Chapter 6 - WOUNDED KNEE

THE old man being assured that Red Cloud's talk would be incorporated in his story of the Custer fight, then said he wished to tell about the massacre of Indians by the white soldiers at Wounded Knee, where, he indicated as his belief, they carried out this slaughter in retaliation for the Custer affair, and proceeded: "This was the last big trouble with the Indians and soldiers and was in the winter in 1890. When the Indians would not come in from the Bad Lands, they got a big army together with plenty of clothing and supplies and camp-and-wagon equipment for a big campaign; they had enough soldiers to make a round-up of all the Indians they called hostiles. "The Government army, after many fights and loss of lives, succeeded in driving these starving Indians, with their families of women and gaunt-faced children, into a trap, where they could be forced to surrender their arms. This was on Wounded Knee creek, northeast of Pine Ridge, and here the Indians were surrounded by the soldiers, who had Hotchkiss machine guns along with them. There were about four thousand Indians in this big camp, and the soldiers had the machine guns pointed at them from all around the village as the soldiers formed a ring about the tepees so that Indians could not escape. "The Indians were hungry and weak and they suffered from lack of clothing and furs because the whites had driven away all the game. When the soldiers had them all surrounded and they had their tepees set up, the officers sent troopers to each of them to search for guns and take them from the owners. If the Indians in the tepees did not at once hand over a gun, the soldier tore open their parfleech trunks and bundles and bags of robes or clothes,—looking for pistols and knives and ammunition. It was an ugly business, and brutal; they treated the Indians like they would torment a wolf with one foot in a strong trap; they could do this because the Indians were now in the white man's trap,—and they were helpless. "Then a shot was heard from among the Indian tepees. An Indian was blamed; the excitement began; soldiers ran to their stations; officers gave orders to open fire with the machine guns into the crowds of innocent men, women and children, and in a few minutes more than two hundred and twenty of them lay in the snow dead and dying. A terrible blizzard raged for two days covering the bodies with Nature's great white blanket; some lay in piles of four or five; others in twos or threes or singly, where they fell until the storm subsided. When a trench had been dug of sufficient length and depth to contain the frozen corpses, they were collected and piled, like cord-wood, in one vast icy tomb. While separating several stiffened forms which had fallen in a heap, two of them proved to be women, and hugged closely to their breasts were infant babes still alive after lying in the storm for two days in 20' below zero weather." "I was there and saw the trouble,—but after the shooting was over; it was all bad."—the old chief said. The host produced an old photo showing the bodies of the victims as they lay scattered and in bunches over the bleak frozen grounds; the Chief looked at it and immediately recognized the body of Big Foot which lay on top of a pile of the dead, face upward. Another photo showing the trench being filled with the dead also showed a number of army officers standing nearby. The Chief readily recognized Frank Gruard, Buffalo Bill, General Miles and Kicking Bear,—his own brother. He shook his head and said, "Wahnitcha"— bad.

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