior officer, had provided a tent warmed with a camp stove for his reception.
Shortly after 8 oclock in the morning the warriors were ordered to come out from the tipis and deliver their arms. They came forward and seated themselves on the ground in front of the troops. [. . .] It is said one of the searchers now attempted to raise the blanket of a warrior. Suddenly Yellow Bird stooped down and threw a handful of dust into the air, when, as if this were the signal, a young Indian, said to have been Black Fox from Cheyenne river, drew a rifle from under his blanket and fired at the soldiers, who instantly replied with a volley directly into the crowd of warriors and so near that their guns were almost touching. From the number of sticks set up by the Indians to mark where the dead fell, as seen by the author a year later, this one volley must have killed nearly half the warriors. [. . .]
At the first volley the Hotchkiss guns trained on the camp opened fire and sent a storm of shells and bullets among the women and children, who had gathered in front of the tipis to watch the unusual spectacle of military display. The guns poured in 2-pound explosive shells at the rate of nearly fifty per minute, mowing down everything alive. The terrible effect may be judged from the fact that one woman survivor, Blue Whirlwind, with whom the author conversed, received fourteen wounds, while each of her two little boys was also wounded by her side. In a few minutes 200 Indian men, women, and children, with 60 soldiers, were lying dead and wounded on the ground, the tipis had been torn down by the shells and some of them were burning above the helpless wounded, and the surviving Indians were flying in wild panic to the shelter of the ravine, pursued by hundreds of maddened soldiers and followed up by a raking fire from the Hotchkiss guns, which had been moved into position to sweep the ravine.
There can be no question that the pursuit was simply a massacre, where fleeing women, with infants in their arms, were shot down after resistance had ceased and when almost every warrior was stretched dead or dying on the ground. On this point such a careful writer as Herbert Welsh says: "From the fact that so many women and children were killed, and that their bodies were found far from the scene of action, and as though they were shot down while flying, it would look as though blind rage had been at work, in striking contrast to the moderation of the Indian police at the Sitting Bull fight when they were assailed by women" (Welsh, 3). The testimony of American Horse and other friendlies is strong in the same direction (see page 839). Commissioner Morgan in his official report says that "Most of the men, including Big Foot, were killed around his tent, where he lay sick. The bodies of the women and children were scattered along a distance of two miles from the scene of the encounter" (Comr., 35). The Ghost-Dance Religion and Wounded Knee, 869 - 870.
The diagram below from Mooney's report (unnumbered pages between 868 and 869) shows the gulch and the position of the Sioux and the soldiers, as well as the Hotchkiss guns upon a commanding rise. The flight along the gulley continued to the west, off of the page to the left.

From the descriptions above, one from Black Elk and one from Mooney and both based upon conversations with those present, it is fairly clear that one of the Lakota fired first, but then that noncombatants were brutally slaughtered, and that the slaughter went to undeniably criminal lengths, to the point of chasing down women and children to distances of up to two miles -- women and children who were trying to escape the massacre and were mercilessly tracked down and butchered.

While some might point to the fact of one of the Lakota firing first and argue that this situation was a "complicated" one, and one which is difficult to judge from this remove of over 100 years, there is more to the story which effectively removes such arguments. 

The band of Lakota who were "surrendering" consisted of a group that had fled from the reservations, where they had been rounded up and imprisoned, into the Badlands. It was one of many such groups who had fled into the Badlands that winter. The situation is described in this previous post, regarding the death of Lakota holy man Tatanka Iyotanke, Sitting Bull. That post also includes a map showing the various agencies, with the Badlands in between the agencies in the north and in the south. 

The reason that so many Lakota were fleeing the reservations into the Badlands, despite the bitter cold of the winter, was the sudden arrival of thousands of federal troops -- at least 3,000 in number -- a development that was understandably terrifying to the Sioux who had been rounded up and forced onto the reservations. Even before they fled into the Badlands, they had good reason to be afraid of the possible consequences of the arrival of so many soldiers. The massacre at Wounded Knee shows that their fears were well-founded.

And what precipitated the deployment of so many soldiers? 

As that previous post regarding the killing of Sitting Bull explains, the soldiers were called in to prevent the Lakota from participating in the Ghost Dance too frequently. Mooney provides plenty of detail regarding the escalation in tension that eventually led to the massive influx of federal troops, which caused hundreds to flee into the Badlands. He notes that the agents in charge of the individual reservations were nearly unanimous in their opinion that the Ghost Dance was not in any way violent, nor was it seen as a prelude to violence. There are plenty of written accounts demonstrating that its precepts, in fact, called for an end to making war against the whites (see for example Mooney, 780 - 783). But the US government wanted it curtailed.

Black Elk recalls:
While these things were happening, the summer (1890) was getting old. I did not then know all that was going on at other places, but some things I heard, and much more I heard later.
When Good Thunder and Kicking Bear came back in the spring from seeing the Wanekia, the Wasichus at Pine Ridge put them in prison awhile, and then let them go. This showed the Wasichus were afraid of something. In the Moon of Black Cherries (August) many people were dancing at No Water's Camp on Clay Creek, and the agent came and told them to stop dancing. They would not stop, and they said they would fight for their religion if they had to do it. The agent went away, and they kept on dancing. They called him Young-Man-Afraid-of-Lakotas.
Later, I heard that the Brules were dancing over east of us; and then I heard that Big Foot's people were dancing on the Good River reservation; also that Kicking Bear had gone to Sitting Bull's camp on Grand River, and that the people were dancing there too. Word came to us that the Indians were beginning to dance everywhere.
The people were hungry and in despair, and many believed in the good new world that was coming. The Wasichus gave us less than half the beef cattle they promised us in the treaty, and these cattle were very poor. For a while our people would not take the cattle, because there were so few of them and they were so poor. But afterwhile they had to take them or starve to death. So we got more lies than cattle, and we could not eat lies. When the agent told the people to quit dancing, their hearts were bad.
[. . .]
When I cam back from the Brules, the weather was getting cold. Many of the Brules came along when I came back, and joined the Ogalalas in the dancing on Wounded Knee. We heard that there were soldiers at Pine Ridge and that others were coming all the time. Then one morning we heard that the soldiers were marching toward us, so we broke camp and moved west to Grass Creek. From there we went to White Clay and camped awhile and danced. 
There came to us Fire Thunder, Red Wound and Young American Horse with a message from the soldiers that this matter of the ghost dance must be looked into, and that there should be rulings over it; and that they did not mean to take the dance away from us. But could we believe anything the Wasichus ever said to us? They spoke with forked tongues.
We moved in closer to Pine Ridge and camped. Many soldiers were there now, and what were they there for?
There was a big meeting with the agent, but I did not go to hear. He made a ruling that we could dance three days every moon, and the rest of the time we should go and make a living for ourselves somehow. He did not say how we could do that. But the people agreed to this. 191 - 193.
It should be noted that it was not alleged that the Ghost Dance was violent, or a precursor to violence. So, did the agents of the US government have a right to prohibit other men and women from participating in it?  What gives anyone legitimate permission to stop another person from dancing if he or she wishes to do so? The principles of natural law explain that people do not suddenly obtain legitimate permission to stop others from doing things simply by virtue of being called  an agent of a government. People have a right (and a duty) at all times to stop violence -- this is true whether or not they are acting in a position as an agent of government. But they do not have a right to stop behavior of others which is not violent, simply because they do not like it or think that it is unproductive. This becomes even more obvious if that behavior is part of the religious expression of another person, although there is no right to stop it either way.

The Constitution of the United States as originally enacted and ratified contains a clear statement acknowledging this inherent right of men and women, and denying the legitimacy of the government to infringe upon that inherent right. It is called the First Amendment and it declares: 
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The agents of the US government, in seeking to prohibit the right of peaceable assembly and the free exercise of religion of the men and women whom the government had forced onto the agencies, were clearly acting in all violation of natural law, and of the Constitution's recognition of the rights of individuals under natural law. The decision to deploy federal troops to back up these unconstitutional and unlawful and hence tyrannical efforts led directly to the flight of the Sioux into the Badlands despite the freezing conditions, and ultimately to the massacre at Wounded Knee as well.

It should be clear from the foregoing discussion that this opposition to the Ghost Dance, which involved the inducement of trance-conditions in large numbers of the participants, who afterwards would almost universally report visions of contact with the spirit world (see discussion in this previous post) fits into the pattern of opposition to direct contact with the spirit world that has characterized "the west" since the days of the western Roman Empire, when the Emperor Theodosius shut down the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Temple and Oracle at Delphi.

This raises the question of whether or not someone in western culture secretly believes that activities such as the Ghost Dance actually have an impact upon the spirit world, as those who participated in the Ghost Dance believed it to have. Note that Black Elk concluded from the opposition the US government demonstrated against the Ghost Dance: "This showed the Wasichus were afraid of something."

This opposition can be demonstrated to continue to this day. It can also be demonstrated to have frequently employed violence in its opposition to this direct contact with the spirit world (this direct contact with the spirit world being a hallmark of the shamanic worldview and of shamanic cultures). In addition to violence, the enemies of the shamanic can be shown to use a full spectrum assault on the shamanic culture that they wish to eradicate. This full-spectrum assault was employed against the Native peoples of the Americas with devastating effect.

After describing the events at Wounded Knee, Black Elk ends his narrative with these words:
And so it was all over.
I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this 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.
And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth, -- you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation's hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead. 207.
But Black Elk has not "done nothing." He has articulated his great vision, and shared it with the world. And he has testified to the criminal acts that were perpetrated against the men and women and children of his people, and by extension against the men and women and children of many other peoples around the world, not only in the Americas but also in Europe, in Africa, India, Asia, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific by those under the spell of the same illusions that enabled entire societies to support and even cheer for the destruction of the Native American cultures.

The question individuals living today must ask is: How can anyone look at such criminal actions and argue that they are excusable? 

What are the illusions that fool people into supporting criminal behavior on such a scale?

And to what extent are men and women today -- even men and women who might look back on the criminal acts perpetrated against the Lakota and the other peoples of the Americas in past decades or centuries -- buying into new illusions which hypnotize them into supporting other crimes that fall into this same hideous pattern, and which proclaim that the Massacre at Wounded Knee is not just an event from the distant past, but a terrible sign which speaks as loudly today as it did so many moons ago?