As I watched the episode at Wounded Knee unfold, my thoughts turned to the turbulent times in America of the early 1970‘s. I am reminded of the historic Vietnam War and the heavy protests by students and civil rights leaders. It appears to be a typical resolve by the White House to simply send in the military and force protesters to “go away” or there will be trouble. This type of government mentality was even more pronounced during the event at Wounded Knee as the White House was involved in the notorious “Watergate Scandal” and it is felt Nixon, facing his own issues, did not give the protesters his full attention.
During the 1970‘s many protests were erupting with the goal of each being that of seeking “social change.” The events at Wounded knee were even more of a tragedy as it brought forth as a reminder, that of America’s dark past “The massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 goes down in history as a day when hundreds of Lakota were slaughtered by the 7th Cavalry of the United States” (Ward, 2012). The historic events at wounded knee were all wrapped around the white immigrants sense of politics and greed. This tied into white immigrants thoughts of “Manifest Destiny” which they felt entitled them to do as they wanted and felt was needed in the name of “expansion.” It was felt by many white immigrants that they were actually doing the Indians a favor by attempting to use the land productively and to “domesticate and civilize these people who were viewed as savages. When the Indians fought back, they were herded like cattle and sent to reservations where their generations have dwelled for several centuries.
The protest at Wounded Knee was not only representative of the Sioux tribe, it was a message that spread throughout the nation as a calling to all tribes to recapture their past, and with it their pride as a people in embracing a lost culture. It was a coming together of a nation of people who said “no more!” to broken treaties and taking of tribal lands. They refused to continue to be passive and felt they had been so for far too long. And that as a result of this passivity they were not respected and were invisible to the rest of the world. These proud Americans made a stand for their culture and hopes to rectify a tragic past in the knowing and living of every moment of every day, that what was theirs was snatched from them by force.
The Oglala Lakota Indian tribes protest was that of making a stand for justice and social change. Emotionally I can feel their frustrations and pain. American Indians are not given respect in society, with the exception of the acknowledgment of those tribes whose lands are used to erect gambling casinos. They are perhaps provided a small measure of respect, and if so, this is more than likely only because the color of green overshadows the color of their skin.
Since the protest at Wounded Knee, it doesn’t appear as if much has really changed. In 1980, the Lakota tribe was awarded $15.5 million and an additional $105 million for the illegally seized Black Hills (a result of yet another broken treaty). The Lakota turned down the money, replying they only wanted back what was rightfully theirs. And regrettably to this day they have not been given back the Black Hills land. (Ward, 2012).