The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that United States troops have fired upon Americans when ordered to do so by the politicians in Washington, D.C. The massacre of Sioux Indians on the banks of Wounded Knee Creek is just one example of what happens when the “government” wants to “protect” people from themselves or from concern for society as a whole. Other modern examples are the shootout at Ruby Ridge and the explosion/fire at Waco, Texas.
Today we will learn about Wounded Knee, one of the very first attempts by the U.S. government to control guns. The massacre there took place because the army was sent to confiscate the Indian’s rifles.
The massacre at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota took place on December 29, 1890. Many Sioux were camped on the banks of the creek that morning, including Chief Big Foot and about 350 tribal members. U.S. troops surrounded the camp; they had been charged with the responsibility to arrest Big Food and to disarm his warriors. There had been trouble brewing for several months.
The Sioux had once been a proud people who roamed freely over the plains hunting buffalo and living in freedom; then the United States government confined them to reservations and made them dependent on Indian Agents for their necessities. The Sioux longed for their old life and were desperate to return to their glory days. The Sioux heard of a Paiute shaman called Wovoka in Nevada who was preaching a new mysticism and sent emissaries to listen to his words.
“Wovoka called himself the Messiah and prophesied that the dead would soon join the living in a world in which the Indians could live in the old way surrounded by plentiful game. A tidal wave of new soil would cover the earth, bury the whites, and restore the prairie. To hasten the event, the Indians were to dance the Ghost Dance. Many dancers wore brightly colored shirts emblazoned with images of eagles and buffaloes. [They believed that] these `Ghost Shirts’ would protect them from the bluecoats’ bullets. During the fall of 1890, the Ghost Dance spread through the Sioux villages of the Dakota reservations, revitalizing the Indians and bringing fear to the whites. A desperate Indian Agent at Pine Ridge wired his superior in Washington, `The Indians are dancing in the snow and are wild and crazy …. We need protection and we need it now. The leaders should be arrested and confined at some military post until the matter is quieted, and this should be done now.’ The order went out to arrest Chief Sitting Bull at the Standing Rock Reservation. Sitting Bull was killed in the attempt on December 15. Chief Big Foot was next on the list.”
Big Foot, sick with pneumonia and dying, did not wait to be arrested but led his people south seeking protection at the Pine Ridge Reservation. The U.S. troops intercepted the Sioux on December 28 and forced them to camp at the edge of the Wounded Knee Creek on December 28. While Big Foot and his warriors were powwowing with the army officers in the early morning hours, a shot was heard. The Indians grabbed their rifles, but soldiers “fired volley after volley into the Sioux camp.” Grapeshot from the “Hotchkiss guns” fired by soldiers from heights above the camp tore through the Indian teepees. Men, women, and children ran for their lives through the clouds of gun smoke. Many of them tried to hide in a ravine close to the camp, but they were killed by “withering cross fire.”
When the shooting stopped and the smoke cleared, Foot and approximately 300 Sioux Indians (other sites say 150) were dead while only 25 soldiers died. A blizzard swept in from the North as the soldiers attempted to remove the dead bodies, and the task was postponed for a few days. Some fighting continued in scattered places, but the Ghost Dance movement and the Indian Wars were basically ended at Wounded Knee Creek.
The Framers of the Constitution and the Founders of our nation wrote the Second Amendment – the right to keep and bear arms – to give the people the right to defend themselves, their families, and their properties from either an invading army or from an oppressive government. Anyone who believes that the Second Amendment was given to us for hunting or sporting purposes has not studied history. In colonial times and longer, hunting was an everyday or weekly activity in order to put food on the table, and ammunition was too valuable to waste otherwise. The colonists had just finished fighting an eight-year war against an oppressive government. They understood the importance of guns and the ability of people to defend themselves against the government if necessary. The massacre at Wounded Knee Creek is just one example of botched federal attempts to control guns.