Opinion

Jacqueline Keeler: Why we still mourn Wounded Knee 1890





Jacqueline Keeler reflects on media, mascots and the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre:
Then on December 29 came the anniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre (1890), just three days after the Dakota 38 riders reached Mankato bearing gifts for reconciliation for the town. A tweet by @williamcander of the image of the burial of the frozen victims’ bodies was retweeted hundreds of times with my twitter name attached to it. My Twitter stream became filled with that painful image repeated ad infinitum regarding the December 29th, 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota: “123 years ago this past Sunday, 150 #Lakota men/women/children were massacred by the US 7th Calvary @ #WoundedKnee H/T @jfkeeler.” Each time someone would retweet it would show up again on my timeline, and so, even though I clicked on the image only one time, the long rectangular hole dug for mass burial with the bodies of Lakota people strewn in it and those waiting frozen on the ground while white men pose, holding guns or with their hands at their hips as if for a job well done — that grave stayed in my mind.

That image is filled with all those things that, as Native people, we cannot name, and remains a symbol of all the ways in which we are not allowed to be ordinary Americans simply living our lives in the most powerful nation in the world. December 29th, 1890 is the date when we became a marginalized people denied the comfort of being part of a nation that recognizes our experiences and commemorates them with us. We live out our lives in this so-called democracy in a twilight existence where the only time Americans remember us is as we were then, when we were truly separate from them. Then they dress up “like us” with feathered headbands made in China and cheer for their sports teams on weekends named to “honor” us, not acknowledging us as we are today, as our encounter with them has made us. But still, after all this time, we are different because we remember; we remember Wounded Knee — and Mankato — and The Long Walk — and every broken promise that we must, for our own good, put aside to live in this new country, the United States. It only makes it harder that they do not join us in this; it makes what we lost, the millions of acres and lives of our loved ones feel cheapened and unappreciated and forgotten and makes their present-day ignorance of us even harder to bear.

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Jacqueline Keeler: Why We Still Mourn for Wounded Knee (Indian Country Today 1/3)