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A day of reflection from history and contemplation of the future.

I finally stood up on sacred ground. The same ground where nearly 300 of my ancestors where slaughter. Armed soldiers of the US 7th Calvary surrounded the unarmed men, women and children. The defenseless oglala lakota surrounded by brave men with rifles and Gatling guns were eradicated.

The American public’s reaction to the genocide at the time was generally favorable. Many non-Lakota living near the reservations interpreted the slaughter as the defeat of a murderous cult. In an editorial response to the event, the young newspaper editor L. Frank Baum, You might know him as the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, wrote in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer on January 3, 1891:

“The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth. In this lies future safety for our settlers and the soldiers who are under incompetent commands. Otherwise, we may expect future years to be as full of trouble with the redskins as those have been in the past.”

I cry just and my heart bled for all the blood that has been shed on these grounds. For the children who surrendered, for the women carrying their infants shot in the back as they fled. and the brave soldiers of the Oglala the unarmed warriors. The same warriors who attempted to defend their women and children from the brave soldiers firing into the mass of people.

But alas rocks and sticks against guns and bayonets. I don’t know how much more I can take of that I just stood there crying. I cried not just for the blood. I cried for the hatred more than a century later there’s still so much hatred. The violence that day was written about by a survivor named Black Elk.

Black Elk was the medicine man of the Oglala and he passed away in 1950. He later said of the slaughter.

“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 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 … the nation’s hope is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, even the sacred tree is dead”

It’s sad really for a people who pride themselves on peace and love; a people with a language so beautiful does doesn’t know the word hate. I stood and cried my great-grandfather Mato knew the hatred. He knew it first hand his mother was a survivor.

I walked cavern the ravine where fleeing women with infants were trapped by rocks on one side and bullets on the other. The soldiers perused and slaughtered them there where they stood. Two of these men received medals of honor.

GRESHAM, JOHN C.
Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, 7th U.S. Cavalry.
Place and date: At Wounded Knee Creek, S. Dak., 29 December 1890.
Citation: Voluntarily led a party into a ravine to dislodge Sioux Indians concealed therein. He was wounded during this action.
SULLIVAN, THOMAS
Rank and organization: Private, Company E, 7th U.S. Cavalry.
Place and date: At Wounded Knee Creek, S. Dak., 29 December 1890.
Citation: Conspicuous bravery in action against Indians concealed in a ravine.

I walked the path were soldiers chased women carrying their children as they attempted to run away only to be chased down and shot in the back; some as far as two miles away from the fighting.

Hugh McGinnis; First Battalion, Co. K, Seventh Cavalry: “General Nelson A. Miles who visited the scene of carnage, following a three day blizzard, estimated that around 300 snow shrouded forms were strewn over the countryside. He also discovered to his horror that helpless children and women with babes in their arms had been chased as far as two miles from the original scene of encounter and cut down without mercy by the troopers. … Judging by the slaughter on the battlefield it was suggested that the soldiers simply went berserk. For who could explain such a merciless disregard for life? … As I see it the battle was more or less a matter of spontaneous combustion, sparked by mutual distrust …

Hugh McGinnis proves not all at the time shared the belief that the Lakota where animals. He was a white man and should be a sign to my people not all are of the same cloth. Not all share the idea that Lakota are not people or that we deserved the slaughter. His words however fell on deaf ears.

I stood on the very spot where a group of unarmed children mostly boys we’re gunned down by these brave; brave men of the 7th Calvary. Let’s just say I was overcome with emotion. I could almost hear the screams and pain of the day. I really don’t know how to describe all the feelings that were there.

I could almost hear them cry they were crying because they died for nothing. They cry because the Lakota people died there on that day. Now are spirit is broken that day. But was it really broken or does it stand today? I would like to provide new testimony the fact that we remain? I would say our people still remain. We remain despite outlawing our language, faith and stealing our land. Despite murdering us in large numbers, despite all the efforts of this government we stand today.

The nation so conceived in Liberty; that all men are created equal. Yet they didn’t see us as human at all. Its sad really; really sad indeed. I wonder if the soldiers who received the Medal of Honor (more than 20 of them) for shooting women and children in the back or for rounding up children and shooting them in a pile. All unarmed civilians! I wonder if those peoples ancestors still hold those metals today? I wonder are the families proud of what their ancestors did?

I don’t have a doubt they can say the same as I can say. I’m proud of the Warriors who defended their children until 25 soldiers lay dead and 39 more lay wounded. They fought with rocks and sticks against the guns. I can say I’m proud of my people for not dying when the rest of the world wanted them dead. I can say I’m proud of my people and how they acted on that day and for the spirit that just won’t die. Can the families of these brave soldiers say the same? I doubt it.

Just listen how one of their commanders justified the slaughter.

Edward S. Godfrey; Captain; commanded Co. D of the Seventh Cavalry:
“I know the men did not aim deliberately and they were greatly excited. I don’t believe they saw their sights. They fired rapidly but it seemed to me only a few seconds till there was not a living thing before us; warriors, squaws, children, ponies, and dogs … went down before that unaimed fire.” (Godfrey was a Lieutenant in Captain Benteen’s force during the Battle of the Little Bighorn)

Now compare that to how the survivors saw the slaughter.

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.”

Makes me ashamed of the nation I call home. Sick to my heart.

Everybody tells me the N word is such a bad word we need to get rid of it; but nobody’s talking about the word Redskins. It was used in the same manner to dehumanize my people. It was used the same way.

But yet Redskin is allowed today and the N word is not.

I have been called Redskins and found that offensive. I was deeply hurt thought I didn’t say anything about it. The fact remains I was very hurt by it. But I’m equally hurt when I hear one of my people use to turn paleface or whiteman in a derogatory or demeaning manner. I find myself conflicted I understand the hatred; I understand it well. I’ve lived it and I know it. yet still the hatred is unforgivable.

So soon I will take my dream walk, spirit walk, vision quest any of the names suffice.

A vision quest is a rite of passage and can be used in times of deep spiritual troubles. The ceremony of the Vision Quest is one of the most universal and ancient means to find spiritual guidance and purpose. The Lakota have practiced them for thousands of years. A Vision Quest is meant to provide a deep understanding of one’s life purpose and answer questions of the soul.

A traditional Oglala Lakota Vision Quest consists of a person spending three days and two nights secluded in nature. This provides time for deep communion with the fundamental forces and spiritual energies of creation and self-identity. During this time of intense spiritual communication a person can receive profound insight into themselves and the world. This insight, typically in the form of a dream of Vision, relates directly to their purpose and destiny in life or to guide you in a time of spiritual need.

The vision quest can be a turning point in life taken to find oneself and the intended spiritual and life direction. My first Vision Quest was a Rite of Passage, marking the transition between childhood and full acceptance into society as an adult. My first spirit walk was done during my seventieth year. I had to go on a personal, spiritual quest alone in the wilderness, in conjunction with a period of fasting and not sleeping.

A Vision Quest helps the teenager to access spiritual communication and form complex abstract thoughts. Through this Rite of Passage the child becomes an adult, taking responsibility for themselves and their individual contribution to a healthy society.

The vision quest is the learning and initiation process of the apprentice under the guidance of an elder.

The Oglala Lakota word for Vision Quest is Hembleciya (ham-blay-che-ya). The word Hembleciya translates in English to “Crying for a Dream.” This is because both physically and internally you are crying for a Vision or Sacred Dream. It’s always a time of transition when the quest is undertaken.

Soon I will be undertaking a very personal and very moving moment in my life. A time so special so precious I’m not sure if I’ll write about it afterward. I’m really not sure what I want to say to other people about it.

I hope to commune with my ancestors and I hope to find answers in my dream walk. I hope to answer how to forgive. Especially the one took my face from me. I hope to find the answers and how to move forward with my life and where I need to go for my future.

I Hope to find my grandpa Mato for one more hug from him.

This will be my last journal entry for a couple of days while I go on my walk, my quest. I’m warning you ahead of time that I don’t know how I’ll be when I finish my dream. It’s a very personal and private thing and it’s also very physically and emotionally draining. It’s demanding on the person on all levels. No sleep for 3 days is hard on the mind, 3 days with no food is hard on the body, three days smoking peyote and searching for answers and guidance.

I will spend from Tuesday morning till Thursday sundown awake meditating by the fire. A tough time on your body, your spirit and your soul. Its very trying and very demanding of you to do and I don’t know how I feel when I come out.

As many of you know I’m already a little under weight most the time anyways 118 pounds and the doctor say realistically I should be closer to 125 or 130. These three days I’ll probably lose 5 or more pounds and that will take it’s toll. Well that’s part of what’s going to make me weak, coupled with no sleep. Argh! I know right.

But our weakness is where we find our greatest Truths. That’s what your dream is about. It’s about pushing your body and your mind right to its very edge and allowing your subconscious to see the things that you’re conscious mind can’t. It’s about allowing your brain your mind to wander and to find the answers that it needs to your quest. It’s about letting your ancestors guide you and sharing their wisdom with you.

So it’s also very rewarding an experience. I’m not sure as many things right now in my life but I am sure of….. I am sure I want to stop the hate, I want to forgive. This of course is done one person at a time. I stopped the hate in my life long ago. I don’t hate any group of people because of their color, sexual preference, weight, height, gender, religion.

I’ve seen too much of the hatred in the past week and a half. I know the reason I walked them today. I’ve seen the slaughter in my mind and heard the cries of the innocent. I know the reasons and I know the sins. But to me the greater sin is hatred. My heaven father knows no hatred, my language knows none. Both are too beautiful and to pure to know such vile things as hatred, blind hatred.

I look forward to my dream walk and i hope it settles so many things on my mind. Seems things just aren’t right in my life; so many things are all topsy turvy and this will help me put my mind in a place where I’ll be better equipped to make good decisions. So today I saw the medicine man and today he prepared me for my walk. We had our talk.

In the sacred place my people have known for a millennia. To the place where our ancestors have been scattered to the wind and we remit the bodies back to the earth. Ash is to ash and dust is to dust.

Very few among my ancestors are not on that mountain. Many of those that are not remaining graves at wounded knee. The soldiers would not let my ancestors take care of their own they buried them in a mass grave. Today a single monument stands and tells the story. In its solitude it tells the story of the most shameful day in American history.

A nation founded in liberty and justice just six score and four years ago knew not justice or liberty for the lives it snuffed out that day. It left me with a profound appreciation for the enduring spirit that courses my veins. Today has also left me saddened by history and in my nation. It leaves me with a profound question as well.

The hate ….. where does it end? Those who commit these crimes have been dead long since and yet today a century and twenty four years later the hatred remains. How do you stop the hate when you can’t see the problems screaming for answers.

Today I am saddened and yet looking forward to Tuesday and my dream walk. My quest for answers of a deep and spiritual nature. Grandpa Mato I’ll need you one more time. I have part of the answer I think. You can’t forgive some things all at once. You need to plant the seeds of hope and dare to dream of the day it sprouts. You must water it with tears, protect it with heart and shade it just enough to let it grow.

~Michelle Styles – March 24, 2014