The Wounded Knee memorial site on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: Dudley Edmondson / National Park Service

Victor Swallow: We are a broken and scattered people. How do we rebuild?

Where does one begin to re-build a culture destroyed?

By Victor D. Swallow
Native Sun News Today Columnist

Most of what I write about are people that lived in the Red Shirt Table and Oglala area where I lived till 1960.

My mother Lizzie Two Bulls talked a lot to me and my older brother John Swallow II. We payed attention and asked questions and in later years I started to write down what my mother told me. I will continue to share these stories.

This next story is about three Lakota men that my mother knew that lived through an ever changing era from roaming free and hunting to the Government killing all the buffalo to the Little Big Horn battle in Montana in 1876.

They experienced the Ghost Dance that came about that brought hope to the Lakota people of a returning nomadic lifestyle. They also lived through the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 where they knew about the slaughter of their elders, their women and their children.

These old Lakota men were at the Little Big Horn battle all were in the Manderson and Holy Rosary Mission area at the time of the Wounded Knee Massacre. My grandfather Fred Two Bulls was at Holy Rosary Mission. He was 20 years old and his first child was born there 18 days after the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Victor Swallow. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

He never said whether he believed in the Ghost Dance but he did go to prison. Mom said some place in Indiana and from there to Europe performing in the Wild West Show. They started enrolling Indians they were given first names they asked one old fellow what name he wanted and he said, “Jesus.” They said he couldn’t have that name and asked what other name and he said, “Mary.” Many Lakota from that time till now have biblical first names. I don’t know what name he ended up with.

Mom talked about brothers named Drags Rope, Mountain Sheep and Wilson Knee. In later years I did find out what Drags Rope’s first name is Joe. I went to a museum in Timber Lake where there was a display of a gadget to start fire that was given to a Mrs. Laplante known as “Wincincala” by her cousin Joe Drags Rope. The curator of the museum, a nice guy, named Jim Nelson told me that Joe Drags Rope wasn’t a Cheyenne River name.

My mother told me sometime in the 1920s a Mrs. Laplante, who had one blue eye, also had a little boy named Victor came to visit her cousin Mountain Sheep. I found a later an account of Drags Rope in a biography of Custer I read in the book The Son of the Morning Star by Evan S. Connell.

It mentions an account of a lost breadbox given by an Oglala named Drags Rope in 1939. My mother told me the men she knew were at the Battle of Little Big Horn were High Eagle, Drags Rope and Jim Comes Again who was also known as Bear Comes Growling they were young men. I assume that Mountain Sheep and Wilson Knee was also there because they were Drags Rope brothers but mother never mentioned that. All these men lived their childhood roaming free hunting and preparing for winter. They celebrated victory when attacked by a source much smaller than they were.

They witnessed broken treaties and the destruction of the buffalo which was their life line and their way of life. The Ghost Dance movement came and gave them hope that their old way of life would return and also the Europeans would be gone. The Wounded Knee Massacre happened and their hopes were shattered and spirits broken realizing you can’t win against a people that disarms you and kills old men, women and children. The government outlawed their most sacred ceremony the Sun Dance. My grandpa Jimmy Comes Again was last of the wild ones and a scout before the Wounded Knee Massacre and he never forgot the destruction of his old life.

Mom said it was rumored Jimmy evened things up when he came on a lone white man. In the later years of his life he was a little humped over man with skinny braids. He drew a scout’s pension. I believe he passed away in the late 1940s. These men in that generation had their lives turned upside down. They had that lost feeling with no hope.

They survived through it all eating horse meat, prairie dog, roots, berries and rations from the Government. We are a broken people and most of us wouldn’t know how to survive without the help from the same Government that destroyed our ancestor’s ability to take care of themselves. Things have to change but where to start. Now we are here with all our problems.

It’s said Little Wolf of the Cheyenne people prayed at Bear Butte and said, “Great Spirit hear me, the people are broken and scattered. Let the winds bring a few seeds together that we may grow strong again in a good place.”

The question is where do we start?


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Victor D. Swallow was born in 1939, Oglala Lakota, U. S. Navy Veteran, 50 year member of Bricklayers Union, Optimistic realist and fair. Victor can be reached at his daughter’s email address at

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