Pine Ridge

© D. Luchsinger, commons.wikimedia.org

 

I was privileged,
really,
and moved

The old man spoke, 
eloquent and clear

His grandfather, 
young teen Sioux,
had snuck away 
from Wounded Knee

The fight, so fierce, 
had spilled harsh
into his young life

Cavalry soldiers, 
lionized in print
But women,
children, men,
dying and dead

Leonard Littlefinger, 
resonant with anger 
for his people

Echoes of the 
ghetto—Detroit

People damaged, 
alone, bereft
Drunk and listless, 
no work or pay

1890’s photos 
hung proudly 
at the school

A captive people 
yet vibrant, 
eyes bright

Fast forward, 
A mother’s grief
To dark temptations
her son succumbed

Fast food lines 
Dull faces, empty eyes

We’ve drug them down, 
with us . . .

On a Quaker mission to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 1997, the author assisted with construction of a large, circular coming-of-age celebration shelter. Former tribal president Gerald One Feather wanted one as part of his efforts to revive Lakota culture. Leonard Littlefinger spoke at a dinner held in thanks for Quaker assistance. The Loneman reservation school was built by Presbyterians. Based on a lottery, they were assigned to Christianize Lakota children. The Wounded Knee attack took place on December 29, 1890, on a Lakota encampment in freezing weather. Why the attack occurred isn’t known, as almost all Lakota had been disarmed. A few youths escaped, including Leonard’s grandfather, but soldiers hunted them for several days. Somehow, they survived without shelter. Two to three hundred Lakota were killed and buried in a mass grave, along with 31 cavalrymen. Twenty of the soldiers won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Oglala Lakota County, where Pine Ridge is located, is often ranked as the poorest in the country.

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