Descendants of Chief Big Foot honor relatives lost at Wounded Knee

NewsCenter1's Darsha Nelson introduces us to the descendants of Chief Big Foot as they ride to keep their history alive

PINE RIDGE RESERVATION, S.D. — December 29, 1890.


Burial of the Lakota Dead, Wounded Knee SD, Oglala Lakota County (photo courtesy: South Dakota Digital Archives)

While camped on the banks of Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Lakota Sioux Chief Big Foot and his band of Ghost Dancers were surrounded by the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry. The U.S. government, in 1890, worried about the influence of the Ghost Dance spiritual movement across the native lands.

A massacre ensued, where an estimated three hundred Lakota were killed – nearly half of them being women and children.

They had recently fled from the Cheyenne River Reservation following the death of Chief Sitting Bull, who was killed by Indian Agency Police on the Standing Rock Reservation barely two weeks earlier.

Those that survived were brought to Pine Ridge, but were turned away from hospitals. Local churches took them in, but when the wounded died, they couldn’t be buried there because they weren’t baptized.

In remembrance and prayer, a group of riders began in Bridger more than a week ago and arrived in Wounded Knee Wednesday night to mark the anniversary.

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The Sitanka Takini riders arrive at the Makasan Church in Oglala

“Just remember what it’s all about and what it stands for, you know?,” says Steven Driver, who came up from Colorado supporting relatives riding in the Big Foot Ride. “Just teach…let other people know about awareness and what things are like and what we’re trying to do and how we’re going to keep it going to our kids.”

On Thursday, the day after the 131st anniversary of the massacre, a group of riders traveled from cemetery to cemetery in Oglala to honor those relatives that were lost.

“We want to recognize all those families so they’re not forgotten,” Michael He Crow, a descendant of Chief Big Foot. “[And] remember them and the relatives that were at Wounded Knee.”

The takini (descendants) traveled across Oglala to two separate churches, stopping for prayers along the way.

He Crow also calls upon the U.S. government to rescind the medals given to the Seventh Cavalry soldiers for their participation in the Wounded Knee massacre.

“So you can’t hide the real history anymore, because everybody knows…everybody’s into looking for the real history,” He Crow adds.

He Crow says an estimated 40 families that live in the Pine Ridge area are descendants of Chief Big Foot. He and the other organizers are hopeful that the annual Sitanka Wokiksuye (Big Foot Ride) will grow and attract more participants to carry on.

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