Monday, May 3, 2010
Debra White Plume: Military Helicopters at Wounded Knee? Traditional Lakota Elders Say 'NO WAY!'
Wounded Knee, SD (01 May 2010)--Military helicopters approaching from the North could be seen by a crowd of 60 or so Lakota people, gathered at the base of the hill where victims of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre lay buried in a mass grave. As the three black helicopters passed overhead and started to turn around, “Block the helicopters!” could be heard faintly, drowned out by the sound of thumping chopper blades and the harsh wind, words shouted by a grandmother. The people began to run toward the helicopters, which were nearing the mass grave.
Young men reached the hilltop first, carrying staffs adorned with eagle feathers and colored ribbon. Dozens of young children ran in groups up the hill, holding hands, some were carrying sage. The elders brought up the rear, escorted by several young men. The first helicopter landed a few feet from the mass grave. The Lakota men ran up to it, holding their staffs, yelling at the military to leave Wounded Knee, the elders did not want them there. As the other two helicopters began to descend, four women ran to get under the choppers, waving red banners and a United Nations flag. The helicopters came lower, the women did not budge. They yelled at the soldiers hanging out of the helicopters, “Leave, you are not wanted at Wounded Knee.” The three black helicopters flew away.
“Military transport coming to Wounded Knee? Why, to intimidate us? I came here to talk about my family, but now I am thinking, I am 80 years old, I pray every day. The Chairlady said to come here and talk about our families, but for people to make money off of this place, they shouldn’t do that. This is a place to pray, the military have no place here” said Stanley Looking Elk, an elder and former Tribal President.
Marie Not Help Him loudly questioned the people present, “Why are you doing this? I invited them here! My great grandfather Dewey Beard survived this. I wanted to tell our story,” saying she belongs to the Wounded Knee Survivor’s Association. She asked the Tribal Police on site to arrest the people. The Tribal Police declined to make arrests, but did step in when Not Help Him ran up to elder Wilma Thin Elk, shoving her finger into Mrs. Thin Elk’s face, yelling. A young woman jumped in front of elder Thin Elk, and told Not Help Him to stop. Tribal Police intervened, escorting Not Help Him away from elder Thin Elk.
As the four carloads of Tribal Police attempted crowd control, yelling at people to disperse, Vic Camp stepped in front of the elders and women the police were trying to push back. “We are not here to argue against our own people, we are here to defend this killing ground from the military coming here. They don’t belong on this land. They were already here. Our ancestors are lying in the ground over there because the US military was already here. Our people have a right to be here,” Camp did not back away.
Olowan Martinez said, “The Tribe did not even tell us they were doing this, we found out last night, me and my children live right down the hill. The US military can go elsewhere to hear the story. Our ancestors at Wounded Knee were killed by the US military and my father, a Veteran of Wounded Knee 1973, lies buried there, they have no respect to come back to where they put the blood of our relatives on the ground.”
“This is sacred ground, not a tourist attraction, they flew in and out like tourists. They already know what happened here, there was no good communication about this,” said Alex White Plume, also an elder and former Tribal President, saying he supports the younger generation.
When the elders began speaking, several people asked Not Help Him to stay and listen, and to tell the people the story of her Grandfather, but she and her family got in their vehicles and left.
“Those choppers and the ones who planned this are disrespectful to our loved ones. Didn’t the few people who planned this know that this whole thing is so insensitive and wrong that the Lakota’s would come out to defend this ground? We want our children to grow up respectful. We have to teach them,” said Autumn Conroy Two Bulls, founder of Helping Every Lakota Person.
Wilma Thin Elk said, “When I was a little girl my Grandma, who was a survivor, used to bring us here and tell what happened. Those helicopters could have shot us, we stand here with no way to defend ourselves, I’m a descendant of Wounded Knee, too. Is that how our ancestors felt? When they saw the military with their guns, and they had no guns? Now they are all lying over there in that grave.”
Garfield Little Dog, Council Representative from Wounded Knee District said, “Several elders and survivors of the Wounded Knee Massacre expressed their dislike for the military to come here. It made them feel bad, some are facing serious illness and couldn’t be here. I have to stand up for the people in my district when they ask for my help.” Little Dog was the only official from the Oglala Sioux Tribe on hand. It was not possible to reach President Theresa Two Bulls as of this writing. The Tribal Security Guards said she went to a pow-wow (social event) in Nebraska. A few people present said they heard President Two Bulls on KILI Radio the previous day, asking people to go to Wounded Knee to hear the presentation, but not much information was provided other than that there would be members of the 7th Calvary and National Guardsmen arriving in military air transport. “It is the 7th Calvary that killed our unarmed relatives, why do they need to hear the story? They enacted the story!” said an unidentified elder to the crowd. “Because, Leksi, (Uncle), these people who did this are all CIA, Colonized Indian A****, they are not Lakota!” responded a young mother, carrying her baby on her hip and holding a little girl by the hand. There was a lot of laughter at that point.
Gerald One Feather, an elder and former Tribal President, offered a prayer, and thanked the people for honoring him by asking him to pray. Folks present talked about the need to enforce respect for ancestors buried in the Mass Grave of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre.