It has been several decades since I first read about the massacre of American Indians along the creek called Wounded Knee and I have to tell you my heart has always remained heavy over what happened there. My heart is heavy again with a battle that seems to be raging once again in South Dakota over that very piece of land. Maybe I should first tell you what happened back in 1890 then go forward from there.
The annals of history say this was the last battle of the Indian Wars, but it hardly seems a battle it was more just plain and simple a massacre. The members of a detachment of the US 7th Cavalry had intercepted Spotted Elk with his band of Miniconjue Lakota along with some Hunkpapa Lakota near a butte about 5 miles away from the creek. They marched the Indians to the creek and on December 29, 1890 decided that the Lakota had to be disarmed. There are different accounts of what actually happened that morning but the most repeated one is that a deaf man called Black Coyote could not hear what the soldiers had said. When they tried to take his gun away he began to scuffle with the soldiers. He had paid a lot of money for the gun and did not want to lose it. During the scuffle somehow a shot was fired and the soldiers opened fire on the group. By the time the shooting stopped over 300 people were dead which included innocent women and children. Many from both sides were wounded. A blizzard that lasted three days came about right after this “battle” and the dead were left where they were. The government hired civilians to come back and bury the dead. As if killing all of those Lakota wasn’t disrespectful enough…they decided to bury them in a mass grave!
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee from Allposters.com
Now we need to back up just a bit in history. The American Indians for the most part had all been herded onto reservations earlier on. In 1887 (some 3 years before Wounded Knee) there was a law or act that had been issued. It is known now as the Dawes Act but is also referred to as the General Allotment Act. It seems that Senator Dawes of Massachusetts and his fellow members of Congress felt that there was a need to assimilate the American Indians into the society of the whites. One way to do that was to allot land to individual Indians and make them promise to live more like the whites…farm, ranch and that sort of thing. The “trick” (and there was always a trick!) was that this also enabled our government to allot land to non-Indians. What they really wanted to do was open up some of the land that had been designated as a reservation to white settlers and business people to be able to live on those lands. Now, is it not odd that in the land of Wounded Knee and the Lakota there is a placed called the Black Hills and there was gold in them thar hills! Tell me that wasn’t the REAL reason for this despicable act of Congress! Long story short, somehow in the mess of all of this a non-Indian was allotted the very land where the Wounded Knee Massacre took place.
Over the course of the decades that have followed the land has been owned by 3 non-Indian families (never once owned by a Lakota) with the last owner having purchased it in 1968 and he is trying to sell it now. This 40 acre tract sits within the Pine Ridge Reservation but is not actually a part of the reservation because it is owned privately. The man, I won’t glorify him by calling him a gentleman, is trying to get somewhere between 3.9 to 4.9 million dollars for land that has been appraised at being worth $7,000. In 1973 there was another incident at Wounded Knee where the members of AIM stood their ground for 71 days. It was a nasty time and during the course of all of it the present owners property was destroyed. I get that he is still angry over what happened in 1973 but I have to ask. Wasn’t the man insured? He should have been! Johnny Depp has publicly said that he is very interested in purchasing this land and giving it back to the Lakota. I really hope that he is successful. Although from what I have read, he won’t be able to just give it to them. It would appear that an act of Congress is needed for that land or any land to be given back to a tribe. So, Mr. Depp if you are able to purchase it, sell it back to the Lakota for $1. That makes it legally transferable, I think. It would cut the red-tape and the Lakota at Pine Ridge could have their land back. To them it is sacred. They can’t afford the outrageous price that the current owner wants but I’ll just bet if something reasonable were offered, they would take it.
It has been around a year since the reports were brought out that Johnny Depp wanted to buy the land and as far as I can see there has been no progress as far as his purchase goes. I also can’t find any information that would indicate that anyone else has purchased it. Hopefully the right thing will be done no matter who buys the land, we can at least hope.