Opinion

Ernestine Chasing Hawk: Suffering continues after Wounded Knee





The following is the opinion of Ernestine Chasing Hawk. All content © Native Sun News.


The victims of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee are loaded up on carts for burial. Photo from Wikipedia

One apology can’t erase a century of oppression
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Staff Writer

Especially when the offense that elicited that apology created long-term devastation.

Because the family of Frank L. Baum apologized, am I or other members of the Mniconjou and Hunkpapa Lakota Nations obligated to accept that apology.

Did that apology bring with it reparations for the atrocities committed against our people who were massacred at Čhaŋkpé Ópi Wakpála.

Baum words to us epitomize the past century of oppressive government policy that continues to plague our people. Inciting the masses to genocide Baum wrote:
“The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination 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.”
General Nelson A. Miles who visited the aftermath “discovered to his horror that helpless children and women with babies in their arms had been chased as far as two miles from the original scene of encounter and cut down without mercy by the troopers. ...”

The survivors, made their way back to the place that is named for them, “Takini,” which means “to die and come back” or “survivors,” of the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Takini is located on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in Ziebach County which according to the 2010 U.S. Census is the poorest county in the United States where more than 60 percent of the people live below the poverty level.

Ziebach and neighboring Dewey County consist almost entirely of agricultural land where there is no casino, no oil reserves or available natural resources, with much as 80 percent unemployment.

Perhaps Ray Halbritter’s lack of empathy for those of us less fortunate can best be explained in a series in the New York Times titled, “The Great Divide” about inequality in the United States. Daniel Goleman suggests in his piece, “Rich people just care less” that people with the most social power pay scant attention to those with little power.

“A prerequisite to empathy is simply paying attention to the person in pain,” Goleman states. Halbritter’s ability to readily dismiss the concerns of the poorest people in the nation as “inconvenient” can readily extend to his dismissing “inconvenient truths” about us.

It is my belief Halbritter is so far removed from the daily realities those of us living on the northern plains of South Dakota face and the fact that we still live with the aftermath of the Wounded Knee Massacre, he cannot fathom what that feels and looks like.

Is it no coincidence that the very people who staged one of the last Indian wars against the United States government at the Battle of the Little Big Horn and won are the very same people that were massacred at Wounded Knee? Is it just a coincidence that we continue to live in poverty? I think not.

While those of us living on the Northern Plains of South Dakota continue to suffer the pangs of poverty, Halbritter will be living in his magical kingdom and prancing merrily down his “Yellow Brick Road” to prosperity ‘paying homage” to Frank L. Baum.

However members of the Oceti Sakowin (the Great Sioux Nation) will continue to “pay homage” to those who were massacred at Čhaŋkpé Ópi Wakpála. They will continue until the medals that were awarded to members of the Seventh Cavalry are removed. They will continue until survivors of that massacre are compensated by the U.S. Government. They will continue until our sacred He Sapa is returned to us.

In 2015, the Big Foot Riders will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the ride which began on the hundredth anniversary of the massacre in 1990, because we cannot and will not forget as long as our people continue to suffer the aftermath of Wounded Knee. It isn’t over till it’s over.

(Ernestine Chasing Hawk can be reached at staffwriter2@nsweekly.com)

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