Opinion

Tim Giago: The man who called for 'extermination' of the Lakota





Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© 2014 Native Sun News

The year 2014 marks the 75th Anniversary of the Wizard of Oz movie starring Judy Garland.

Websites ranging from Amazon.com to e-Bay will be selling everything from Dorothy dolls to Monopoly sets, cups, glasses, box sets, and replicas of friendly lions, straw men and tin men.

And of course videos of the 1939 movie plus every book ever written by the author of the Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum will be offered for public consumption. After all, the movie is a classic that is loved by children around the world.

For 30 years I have written contrary editorials pointing out a major flaw in the armor of Mr. Baum. In 1891, just six days after the merciless slaughter of nearly 300 Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee, Baum, writing for the Pioneer newspaper in Aberdeen, South Dakota wrote:
“The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extirmination [sic] of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth. In this lies safety for our settlers and the soldiers who are under incompetent commands. Otherwise, we may expect future years to be as full of trouble with the redskins as those have been in the past.”

White folks reading this clearly overt call for genocide against the Lakota people are blind to its implications. What is it about the words “Total extermination” or “wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth” they fail to understand?

When Adolph Hitler used similar words to call for the extermination of the Jews in his book Mein Kampf he was roundly condemned by the so-called civilized world as a barbarian. Do the lives of the Lakota people have much less value to white Americans than that of the Jews?

There are descendants of the Lakota slaughtered at Wounded Knee still living on the Pine Ridge Reservation. They still remember and honor the victims of that massacre. The day of the massacre my own grandmother was living just 20 miles from the site and it was her life and the lives of my other relations that Baum was calling to exterminate. His call for genocide hits pretty close to home.

I once wrote a column titled, “Your heroes are not my heroes” and in this instance that sentence rings true. Dorothy and most of the characters in the Wizard of Oz were lovable and should never be condemned for the sins of the author, but I cannot find the forgiveness in my heart to overlook the rants of a formidable South Dakota newspaper editor who would call for the extermination of my family and my people. I could never look up to a man who considered genocide the solution to the so-called “Indian problem.”

Tim Giago, editor and publisher, Native Sun News can be reached at editor@nsweekly.com