Woster: Wounded Knee isn’t just a place to check a travel list – Mitchell Republic


One summer morning in the early 1990s, on our way to a family reunion in Fort Robinson, Nebraska, we turned off the main highway and drove to Wounded Knee, the site of the men’s massacre. , Lakota women and children in 1890.

I don’t remember which family members made this detour. I know my mother was there, and most of my siblings and their children. I’m sure we were a noisy group when we pulled up and parked down the hill from the cemetery which contains the mass grave where the victims of the massacre lie. We meant no disrespect, but we were siblings with young children a few hours into a long weekend adventure.

Near the posts that form the entrance gate to the site, we passed an elderly Aboriginal woman. “You shouldn’t be here,” she said in a forceful whisper. “You don’t belong here.” She left before any of us could respond. None of us knew what to say, anyway. We were more discreet as we spent a few minutes looking at the area. It was not bad. Subdued may be one of the best ways to approach the Wounded Knee grave site.

I hope we’ve been respectful. It’s not always easy with young people on vacation, but I think we tried to be.

As we were leaving, I worked on a mix of feelings. I’ve been to the Wounded Knee area several times for reporting in the 1970s. The news wasn’t always pleasant, but I loved the area. Its mix of harsh, open grasslands and lush, shady valleys and stream beds took my breath away no matter how many times I walked the landscape.

And no matter how many times I traveled this way or how rushed I was in my reporting, I had found the mass grave site to be a particularly moving spiritual place. Reading what I could find about the history of the massacre and the events leading up to it may have contributed to this sentiment. Just like contacts with local residents. In formal interviews and informal conversations, I heard stories they had heard from ancestors who had heard them from people who lived in Wounded Knee times.

I had been excited on that summer day in the 1990s to see how my family members would react to the place. I’m sure I wanted them to experience what I did when I left off. The tomb on its low hill at Wounded Knee is one of the essential places I have visited in my life. I am not native. I cannot know the depth and range of feelings and emotions they experience there. But I can say it’s a powerful place. He deserves to be treated as such.

I remembered this family visit recently when I saw on the news that Governor Noem was interested in developing a “real memorial” at Wounded Knee. She said such a memorial could attract people from all over the world to “learn about the terrible things that happened there.”

She said she was interested in working with the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the idea. This is certainly the right way to go, if the tribe is interested.

At other times, there have been other proposals to create a memorial. I fear that any significant development of the site will destroy the presence that exists as it is. People should see the place, that’s for sure. There is a lot to live.

But I imagine swarms of tourists, selfies all around, people shouting and laughing. It’s a cemetery, a burial place, not something to check off a travel list. Maybe it shouldn’t be easy to reach. It doesn’t need new freeways and convenient paved parking lots. It might be one of those rare places that should take some effort, so people who get there are really keen to learn from the past.

If it were up to me, anyone who really wanted to check out the place would park down the hill, leave their phone and camera in their car, and drive around without speaking. They watched, and they listened. They would think, and they would feel. Maybe they would learn.


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