For two boys growing up in South Dakota, one attending a single-room schoolhouse and one a Catholic grade school, this day on the calendar had no other significance (Do you remember it being taught?). It was not until college that this student learned it represented the most heinous event in South Dakota history:
At daybreak on December 29, 1890, Col. Forsyth ordered the surrender of weapons and the immediate removal and transportation of the Indians from the "zone of military operations" to awaiting trains. Specific details of what triggered the fight are debated. According to some accounts, a medicine man named Yellow Bird began to perform the Ghost Dance, reiterating his assertion to the Lakota that the ghost shirts were bulletproof. As tension mounted, Black Coyote refused to give up his rifle; he was deaf and had not understood the order.The narrative that follows that passage is too horrifying to appear here.
One of the first jobs we kids learned after moving to the farm in the Spring of '64 was picking rock. I was almost ten, sister Lynn was eight. We learned to drive taking turns at the wheel of that old tractor and wagon moving at a half a mile an hour while Dad did most of the real work.
Finding stone hammers was our reward for clearing glacial till from those fields not knowing that they had been left there by the ancestors of those killed at Wounded Knee. Blood from our oft-smashed fingers are still on some of those rocks.
Happy Birthday, Papa.