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New Times / Letter To The Editor

The following article was posted on June 25th, 2014, in the New Times - Volume 28, Issue 48 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 28, Issue 48

A brief history on 'redskins'

Jim Gregory - History teacher, Arroyo Grande High School

Here is why I am tired of “Redskins.”

In the winter of 1890, Lakota Chief Big Foot led his people away from the Standing Rock Reservation, where Sitting Bull had just been killed, because he was afraid for them, afraid there would be more violence. He was fleeing for the Pine Ridge Reservation when the Seventh Cavalry caught up to his band. Big Foot was exhausted and sick from pneumonia. He raised a white flag.

When the Seventh confiscated the group’s weapons the next morning, Dec. 29, a rifle discharged. The regiment, which had surrounded Big Foot’s people, opened up with everything they had, including four Hotchkiss guns—42 mm howitzers.

They killed as many as 370 Lakota, including Big Foot. Rifle and shellfire killed many as they huddled close together—fish in a barrel—in panic, in the scant shelter of a creek bank.

Many others were killed while they were running away. The power of their fear was such that a few women and children, hungry and numb from cold, ran for two miles before troopers remorselessly rode them down and shot them.

The soldiers shot them because they were Redskins, so they, too, were victims of Custer’s fecklessness in leading the Seventh to its destruction 14 years before. This was the regiment’s justice.

Twenty of them received Congressional Medals of Honor for the work they did at Wounded Knee that day.

The Lakota survivors—the blood from their wounds was frozen—were brought to an Episcopal chapel, decorated for the Christmas season, where, as historian Dee Brown notes, they were laid out on the floor under a sign that read:

“Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”

Words carry their own freight. One hundred and twenty-four years later, this is a word that, intentionally or not, celebrates the hatred that led civilized men to butcher children in the snow.