No announcement yet.

From Little Big Horn to Wounded Knee

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • From Little Big Horn to Wounded Knee

    ************************************************** ************
    This Message Is Reprinted Under The Fair Use
    Doctrine Of International Copyright Law:
    ************************************************** ************



    From Little Big Horn to Wounded Knee

    (javascript:PrintWindow();) Posted: September 12, 2005 by: _Philip
    Burnham_ ( / Indian Country Today
    _Click to Enlarge_ (
    ( Photo courtesy
    NMAI, Smithsonian Institution/photo by Union Pacific Railroad -- This ca.
    1920 color postcard depicts Iron Hail or Dewey Beard, Minneconjou Lakota,
    survivor of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre. The true legend of Dewey Beard

    Part one

    PINE RIDGE, S.D. - If you've seen the movie, you know Little Big Man was a
    doozy of a tall tale. No one this side of Hollywood could have hunted buffalo
    as a boy, hobnobbed with white men, fought Gen. George Armstrong Custer,
    taken Jesus as a savior, survived an Army massacre or two - and lived for a

    Nobody except Dewey Beard, that is.

    A Minneconjou Lakota, Beard was everything the movie's white hero, Jack
    Crabb, was cracked up to be. As a youngster he rode his pony up Medicine Tail
    Coulee and killed a trooper at Little Big Horn. In his 30s, he took two bullets
    at Wounded Knee and saw almost his entire family killed. In his late 90s,
    still scrapping for a fight, he was telling off Congress about the latest
    Washington land grab in Lakota country.

    He was a Ghost dancer, a homesteader, a trick rider, a movie actor, a
    buckskin ambassador - and a Catholic convert. And there are still people in Lakota
    country who knew him.

    One of them is Beard's great-granddaughter, Marie Fox Belly. She tells of a
    spry old man in moccasins, a childhood companion who seemed, to an
    impressionable young girl, like he just stepped out of another age.

    ''I sat on his lap and felt that scar in his leg where he was shot'' at
    Wounded Knee, Fox Belly recalled, savoring a favorite childhood memory. ''I could
    put my hand in where the muscle was torn away. I put my ear to his chest,
    and I could hear his heart beat. I could feel his breath on top of my head.''

    Fox Belly spoke of ''Grandpa Beard'' with something close to awe. As a girl,
    she watched and followed his every move. ''I knew my grandfather. I talked
    to him. I trailed him. I sat by him. When I was smaller and growing up, I
    didn't quite have all my teeth, so he would chew my meat for me and set [the
    pieces] on the table beside my bowl.

    ''His hands were big hands, and I thought, 'Geez, this man held his child, a
    newborn baby, and he held weapons of war.' But he also shook hands in
    friendship.'' At 99, said Fox Belly, his hearing was as good as hers, and he had a
    full set of teeth. And he could ride a horse like a man half his age.

    When he died in 1955, Time magazine said Beard was living in a ''tar paper
    shack.'' Fox Belly, who visited him often, remembers that ''shack'' fondly. It
    was one room, spare and simple, with a kitchen on one side and a sleeping
    area on the other. That's the way most people lived on the reservation 50 years

    There was a reason Beard's death was written up in papers like The New York
    Times and The Washington Post. He was the last survivor of the Battle of the
    Little Bighorn. And Beard, short for Hawk Beard, Fox Belly said, told a
    bundle of stories about the battle.

    They were camped on the Little Big Horn with Crazy Horse that day in 1876.
    All of a sudden the soldiers attacked the camp and killed a young boy. That
    made the Lakota and Cheyenne so mad they ''went out and cleaned them up,''
    Beard later told National Geographic. Almost 20 years old at the time, he jumped
    on the first horse he could find and rode to the sound of the guns.

    There's a funny thing about that horse, said Leonard Little Finger, a family
    descendant from Oglala. Little Finger, whose grandfather was Beard's younger
    brother, listened avidly to Beard's stories as a teenager. Beard told him he
    had a battle horse outfitted with a mouth bridle that day, he began, warming
    to the story.

    He jumped on the mount, and Beard's father ''hit the horse in the butt, and
    the horse took off, and he's trying to sit on it and not fall off,'' Little
    Finger recounted. ''An old lady with a cane is standing there looking at the
    noise, and the horse is going fast, and Beard hollers, 'Watch out, grandma, I
    can't stop the horse!'''

    The horse hit the old woman, tossing her in the air, and she fell in the
    water. Then Beard rode across the river and into history.

    By the time he got to the battlefield, the action was almost over. With time
    enough to shoot only one arrow, his aim was true, killing a blue-coated
    soldier armed with a six-shooter.

    A strange thing happened then, Little Finger said. Before the firing
    stopped, Beard saw a soldier cowering on the ground surrounded by a group of
    laughing women. A man rode up with his son draped over his horse, singing a death
    song. When he saw the group, he stopped, jumped off his mount, pulled his
    pistol out, and walked up to the soldier and shot him dead.

    ''That's the story I know,'' Little Finger said.

    A Lakota language and culture teacher at Loneman School in Oglala, Little
    Finger has some bittersweet memories of his grandfather. He recalled the time
    Beard invited him along to visit the Little Big Horn battlefield when they
    were at a pow wow in nearby Wyoming. But his father told him he had to stay and
    dance. ''There's things in your life you regret,'' Little Finger said
    wistfully. ''In my life, that was one of them.''

    Beard left the battle with some souvenirs, including an Army-issue bugle one
    of his nephews later used as a toy.

    But the Custer victory had been in vain. As Beard himself would say later:
    ''They got the Black Hills anyway, so what's the difference?''

    After the battle, the Army set out to punish the victors. Some, under Crazy
    Horse, signed the famous surrender ledger and went in to the agencies.
    Others, under Sitting Bull, refused. Dewey Beard proudly counted himself among the

    Iron Hail (Wasu Maza), as he came to be known, was going into exile. It
    would take Custer's 7th Cavalry another 14 years to catch up with him.

    (Continued in part two)
    Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

  • #2
    ************************************************** ************
    This Message Is Reprinted Under The Fair Use
    Doctrine Of International Copyright Law:
    ************************************************** ************



    Surviving Wounded Knee

    (javascript:PrintWindow();) Posted: September 19, 2005 by: _Philip
    Burnham_ ( / Indian Country Today
    _Click to Enlarge_ (
    ( Photo courtesy
    NMAI, Smithsonian Institution/photo by Union Pacific Railroad -- This ca.
    1920 color postcard depicts Iron Hail or Dewey Beard, Minneconjou Lakota,
    survivor of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre. The true legend of Dewey Beard

    Part two

    OGLALA, S.D. - Dewey Beard was the last survivor of the Battle of the Little
    Big Horn: a warrior, rancher, actor and respected elder. His eventful life,
    which spanned a century, is still remembered by friends and family.

    The more Leonard Little Finger read the letter, the less it made sense. His
    grandfather, Joseph, had written to his brother, Dewey Beard, that they
    needed to record their experiences of the ''battle'' of Wounded Knee.

    That stumped Little Finger, a teacher of Lakota history and culture at
    nearby Loneman School.

    ''Battle?'' he said, looking a little perplexed over his kitchen table in
    Oglala. ''Wait a minute. I know it as a massacre'' - what is practically an
    article of faith on the Pine Ridge Reservation. ''But the more I began to look
    at it, it was, from their perspective, a battle for their life.''

    As Beard's grandnephew, Little Finger has thought a lot about what happened
    that day on Wounded Knee Creek. Years of studying - and being - Lakota hadn't
    prepared him for Joseph's words. ''It opened my eyes. I finally got to
    understand what he really meant: They fought to survive.'' And their fight
    wouldn't end any time soon.

    How Dewey Beard got to Wounded Knee in the first place is a story in itself.

    Soon after the Little Big Horn, Beard followed Sitting Bull's band into
    exile. They walked across the ''medicine line'' into Canada and, a few years
    later, trudged a good part of the way back, with promises from the U.S. Army that
    they could live in peace.

    Beard and his family put away their war paint. They lived in cabins and
    hauled hay along the Cheyenne River. His brother Joseph studied English in
    school. They even went to the white man's church, said great-granddaughter Marie
    Fox Belly.

    But crop failure and ration cuts came. Desperate, the Lakota joined the
    dancers in the summer of 1890. Beard danced too, though suspicious of the claim
    that the painted shirts would stop the bullets of the wasicun.

    ''The Ghost Dance was a dance of life,'' affirmed Fox Belly, recalling the
    enthusiasm of the troubled time. That fall, Beard's wife bore him a child, a
    son named Wet Feet who would not survive the winter.

    Chief Big Foot's band of about 300 men, women and children - Beard's family
    among them - hurried south to Pine Ridge after Sitting Bull was killed. They
    averted a skirmish before camping under military escort at Wounded Knee. That
    night his father, Horn Cloud, had a premonition, Fox Belly said - he told
    the family it would be better to die together than apart.

    The next morning, Dec. 29, Wounded Knee Creek ran red.

    A shot from an Indian gun was answered by a volley of Army rifle and cannon
    fire. ''The soldiers' shots sounded like firecrackers and hail in a storm,''
    Beard said later.

    He watched, helpless, as his own mother sang her Death Song, her side ripped
    open by a bullet. He tried in vain to revive his brother William, felled by
    a gunshot wound to the chest. All they could do was shake hands before he

    Beard fled down the ravine toward the creek, picking up discarded guns and
    firing back at the soldiers. Bleeding profusely from his own wounds, he was
    saved when Joseph, the only member of his family to survive unscathed, rode up
    on horseback and rescued him.

    The toll was ghastly: Beard lost his mother, father, two brothers, wife and
    infant son in the massacre. Wounded in the back and left leg, his bloody
    clothes frozen to his skin, he hobbled to Pine Ridge and was treated by an Indian
    doctor with a dose of ''bear medicine.'' Years later, Wasu Maza, as he was
    known in Lakota, didn't hide his feelings about that day when asked by a white
    reporter: ''They murdered us.''

    When the survivors and descendants tried to obtain compensation for damages,
    the government refused, and refused (1938), and refused again (1990).

    ''I think more than bitterness, he mourned deeply for his parents,'' said
    Fox Belly, whose own grandson is named Wasu Maza. Even so, Beard told her
    mother, Celane Not Help Him, never to let her boys enlist in the Army, reminding
    her that ''it's them that killed your grandparents.''

    But the massacre - or battle - wasn't over yet. The history books would make
    sure that Beard's family, the Horn Clouds, who had lived in a cabin and sent
    a son off to school, would be called ''hostiles,'' said Little Finger. And
    the Ghost Dancers, a peaceful group, would be tarred by officials as members
    of a ''messianic craze.'' Once it's written down, said the Lakota teacher with
    a shrug of his shoulders, ''it becomes true.''

    But there was another lesson, too, Little Finger said.

    The day before Wounded Knee, Beard had walked up to an Army cannon and
    shoved his arm down the barrel, daring the soldiers to act. But his leader chose
    to fly the white flag instead. ''Big Foot was a treaty signer,'' explained
    Little Finger, ''and Beard wasn't. Big Foot didn't want to violate the pipe.''

    For that, Little Finger said, he paid a very heavy price. All his followers
    did. ''Wounded Knee has many, many different connotations, but one of them is
    that if I say it, I keep my word. That's what Lakota is.''

    Today, the monument at Wounded Knee facing the mass grave is officially
    credited to Joseph Horn Cloud. But Fox Belly, a former president of the Wounded
    Knee Survivors Association, said ''they all did it,'' selling horses and other
    possessions to raise money for the stone memorial.

    After Wounded Knee, Dewey Beard enrolled at Pine Ridge, but as far from the
    agency as possible. He settled near Kyle with other Minneconjou, saddled now
    with a fierce and abiding mistrust of the government.

    Behind him lay a trail of fighting. But his battle to survive had just
    begun. Though already in his 30s, Beard had nearly the traditional ''three score
    and ten'' years still ahead of him.

    (Continued in part three)
    Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic


    Join the online community forum celebrating Native American Culture, Pow Wows, tribes, music, art, and history.




    There are no results that meet this criteria.

    Sidebar Ad