The Wounded Knee Cemetery on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: Adam Singer

Tim Giago: How 'The Wizard of Oz' remains connected to the genocide of our people

Genocide and ‘The Wizard of Oz’

By Tim Giago
Editor Emeritus
Native Sun News Today

The Broadway Production of the children’s musical, “Mein Kampf” will be at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center on November 6 – 9, 2017.

Now suppose you read this announcement in a local newspaper or saw it on a local television station. “A children’s play based on Adolph Hitler’s book?” The clamor would be overwhelming. Here is a book written by a man who called for the genocide of the Jewish race. He not only wrote about it but attempted to carry it out.

The billboards and newspaper ads I am mimicking are those announcing the Broadway Play, “The Wizard of Oz” that will be appearing in Rapid City on December 9 and 10. Why the comparison? Let’s take a close look at some of South Dakota’s more nefarious history because this part of it is synonymous with Hitler’s efforts at genocide.

On December 29, 1890, Sophie Giago was working at the Holy Rosary Indian Mission about 15 miles from Wounded Knee Creek. The troops of the 7th Cavalry had just stopped Chief Sitanka and his 300 followers at Wounded Knee. In what turned out to be one of the deadliest massacres in American history, the Hotchkiss guns mounted on the hills surrounding Wounded Knee sprang into action and began to mow down nearly 300 innocent Lakota men, women and children leaving their torn and bloody bodies scattered for miles along the Creek.

Elements of the cavalry, pursuing stragglers, boldly rode on to the Mission grounds, some with blood on their uniforms and gloves, and Sophie and the other Lakota employees and students were forced to water and feed their horses. Eight days later an editorial appeared in the Aberdeen (SD) Saturday Review written by the editor, L. Frank Baum. He wrote about the massacre that had just occurred at Wounded Knee with this editorial, “Having wronged them before perhaps we should wrong them one more time and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.”

A view of the canyon in South Dakota where the December 29, 1890, Wounded Knee Massacre took place. Photo: Library of Congress

Read that last sentence again. In plain English this newspaper editor is calling for “genocide” against the Lakota people. There is no other conclusion any one of normal intelligence can reach about this quote. But then again, he was just calling for the murder of Indians and that was totally inconsequential to the white settlers and so-called pioneers of that era. Sophie Giago, her friend’s and her entire family should be wiped from the face of the earth. That is how the Lakota people read it.

L. Frank Baum wrote the book, “The Wizard of Oz” 10 years later. And now, this man who called for genocide against a people, is being lauded for a play based on his book. Think about it: He, just like Adolph Hitler, called for the genocide of a race of people. Now what is the difference to what Hitler wrote and what L. Frank Baum wrote? There is none. But then keep in mind that Hitler was just writing about Jews and Baum about Indians, totally inconsequential to the Master Race and the white settlers.

Sophie Giago was my grandmother and so for those who want to chalk up Baum’s call for genocide as ancient history; they are wrong. My grandmother held me on her lap when I was a baby and so to me, and to the rest of the Giago family and the Lakota people, it is not ancient history. But the play will go on because no one, except the Lakota people, will make the connection between Hitler and Baum. When it comes to the Indian people “genocide” is a word that is merely whispered. The holocaust of the Jews was a real part of the world’s history, but the genocide of the American Indians was a mere footnote.

Contact Tim Giago, Editor Emeritus of Native Sun News Today at

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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