Chief Joseph Brings Plenty: Save Wounded Knee

Monument erected at the site of the 1890 massacre of hundreds of Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee Creek by the U.S. 7th Cavalry.

In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Chief Joseph Brings Plenty explains just why Wounded Knee should be saved.

He first explains the background of what happened at Wounded Knee and the meaning of the Lakota Sioux word takini, or “to die and come back” or “survivor.”

“Our fight to survive as a people continues today, a struggle to preserve not just our culture and our language but also our history and our land,” Brings Plenty says in the opinion piece.

He now lives on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation but grew up in Pine Ridge, near Wounded Knee. Members of his family died at Wounded Knee, one of his ancestors survived.

“The killing ground stirs great emotion in all of our people — memories of bodies frozen into twisted shapes, of those who were hunted down and murdered as they fled, and of those who escaped in bitter cold across wind-swept plains. These stories have been handed down to us and live within us,” he says in the New York Times piece, posted online April 11.

Brings Plenty recounts one story he was told be a tribal elder when he was just 8. “The old woman’s mother told her how her own mother had gathered her up when the bullets started flying. Just then, a young horse warrior galloped past and took the child up in his arms to help her escape. As she looked back, she saw her mother shot down, her chest torn open by bullets. She told her daughter that she remembered tasting the salt in her tears. The old woman told me all this after I had knocked over a saltshaker. Salt still reminded her of her mother,” he says there are many stories like this one, which is why the sacred land should not be auctioned off or even be up for sale by the owner. (Related story: Mixed Emotions Over Wounded Knee Massacre Site Being For Sale)

He says it should be purchased by the federal government and preserved as a national monument.

Read the full opinion piece by Brings Plenty, a former chairman of the Cheyenee River Sioux Tribe and teacher of Lakota culture at the Takini School on the Cheyenne reservation, here.