Wounded Knee Lives On

 

We are sitting in the year of the 125th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Creek Massacre. On December 29, 1980, almost all members of a Lakota tribe were murdered by the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment. Hundreds of men, women, and children were dead, and many were wounded. Leading up to this killing, the United States were intent on taking over Lakota lands. There was significant tension there, which did not help when this specific Lakota tribe ran into the 7th Cavalry Regiment and one of its deaf members refused to give up his weapon.

This massacre began a movement in which indigenous people fought for their right to be recognized as owners of their own land. The Wounded Knee Creek Massacre became an international symbol. It stood for other genocides, and for the unfairness of United States expansion at the expense of other cultures. This did not, of course, happen right away. Directly after the killing, many soldiers in the 7th Cavalry Regiment received honors for the event. It was seen as a battle fought by heroes.

The survivors of the massacre fought to change that national view.

These survivors began by filing claims against the government. They had lost their homes, supplies, and almost all of their tribe, and sought monetary compensation. While the government found a way around their claims, the Lakota people refused to let the massacre be known as a glorious battle. It seemed as if they gained some traction in the 1930s, when a South Dakota representative called for congress to give thousands of dollars to the remaining Lakota people, but this was never discussed on the floor. The Lakota people were once again denied the money they sought to repay them for the deaths of their family members and the loss of their homes

However, even though the Lakota people have not yet gotten money for the Wounded Knee Creek Massacre, they were the spark that lit a fire in the hearts of a large number of activists. The killing shifted from a symbol of national glory to one supporting the wants and needs of indigenous people. Oral histories have been recorded and books have been written about what actually happened at the massacre. The U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment has since fallen out of favor.

A mere spark is, of course, not enough. However, hopefully the government will grow to accept its fault in the Wounded Knee Massacre and give the Lakota people the compensation they need and deserve.