The Murder of the Wind of Peace

by Wanbli Sapa ©


It was the 29th day of the Moon of Popping Trees (December) in 1890. Peace was sleeping within the warm winter wind under the murderous eyes of Gatling and Hotchkiss guns, dug into the ridges surrounding the Lakota encampment.

Chief Spotted Elk ("Bigfoot" was the name soldiers gave him), flying the flag of truce within his encampment, was dying from pneumonia. His people were dying from fear of the white soldiers who had come to take revenge for the defeat of their unit, the 7th Cavalry, at Little Bighorn in The Moon When the Chokecherries are Ripe (June) in 1876. All the soldiers needed was the smallest excuse to begin the massacre.

A single shot, according to a reporter on the scene, was fired from the soldiers, and with that, the smallest excuse was manufactured. When the rain of ammunition ceased, over 300 Lakota people lay dead from gunfire, cannonfire, or manual butchering within the encampment and within adjacent ravines up to two miles away. The dead were Lakota men who had been disarmed before the weapons fire began, women, many with babes in arms or waiting to be born, and children The soldiers walked away from their crime against humanity and left the dead where they lay. That night, the sky cried snow and the warm winter wind of peace was supplanted by the cold winter wind of grief. For four days, the dead laid where they were, frozen into grotesque shapes of lifelessness. Finally, the soldiers came and loaded the dead like cordwood in wagons, and hauled their loads to hastily dug mass graves, where the dead were thrown in - the bodies of men, women, and children whose spirits walked the encampment and ravines, wailing. The mass graves were filled and the soldiers left. Twenty-seven Congressional Medals of Honor [sic] for "bravery" were awarded to the soldiers who participated in that heinous murder for their parts in fighting the allegedly hostile "war parties" attacking them that day.

The spirits of the slain continue their walking and wailing. Red Willow in great profusion, grown from the blood of all those who fell along the banks of the creek that day, still grows thickly along Wounded Knee Creek. Peace never again slept within the winds that blew along Wounded Knee Creek.

The Massacre of Wounded Knee became a symbol for my people, the Lakota Nation, of the lies and deceit of the "Great White Father in Washington" and the U.S. Government. Their words of encouragement and promises of help and peace were seen for the malevolent intent hidden behind the facade. As more and more land promised to us forever was taken away on the whims of Congress, our place to live became smaller and our pain and confusion grew. The mass graves at Wounded Knee became a symbol to us to never forget and never to trust again. The voices of our slain relatives can still be heard, crying out from soil, the waters, the air, and we vow time and time again to never forget, to be strong, to help our nation heal and live well again...(More at:


Nothing To Conceal Or Apologize For 

"There is nothing to conceal or apologize for in the Wounded Knee Battle - beyond the killing of a wounded buck by a hysterical recruit. The firing was begun by the Indians and continued until they stopped - with the one exception noted above.”

"That women and children were casualties was unfortunate but unavoidable, and most must have been [killed] from Indian bullets...The Indians at Wounded Knee brought their own destruction as surely as any people ever did. Their attack on the troops was as treacherous as any in the history of Indian warfare, and that they were under a strange religious hallucination is only an explanation not an excuse."

(Excerpts from an official investigation of Wounded Knee initiated at the behest of Congress, written by General E. D. Scott)  


Medals of Honor?

Medals of Honor were given to seventeen of the men who participated in the Wounded Knee Massacre. Since then, the movement to rescind them has been unsuccessful. In 1996, Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, wrote:

"Thank you for your recent letters, together with signatures and comments from other citizens via the Internet, proposing that Congress rescind seventeen Medals of Honor awarded to U.S. Army personnel for actions at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on December 29, 1890, and at Drexel Mission on the following day.

I appreciate why you view with dismay the award of the nation's highest decoration for valor to soldiers of the United States Army for their individual efforts in an action that resulted in the death or wounding of as many as 370 Indian men, women and children. I also appreciate the concern that these awards can be viewed as diminishing the value of Medals of Honor awarded for conduct in other conflicts.

The policies and decisions of the United States Government that led to the Army's being at Wounded Knee in 1890 doubtless can be characterized as unjust, unwise, or worse. Nevertheless, a retrospective judgement that the Government's policies and actions were dishonorable does not warrant rescinding the medals awarded to individual soldiers for bravery in a brief, fierce fight in which 25 soldiers were killed and 45 others wounded...In 1990, in an unprecedented action the 101st Congress passed Senate COncurrent Resolution 153, which apologized to the Sioux people for the Wounded Knee massacre and expressed support for the establishment of a 'suitable and appropriate memorial to those who were tragically slain at Wounded Knee'...While a consensus on a Wounded Knee memorial proposal remains elusive, efforts to achieve such a consensus are continuing. I support these efforts in the belief that establishing a well-conceived memorial to the victims of Wounded Knee is much preferable to attempting to strip long-dead soldiers of a medal which they might not merit under today's standards."


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