Editorial: South Dakota must own up to its ugly role in genocide

We’ll dig up his old racist ass and put Dorothy's dress on him!

Remembering L. Frank Baum and ‘The Wizard of Oz’
By Native Sun News Editorial Board

Tim Giago was the first Native American journalist to write on a national level about the South Dakota newspaper editor who called for genocide against the Sioux people in 1891.

When Giago wrote the cover story for USA Today in December of 1990, the 100th anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee, he included a paragraph about how L. Frank Baum wrote in an editorial for the Aberdeen (S.D.) Saturday Review, “Having wronged them before perhaps we should wrong them once again and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.” Baum wrote this editorial just six days after the Wounded Knee massacre.

He later went on to write the book “The Wizard of Oz.”

After Giago was asked to write a piece on Wounded Knee for USA Today to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the massacre, the Editorial Page Editor called Giago and told him that he would have to remove a comment about Baum from the news article. Giago told him to research it because it was true and further if he removed that paragraph from his article he should cancel the entire story. The editor went with the entire story.

When Baum wrote that editorial calling for genocide against the Sioux people the excuse given by present newspaper editors is that it was the way things were back then and that is why not a single newspaper in South Dakota questioned his call for the annihilation of the Sioux people. But since South Dakota claims to be a Christian state, wrong is wrong. One does not call for genocide against a people no matter the times.

The book by Baum went on to become a movie in 1939, a very popular children’s movie. Giago now feels that the movie makers and the people who wrote the wonderful songs for the movie cannot be held responsible for the actions of L. Frank Baum. They took a book and made it into a wonderful musical without knowing of Baum’s hatred of the Sioux Indians. “The Wizard of Oz” is still a very popular movie after all of these years and will probably continue to be; but Giago believes that the general population should at least know that the author of the book on which the movie was based was a racist of the first degree.

South Dakota became a state nearly one year before the massacre at Wounded Knee and was a state when 300 innocent people were slaughtered there.

We cannot change the past but we can at least own up to the ugly as well as the good. It is high time for South Dakota’s media to own up to the facts.

For more news and opinion, visit the all new Native Sun News website: Remembering L. Frank Baum and ‘The Wizard of Oz

(The Editorial Board of Native Sun News can be reached at editor@nsweekly.com)

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