To free the land, you must first free your mind...

This is a conceptual platform for the expression of ideas and issues initiating discussion and action. The communiqué's are my perceptions, opinions and vision about contemporary issues/causes, people I admire & respect, and my goals for the future. My main focus is on the Chahta People by sharing our past to plan for the future today!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wounded Knee: a legacy of pain (and pride)

Beginning on Friday night, the Internet came alive with word that the Army was sending three Blackhawk helicopters to the site of a mass grave. Alex White Plume had heard that they were coming to hear the people's story about what happened on December 29, 1890. There was one problem; the people were not told they were coming!

White Plume, utilizing social networks and emails via the Internet, word got out and outrage spread among the Lakota People of Pine Ridge Reservation and the neighboring Rosebud Reservation, and then across the country. When word began to circulate that Army helicopters were going to land at Wounded Knee, one person on Facebook wrote "Oh, hell no!" The call was gather warriors to prevent from allowing the helicopters from landing on or near the site of hallowed ground.

Many people began calling tribal council representatives and families who were unaware of the Army arriving in helicopters. Soon rumors began to fly that it was an arrogant show of force to an invasion.

An emergency blog radio show was set up to broadcast live coverage to report what was going on.  Until some of the invited guests could come on, the host, Wanbli Tate (pronounced: Ta-tay) provided some background on Wounded Knee and why the U.S. Army arriving in this manner offended the people. About 40 minutes into this broadcast Autumn Two Bulls, grandaughter of tribal President Two Bulls, came on and reported that many people had gathered. She said they had put up a white flag just as Big Foots band of Mineconjou's had done on that tragic day.

In talking with the Elders, Autumn says that there is a lot of pain associated with Wounded Knee. "Our people are standing up today to say that this wrong. Why don't the military walk in, why do they have to land in their choppers on our sacred site? A lot of the people are upset that Theresa Two Bulls did not let our people know what was going on."

Another young mother present said, "I feel like they are trying to intimidate me... I feel insulted, how dare they? How dare they do this to our ancestors buried here?  You know if they are going to come and do this, and they want a healing process, why don't they come humbly? We have an airport here. Why can't they park at the airport and drive in... . How come they can’t come in like humble human beings on their feet and walk up that hill?

As Debra White Plume began to speak on the show, in a startled voice she said, "There they are! There's three of them! They're coming! They're coming! Oh my god!" She handed the phone to White Plume who said, "

"There's a lot of people from the local community that didn't know this was going to happen. So they are standing on the hilltop and they don't want those helicopters to land at the killing fields of Wounded Knee. This is a place where the 7th Cavalry came and opted to take revenge on what happen to Custer at the Little Big Horn, so we have bad feeling with them. If they just would have landed someplace else and drove in, I think it would have been accepted... .It kind of scary for us because nobody knew that they were coming. We support the story being told because we think people need to hear it from our side, but the idea of the 7th Cavalry coming in gunships is too overwhelming for us to bear." As the helicopters begin to land, White Plume said, "I'm going to hang up cause I'm going to drive out there to try to stop them. I'm going to hang up now."

Through the afternoon it appeared many people began to anxiously wait to hear what happen. The first reports came that one helicopter touched down briefly, and when the other two attempted to land, women and children ran underneath the helicopters to prevent them from landing. With that, all three helicopters left. Late Saturday night, the first video appeared on youtube from the day. Still, some people were claiming this was staged or a hoax, in spite of statements by people who were there. On Sunday, KOTA was the first mainstream media to break the story after White Plume and is family placed the video of the day on Youtube.

And in the comment section on the KOTA site was a post by an anonymous person claiming to have been on one of the helicopter who said:

I was on one of the helicopters.  We did not mean to disrespect anyone or anything.  We had pre-arranged with the people at the museum and Theresa Two Bulls to land at that particular site.  We were there to learn about the massacre and why it happened and educate our soldiers about how a lack of leadership and values can lead to such a horrible thing.  Again, we did not mean any disrespect to the people or land.  We were told that everyone was informed why we were coming and that it would be ok.  Once we noticed people were not happy about us being there we decided to respectfully leave.  Our apologies to anyone who felt we disrespected them or the land, that was not our intent.  We feel it is necessary to educate the soldiers of today about the mistakes of the past so that they do not ever happen again!      Today, 11:29:27 AM MDT

This morning, Theresa Two Bulls held a press conference and admitted it was a lack of communication and accepted responsibility on KILI radio. Leonard Little Fingeer, Wounded Knee survivor descendant commended those who kept the helicopters from landing. A video of her statement appeared on youtube at:

More information has become available today. Debra White Plume provides a written account of what happened on Saturday at along with more information, including a resolution that was to be presented to the tribal council today.

Many of the issues surrounding Wounded Knee in 1890 and again in the Siege of 1973 has embedded the name in the public's consciousness through books and movies. One action was the awarding of the Medals of Honor to the men in 1890. This has long been a point of contention and sadness to the descendants of the survivors. The commander who was to come to Wounded Knee on Saturday told Two Bulls there was a failure in leadership that led to the mass killing and brutality that followed.

A petition has been online for nearly two years to reach 10,000 signatures to ask the Senate Armed Forces Committee to rescind the medals. As of this writing, only 4927 signatures have been added. The petition can be found at

I am putting this blog up to help people find all the information to find out for themselves what happen on May 3, 2010. It is past what could have been done, but what the people there will do in the future. It has always been said that when you point fingers, there are three pointing back at you. We can only learn from our mistakes and do our best to not repeat them.


  1. Ben, thank you for offering this thought-provoking article.

    I think there are far more issues raised by this incident than just a failure to communicate in a timely fashion.

    I note that parts 3 and 4 have not yet been finished and published, so I'll reserve more thorough comment until I it is.

  2. Thank you Acuera.
    The press conference had seating for 100 people, and more was in attendance. KILI radio, station from Pine Ridge did a live broadcast, and I contacted them about putting this up on a podcast. They said they would see what they could do. I', hoping parts 3 and 4 will be posted. In my opinion, there were some good things said there, and it has spurred some hope among the people who were opposed to the helicopters landing that a lot of good will come from this. I believe they see it as a beginning.

    I also highlighted the link to Brenda Norrell's site that I overlooked. She is a good source of contact for a lot of issues connected to Native people and their concerns. I would suggest subscribing to it. Thanks for your comment.

  3. As a footnote:
    The tribal council passed a resolution that stated in part:

    "Therefore, Be It Resolved, that the Oglala Sioux Tribe will take every action to see that the United States Reclaims the Twenty Medals of Honor from the 7th Calvary for their role in the Massacre at Wounded Knee, to remove any recognition the US Military bestows to its entities for the Massacre at Wounded Knee, and to obtain the return of personal items taken from Lakota people at the 1890 Massacre.
    Therefore Be It Further Resolved, that the Oglala Sioux Tribe, its members, any entity, organization, or resident on the Pine Ridge Reservation will not allow the United States Military from this time forward to come anywhere near the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre Mass Grave in order to demonstrate Honor and Respect for the Lakota people buried there, and to ensure a peaceful, nonviolent, weapon-free zone for the Mass Gravesite area."

    And in response to the person on board the helicopter, Olowan Martinez wrote:

    "thank you for your apologies .. you were just to damn close to our loved ones .. i still say NERVY tho but its all good this is History now .. something we can pass on to our grandchildren .. you didnt have PRE-ARRANGED permission from the museum call gary rowland sr and ask him 6058672852 NOBODY asked the family .. @cankpe-opi ~TTB never told the oyate! and thats ok you KNOW who we are lol because WE KNOW EXACTLY WHO WE ARE TOO! we are the children of warriors!
    Yesterday, 4:21:16 PM MDT"