Dec 292020

The Wounded Knee Massacre took place on this date in 1890. It was a domestic massacre of nearly three hundred Lakota men, women, and children, by soldiers of the United States Army. It occurred near Wounded Knee Creek (Lakota: Čhaŋkpé Ópi Wakpála) on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, following a botched attempt to disarm the Lakota camp. The previous day, a detachment of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment commanded by Major Samuel M. Whitside intercepted Spotted Elk’s band of Miniconjou Lakota and 38 Hunkpapa Lakota near Porcupine Butte and escorted them 5 miles (8.0 km) westward to Wounded Knee Creek, where they made camp. The remainder of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, led by colonel James W. Forsyth, arrived and surrounded the encampment. The regiment was supported by a battery of four Hotchkiss mountain guns.

On the morning of December 29th, the U.S. Cavalry troops went into the camp to disarm the Lakota. Specific details of what triggered the massacre are debated. According to some accounts, Yellow Bird began to perform the Ghost Dance, telling the Lakota that their ghost shirts (part of the Ghost Dance ritual) were bulletproof. As tensions mounted, Black Coyote refused to give up his rifle; he spoke no English and was deaf, and had not understood the order. A Lakota said: “Black Coyote is deaf,” and when the soldier persisted, he said, “Stop. He cannot hear your orders.” At that moment, two soldiers seized Black Coyote from behind, and (supposedly) in the struggle, his rifle discharged. At the same moment, Yellow Bird threw some dust into the air, and approximately five young Lakota men with concealed weapons threw aside their blankets and fired their rifles at the soldiers. After this initial exchange, the firing became indiscriminate.

By the time the massacre was over, more than 250 men, women, and children of the Lakota had been killed and 51 were wounded (4 men and 47 women and children, some of whom died later); some estimates placed the number of dead as high as 300. 25 soldiers also died, and 39 were wounded (6 of the wounded later died). 20 of the soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor.

These are the voices of two survivors:

Black Elk (1863–1950); medicine man, Oglala Lakota:

“I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream. And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth, — you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.”

American Horse (1840–1908); chief, Oglala Lakota:

“There was a woman with an infant in her arms who was killed as she almost touched the flag of truce … A mother was shot down with her infant; the child not knowing that its mother was dead was still nursing … The women as they were fleeing with their babies were killed together, shot right through … and after most all of them had been killed a cry was made that all those who were not killed or wounded should come forth and they would be safe. Little boys … came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there.”

In 2001, the National Congress of American Indians passed two resolutions condemning the military awards and called on the U.S. government to rescind them. The Wounded Knee Battlefield, site of the massacre, has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. In 1990, both houses of the U.S. Congress passed a resolution on the historical centennial formally expressing “deep regret” for the massacre. Such resolutions are meaningless tokens.  The oppression of marginalized people in the US continues to this day unabated.

I gave a small appraisal of traditional Lakota cooking here which you can consult for today’s recipe.  There I talked about meat stews.  Today I will focus on wojapi, Lakota fruit sauce.  Like meat stews, there is not much to cooking wojapi.  Take about 4 cups of native berries, and ½ cup of water and slowly simmer until the fruit breaks down to form a thick sauce. The main point here is not to use sugar, as you might do with similar recipes to make jams, and, more importantly, you must use berries indigenous to North America.  These include blueberries, chokecherries, juneberries, and salmonberries.  You won’t find them by foraging at this time of year, but you can get them (frozen) online.

Mar 182019

Today is the birthday (1846) of Kicking Bear, also called Matȟó Wanáȟtaka, an Oglala Lakota who became a band chief of the Miniconjou Lakota Sioux. He fought in several battles with his brother, Flying Hawk and first cousin, Crazy Horse during the War for the Black Hills, including Battle of the Greasy Grass (Little Bighorn). Kicking Bear was one of the five warrior cousins who sacrificed blood and flesh for Crazy Horse at the Last Sun Dance of 1877. The ceremony was held to honor Crazy Horse one year after the victory at the Battle of the Greasy Grass, and to offer prayers for him in the trying times ahead. Crazy Horse attended the Sun Dance as the honored guest but did not take part in the dancing. The five warrior cousins were brothers Kicking Bear, Flying Hawk and Black Fox II, all sons of Chief Black Fox, also known as Great Kicking Bear, and two other cousins, Eagle Thunder and Walking Eagle.

Kicking Bear was also a holy man active in the Ghost Dance religious movement of 1890, and had traveled with fellow Lakota Short Bull to visit the movement’s leader, Wovoka (a Paiute holy man living in Nevada). The Lakota men were instrumental in bringing the movement to their people who were living on reservations in South Dakota. Following the murder of Sitting Bull, Kicking Bear and Short Bull were imprisoned at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Upon their release in 1891, both men joined Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, and toured with the show in Europe, although they found the experience humiliating. After a year-long tour, Kicking Bear returned to the Pine Ridge Reservation to care for his family.

In March 1896, Kicking Bear traveled to Washington, D.C. as one of three Lakota delegates taking grievances to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He made his feelings known about the drunken behavior of traders on the reservation, and asked that Native Americans have more ability to make their own decisions. While in Washington, Kicking Bear agreed to have a life mask made of himself. The mask was to be used as the face of a Sioux warrior to be displayed in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

Kicking Bear painted his account of the Battle of Greasy Grass at the request of artist Frederic Remington in 1898, more than twenty years after the battle. Kicking Bear was buried with the arrowhead as a symbol of the ways he so dearly desired to resurrect when he died on May 28th, 1904. His remains are buried somewhere in the vicinity of Manderson-White Horse Creek.

Wohanpi has been a classic Lakota dish for centuries, but there is not really much to give in the way of a recipe because in its traditional form it is made from what you might expect: hunted meat and gathered vegetables. It could be made with bison, elk, or the like, with wild onions and timpsula (wild turnip). You get the idea. These days, Lakota cooks may make it with beef, potatoes, and carrots yet still call it wohanpi. A version made with beef, potatoes, and carrots would certainly be symbolic of what has happened to the Lakota over the years, but if you want to truly celebrate Kicking Bear you might try to get some bison, elk, or deer meat, and simmer it (cubed) for several hours along with whatever vegetables indigenous to North American you can find – preferably wild. That’s something of a challenge, but it can be done. There are sites such as this one for example. Good Hunting.