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  • A letter to the editor

    A letter to the editor - Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
    Native American Times - 6 July 2007
    Native American Times - America's Largest Independent, Native American News Source

    I watched the HBO film “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” and while it was a very good movie, there was one question that kept going through my mind. In this movie and also in Hidalgo, both movies portrayed the events that led up to the morning of all the murdering that took place at Wounded Knee massacre. How history portrays what triggered the shooting to begin and continue until not a single person was left standing doesn’t make sense to me. “When we are going to stop blaming the poor deaf Indian guy for what happened at Wounded Knee?”

    Can you imagine people surrounded by angry armed and drunken soldiers with cannons pointed towards their camp, that one person would put up such a struggle and cause complete devastation?

    I think it’s disgusting that US history would lay the blame on one alleged “handicapped” person. I also can’t understand why we as Lakota people would continue to let that part of history get away with this without any questions.

    Imagine weak and exhausted Lakota people watching soldiers barge into tipis looking for weapons and forcing people outside at gun point. Imagine if you were watching this in a movie and the television was on mute, I think you would get a pretty good idea of what was happening. I find it really hard to believe that someone who was there and could see all of that would still try to keep his weapon.

    As Lakota people we have many accounts of murder and brutality happening to the people in that camp. In the documentary “Wiping the Tears of the Seventh Generation” an elder told of how a soldier went in to her ancestor’s tipi bullying and looking for guns. Irritated by an injured elder who couldn’t stand up, he shot him dead where he lay. After the defeat of Custer, “Into the West” also depicts the intent of angry soldiers towards the people at Wounded Knee. The massacre was no accident.

    We need to take better care of our history. In the movie (Bury My Heart) one soldier says, “I swear we didn’t fire the first shot, we didn’t fire the first shot.” Even if soldiers had not fired the first shot, does it justify what happened at Wounded Knee?

    I can’t believe that the “deaf Indian man” made the first shot. Even if this is true, it’s not justifiable to keep firing guns and cannons until 300 people lay dead. It isn’t bad enough that history portrays Indigenous peoples of this country as people who needed to be decimated, who were only casualties of manifest destiny. Today we are looked at as refugees in our own territories and non-Indians tell us to go back to where we came from. Where do they think we came from anyhow? I believe that we as Lakota (and other Indigenous peoples) need to rethink our identity (ies) and take a look at who is watching and learning from what we as Lakota (Indigenous peoples) are doing. Who are they? “They” are not just non-Indian people anymore. “They” could be our young Lakota people, or who were adopted out. “They” could also be Lakota living in urban areas or displaced for whatever reasons.

    Not every Lakota lives on a reservation or comes from a traditional and cultural family and has access to resources to help them build their “Indian-ness”. Many of them will, especially our youth, determine their Native American identities from mass media. If what young people see is negative images of Native Americans, they aren’t going to want to be Indian. Why should they? How will it benefit them to survive in today’s society? What makes me sad is how I hear many Native American people talk about diabetes and alcoholism. How can people believe that simply because we are “Indian” we are going to get diabetes or become alcoholics? That is an ill fated attitude, and I worry that if Indian people will believe such ideas, then they will believe whatever history tells them. I think about these things and worry about our future.

    Thank you for your time.

    Respectfully,
    Susana Geliga

    "Be good, be kind, help each other."
    "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

    --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)

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