The Wounded Knee cemetery on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: tygerbelton

Native Sun News Today: Apology offered for Wounded Knee massacre

An apology for Wounded Knee
Taku’ Wakan Skunskun – Something sacred in motion
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY – A man haunted by the knowledge he descended from Major General James Forsyth who ordered the massacre of hundreds of Mniconjou and Hunkpapa men, women and children on December 29, 1890, at Chankpé Ópi Wakpála (Wounded Knee Creek), apologizes to descendants.

Bradley C. Upton and his two sisters are fifth generation descendants of Forsyth and forth generation descendants of Brigadier General John Mosby Bacon. Forsyth was the commanding officer of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment and Bacon served as a lieutenant under his command during the massacre at Chankpé Ópi Wakpála.

“We have observed and experienced vividly in our family histories both past and present, the very dark shadow of the massacre and its karmic effect,” Upton said.

When Upton was 15 years old he received photos from his Great Uncle Bacon (a West Point graduate) of Chief Spotted Elk (Big Foot) and his Mniconjou and Hunkpapa Oyate (family) lying frozen on the ground after the massacre.

Soldiers can be seen in the background as Chief Spotted Elk, also known as Big Foot, lies frozen at the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre in South Dakota. Image: Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer

“But rather than comprehend the military duty/actions of my ancestors, I was horrified and filled with shame and incredible sadness,” Upton said.

Upton said for years he and his family members have been praying in both the Buddhist and Christian faiths asking for healing, not only for the Lakota Nation but for his families “karmic debt” of commanding the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Upton, a professional musician and music teacher who resides in Longmont, Colorado said he and his family have struggled with this “dark shadow” for more than a century.

Several weeks ago Upton found solace when a neighbor told him about Paul Soderman a descendant of Brig. Gen. William S. Harney, who commanded the 1855 Blue Water massacre, and how Soderman was able to apologize to Sicangu Lakota descendants of the massacre and participate in a forgiveness ceremony performed by Lakota elder Basil Brave Heart.

While visiting with his neighbor, who participates in a sweat lodge ceremony in Boulder, he happened to mention the healing his family must do.

Bradley C. Upton is a descendant of Major General James Forsyth. He was the commander of the 7th Cavalry at the Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890 during which more than 150 Mniconjou and Hunkpapa men, women, and children were killed and 51 were wounded. Courtesy photo

“She told me about the ceremony that Mr. Brave Heart had performed, a ceremony to not only rename Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak but the ceremony of forgiveness of the carnage that Harney caused at the slaughter at Blue Water Creek,” Upton shared.

Upton was brought to tears and said he immediately set out to contact Soderman and Brave Heart.

“A couple of days later I was fortunate to meet Paul and his wife Kathy who shared the power of Mr. Brave Heart’s ceremony with me and invited me to their sweat lodge as both new and old family,” he said. (Harney and Forsyth knew each other and served together at San Juan Island.)

He said Soderman shared a video that was created of Brave Heart who was the main advocate of a name change of Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak.

Upton immediately contacted Brave Heart and shared that he needed help in letting go of the pain he suffers from what his ancestors did at Wounded Knee.
Basil Brave Heart is a Lakota elder who helped lead the campaign to rename a sacred mountain in honor of Black Elk. Courtesy photo

The Lakota elder comforted him by telling him he was carrying a dark shadow that was not his to carry.

“He couldn’t stop crying and he told me he was a descendant of Major General James Forsyth and Brigadier General John Mosby Bacon,” Brave Heart said and told him, “You came to a place to heal.”

Brave Heart shared with Upton that he had learned the wisdom of Wokintunze, forgiveness over the events that happened at Wounded Knee from his grandmother.

“Something very difficult happened to us where the light shines and it was Wounded Knee where they killed many men, women and children. Don’t have any hate. Pray for the Mi’lahunska, Long Knives. Pray for their parents and their grandparents all the way back because they don’t know what they did,” was the wisdom of Wokintunze his grandmother passed on to him.

“I know that forgiveness in the western religion is a ‘gift to yourself.’ Letting go of the resentment of anything that has happened to you,” Brave Heart told Upton and emphasized the need to awaken ones heart, mind and nagi or soul to forgiveness.


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