When the missionaries left, we ambled over and spoke with the woman, a grandmother selling the wares of her son, Hehaka Tiospaye. Yes, the missionaries were annoying, and yes they were insulting. She looked off across the empty parking lot and sighed. She was friendly to us, told us that we should visit the small cemetery and memorial across the street, that we could walk along the creek a few hundred yards down the road, that we were welcome by the Lakota people.
The massacre commemorated by the sign occurred in 1890 and marked the end of the American cavalry's war on the native peoples. Ostensibly a mission to "disarm" the "Indians," when the operation was over some 150-300 men, women, and children lay murdered in the frozen wastes. It was the last of a long list of atrocities visited upon the Plains Indians by the United States government, the conclusion of a decades-long campaign of what we now call ethnic cleansing.
Though designated a National Historic Site, the Wounded Knee Massacre Memorial site seems, like the reservation surrounding it, impoverished, ignored, forgotten by the outside. Ignored except by the Christian missionaries, that is.
More recent graves surrounded the plinth itself and reminded visitors that history is not static, that Lakota men and women continue to live and die here, that, though a way of life was exterminated, the people were not, despite the inglorious efforts of the U.S. government.
Just below the cemetery sits a round building with a sign declaring Indian Holocaust Museum. Inside, homemade displays documented a more recent history at Wounded Knee, the siege and assault by the FBI in the 1973 (sometimes referred to as the "Wounded Knee Incident") and the resistance of AIM, the American Indian Movement.
|Museum Building center right|
At the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee you can sign an Amnesty International petition for his release and also see exactly how long Peltier has been incarcerated (at this writing he's been in prison for 13,720 days 8 hours 22 minutes and counting).
You can write to Leonard at:
USP Coleman I
P.O. Box 1033
Coleman, FL 33521