Tim Giago: The Wounded Knee massacre and the Moon of Popping Trees

Tim Giago. Photo by Talli Nauman

Wounded Knee and the Moon of Popping Trees
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
Notes from Indian Country

While America agonizes over the contents of the Iraq Study Group and weighs the options of extricating its soldiers from the middle of a civil war, the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota will gather on a lonely hill overlooking the demolished village of Wounded Knee (Wounded Knee was destroyed during the occupation of the American Indian Movement in 1973 and was never rebuilt) to commemorate and grieve the massacre of their ancestors.

It was after a night so cold that the Lakota called it “The Moon of the Popping Trees” because as the winter winds whistled through the hills and gullies at Wounded Knee Creek on that morning of December 29, 1890, one could hear the twigs snapping in the frigid air.

When a soldier of George Armstrong Custer’s former troop the 7th Cavalry tried to wrest a hidden rifle from a deaf Lakota warrior after all of the other weapons had already been confiscated from Sitanka’s (Big Foot) band of Lakota people, the deafening report of that single shot caused pandemonium amongst the soldiers and they opened up with their Hotchkiss machine guns upon the unarmed men, women and children.

Thus began an action the government called a “battle” and the Lakota people called a “massacre.” The Lakota people say that only 50 people of the original 350 followers of Sitanka survived that morning of slaughter.

Read the rest of the story on the all new Native Sun News website: Wounded Knee and the Moon of Popping Trees

(Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is the retired publisher of Native Sun News. He was the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association, the 1985 recipient of the H. L. Mencken Award, and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1991. Giago was inducted into the South Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2008 and into the Native American Journalists Hall of Fame in 2013. He can be reached at unitysodak1@vastbb.net)

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