Day 182: America’s native prisoners of war

Aaron Huey appears at TED to show his photographs of the Lakota, a group of Native American who live 75 miles Southeast of the Black Hills of South Dakota. The reservation is Pine Ridge, also known as Prisoner of War camp number 334.

Despite being well known by the Lakota people, Huey will always be known as ‘wasichu.’ In addition to being a term for white people, wasichu means ‘one who takes the best meat for himself.’ This is the topic of Huey’s conversation. He presents a historical timeline of events which he learned of in his dealings with the Lakota people. This deserves to be heard, even if you don’t listen to his talk, so here it is.
1824: the Bureau of Indian affairs created within the American War Department.
1851: The first treaty of Fort Laramie was drawn up, making the Lakota lands a sovereign nation; had this held, the U.S. map would look very different today. 
1861: The Homestead act, signed by Lincoln, unleashed white settlers into those lands.
1863: An uprising of Santee Sioux in Minnesota ends with the hanging of 38 Sioux, ordered by Lincoln only two days after the signing of the Emancipation proclamation.
1866: The beginning of the Transcontinental railroad. Three groups led by the chief Red Cloud attacked and defeated the U.S. army many times. 
1868: The second Laramie treaty clearly guaranteed Sioux ownership of their sovereign nation and the sacred Black Hills.
1869: Transcontinental railroad was completed. Amongst its passengers were hunters who killed the buffaloes, taking food from the Lakota. 
1871: The Federal government makes all Indians wards of the government and prevents them from leaving reservations, essentially making them prisoners of war. Also, treaty making was ended.
1875: Custer announced the discovery of gold in the Black Hills and recommends that congress find a way to end the treaties as soon as possible. The Lakota war begins.
1876: Custer’s 7th cavalry was crushed at the battle of Little Big Horn.
1877: Crazy Horse surrendered at Fort Robinson and was later killed while in custody. Also, a campaign was mounted to dissolve the treaties, by forcing the Lakota to sell their lands or they would starve. Despite the Fort Laramie treaty calling for 75% of men to sign away land when only 10% did, that clause was ignored. 
1887: The Dawes Act. Communal ownership of land on reservations ends. Reservations are cut up and distributed to individual Indians with millions of acres lost to tribes. 
1890: The Wounded Knee massacre. U.S. troops surrounded an encampment at Wounded Knee Creek and massacred Chief Big Foot and over 300 prisoners of war. More Medals of Honor for Valor were awarded to the cavalry than in WW1, WW2, Afghanistan, Korea, Vietnam or Iraq. The U.S. Indian population reached its low point of less than 250,000, compared with an estimated eight million in 1492.
1980: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the terms of the Fort Laramie treaty had been violated and offered the Sioux 106 million dollars. The Sioux refused with the statement that the Black Hills weren’t for sale. 
Nowadays, statistics reveal the legacy of colonisation, forced migration and treaty violations, with grossly inadequate health outcomes, social problems and appalling housing conditions amongst the problems experienced by Native Americans. These problems aren’t easy to fix and some might suggest a time machine is needed. Huey here presents his TED wish; that the Black Hills are given back to the Lakota people and the U.S. government stops violating the terms of the Laramie treaties. 

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