Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Wounded Knee and Indian and "Buffalo" Soldiers

The excerpts below are from James Mooney's The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991) 881-883. Mooney's text was originally published in 1896 as the second part of the fourteenth annual report of the US Bureau of Ethnology, 1892-93. The first excerpt refers to the massacre by troops of the 7th Cavalry--the late George A. Custer's old command--at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota on December 29, 1890. The second excerpt concerns a ballad written by one of the "Buffalo Soldiers" I mentioned in "Skins & Fighting for Uncle Scum" and also makes mention of the role of Indian soldiers in the final verse of the ballad.
The Indian scouts at Wounded Knee, like the Indian police at Grand river and Pine Ridge, were brave and loyal, as has been the almost universal rule with Indians when enlisted in the government service, even when called on, as were these, to serve against their own tribe and relatives. The prairie Indian is a born soldier, with all the soldier's pride of loyalty to duty, and may be trusted implicitly after he has once consented to enter the service. The scouts at Wounded Knee were Sioux, with Philip Wells as interpreter. Other Sioux scouts were ranging the country between the agency and the hostile camp in the Bad Lands, and acted as mediators in the peace negotiations which led to the final surrender. Fifty Cheyenne and about as many Crow scouts were also employed in the same section of country. Throughout the entire campaign the Indian scouts and police were faithful and received the warmest commendation of their officers. ...
On January 5 there was another encounter on Wounded Knee creek. A small detachment which had been sent out to meet a supply train coming into the agency found the wagons drawn up in a square to resist an attack made by a band of about 50 Indians. The soldiers joined forces with the teamsters, and by firing from behind the protection of the wagons succeeded in driving off the Indians and killing a number of their horses. The hostiles were reinforced, however, and a hard skirmish was kept up for several hours until more troops arrived from the agency about dark, having been sent in answer to a courier who managed to elude the attacking party. The troops charged on a gallop and the Indians retreated, having lost several killed and wounded, besides a number of their horses. (Colby, 7.)

Amid all these warlike alarms the gentle muse Calliope hovered over the field and inspired W. H. Prather, a colored private of troop I of the Ninth cavalry, to the production of the ballad given below, one of the few good specimens of American ballad poetry, and worthy of equal place with "Captain Lovewell's Fight," "Old Quebec," or anything that originated in the late rebellion. It became a favorite among the troops in camp and with the scattered frontiersmen of Dakota and Nebraska, being sung to a simple air with vigor and expression and a particularly rousing chorus, and is probably by this time a classic of the barracks. It is here reproduced verbatim from the printed slip published for distribution among the soldiers during the campaign.



The Red Skins left their Agency, the Soldiers left their Post,
All on the strength of an Indian tale about Messiah's ghost
Got up by savage chieftains to lead their tribes astray;
But Uncle Sam wouldn't have it so, for he ain't built that way.
They swore that this Messiah came to them in visions sleep,
And promised to restore their game and Buffalos a heap,
So they must start a big ghost dance, then all would join their band,
And may be so we lead the way into the great Bad Land.
They claimed the shirt Messiah gave, no bullet could go through,
But when the Soldiers fired at them they saw this was not true.
The Medicine man supplied them with their great Messiah's grace,
And he, too, pulled his freight and swore the 7th hard to face.

About their tents the Soldiers stood, awaiting one and all,
That they might hear the trumpet clear when sounding General call
Or Boots and Saddles in a rush, that each and every man
Might mount in haste, ride soon and fast to stop this devilish band
But Generals great like Miles and Brooke don't do things up that way,
For they know an Indian like a book, and let him have his sway
Until they think him far enough and then to John they'll say,
"You had better stop your fooling or we'll bring our guns to play."
Chorus: They claimed the shirt, etc.
The 9th marched out with splendid cheer the Bad Lands to explo'e--
With Col. Henry at their head they never fear the foe;
So on they rode from Xmas eve 'till dawn of Xmas day ;
The Red Skins heard the 9th was near and fled in great dismay;
The 7th is of courage bold both officers and men,
But bad luck seems to follow them and twice has took them in;
They came in contact with Big Foot's warriors in their fierce might
This chief made sure he had a chance of vantage in the fight.
Chorus: They claimed the shirt, etc.
A fight took place, 'twas hand to hand, unwarned by trumpet
While the Sioux were dropping man by man--the 7th killed them all,
And to that regiment be said "Ye noble braves, well done,
Although you lost some gallant men a glorious fight you've won."
The 8th was there, the sixth rode miles to swell that great command
And waited orders night and day to round up Short Bull's band.
The Infantry marched up in mass the Cavalry's support,
And while the latter rounded up, the former held the fort.
Chorus: They claimed the shirt, etc.
E battery of the 1st stood by and did their duty well,
For every time the Hotchkiss barked they say a hostile fell.
Some Indian soldiers chipped in too and helped to quell the fray,
And now the campaign's ended and the soldiers marched away.
So all have done their share, you see, whether it was thick or thin,
And all helped break the ghost dance up and drive the hostiles in.
The settlers in that region now can breathe with better grace;
They only ask and pray to God to make John hold his base.
Chorus: They claimed the shirt, etc.
(W. H. Prather, I, 9th Cavalry).
See also:

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Quotable: "The wise men tell us"

The wise men tell us that the world is growing happier--that we live longer than did our fathers, have more of comfort and less of toil, fewer wars and discords, and higher hopes and aspirations. So say the wise men; but deep in our hearts we know they are wrong.

Source: James Mooney. The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991) p. 657. Originally published in 1896.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009


The "lower class" as Indians (and vice versa)

In "Indians at home – Indians in Cornwall, Indians in Wales, Indians in Ireland," I wrote about how one member of the Anglo-America elite equated the indigenous people of North America and the indigenous Celtic peoples of Great Britain and how tools of Anglo-American colonialism were first tested in Europe.

In an 1897 article Myron Eels compared Indians to the "lower class of whites." He wrote:
I should say of the greatest part of those under forty-five years of age, that if they had white skins, talked the English language,--and if a part of them had abandoned their belief in their medicine men,--as some have not done,--if they travelled in boats instead of canoes, if their women wore hats or bonnets on their heads, if they were neater, they would be called civilized, at least as much so as the lower class of whites.
I got this quote from Indians in the Making: Ethnic Relations and Indian Identities around Puget Sound by Alexandra Harmon (Univ. of California Press, 1998) pp. 122-3. For Harmon, this illustrates how much "Indians remained aliens" and, certainly, that is so but I can't help but notice, too, just how little, to Eels' mind, separates Indians from the "the lower class of whites." One wonders about the gulf that separates them from upper class Whites like Eels.

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Friday, November 06, 2009


Israel's Apartheid Wall Will Fall

Reposted from the ISM.

Ni’lin demonstrators topple 8 meter tall concrete wall

6 November 2009

20 years to the fall of the Berlin wall: Demonstrators toppled 8 meters tall concrete wall in Ni’ilin

Three protest marches were held today in the West Bank to mark the 20th anniversary to the fall of the Berlin wall, which has been declared an international day of action against Israel’s barrier. In Ni’lin, the 300 demonstrators managed to topple a part of the eight meters tall concrete wall that cuts through the village’s land. Following the direct action, the army fired scores of live rounds at the demonstrators.

The concrete wall in Ni’lin – five to eight meters (15 to 25 feet) in height – has only recently been laid on the path of the wall cutting through Ni’lin’s lands, in addition to the already existing electronic barrier and razor-wire.

Since the Wall was built to allow more land to annexed to the nearby settlements rather than in a militarily strategic manner, demonstrators have been able to repeatedly dismantle parts of the electronic fence and razor-wire surrounding it. The section of the Wall in Ni’lin is the only place along the route of the barrier where a concrete wall has been erected in an attempt to deal with the civic, unarmed campaign waged by the village in protest of the massive land theft that will enable the expansion of the illegal settlements of Modi’in Il’it and Hashmonaim.

Since Israel began its construction in the year 2002, This is the first time demonstrators succeed in toppling a part of Israel’s barrier which is a concrete wall. One of the demonstrators, Moheeb Khawaja, said during the protest: “Twenty years ago no one had thought the monster that divided Berlin into two could be brought down, but in only two days in November, it did. Today we have proven that this can also be done here and now. It is our land beyond this wall, and we will not give up on it. We will win for a simple reason – justice is on our side.”


Israel began construction of the Wall on Ni’lin’s land in 2004, but stopped after an injunction order issued by the Israeli Supreme Court (ISC). Despite the previous order and a 2004 ruling from the International Court of Justice declaring the Wall illegal, construction of the Wall began again in May 2008. Following the return of Israeli bulldozers to their lands, residents of Ni’lin have launched a grassroots campaign to protest the massive land theft, including demonstrations and direct actions.

The original route of the Wall, which Israel began constructing in 2004, was ruled illegal by the ISC, as was a second, marginally less obtrusive proposed route. The most recent path, now completed, still cuts deep into Ni’lin’s land. The Wall has been built to include plans, not yet approved by the Army’s planning authority, for a cemetery and an industrial zone for the illegal settlement Modi’in Ilit.

Since the Wall was built to annex more land to the nearby settlements rather than in a militarily strategic manner, demonstrators have been able to repeatedly dismantle parts of the electronic fence and razor-wire surrounding it. Consequently, the army has erected a 15-25 feet tall concrete wall, in addition to the electronic fence. The section of the Wall in Ni’lin is the only part of the route where a concrete wall has been erected in response to civilian, unarmed protest.

As a result of the Wall construction, Ni’lin has lost 3,920 dunams, roughly 30% of its remaining lands. Originally, Ni’lin consisted of 15,898 dunams (3928 acres). Post 1948, Ni’lin was left with 14,794 dunams (3656 acres). After the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the illegal settlements and infrastructure of Modi’in Ilit, Mattityahu and Hashmonaim were built on village lands, and Ni’lin lost another 1,973 dunams. With the completion of the Wall, Ni’lin has a remaining 8911 dunams (2201 acres), 56% of it’s original size.

Ni’lin is effectively split into 2 parts (upper and lower) by Road 446, which was built directly through the village. According to the publicized plan of the Israeli government, a tunnel will be built under road 446 to connect the upper and lower parts of Ni’lin, allowing Israel to turn Road 446 into a segregated-setter only road. Subsequently, access for Palestinian vehicles to this road and to the main entrances of upper and lower Ni’lin will be closed. Additionally, since the tunnel will be the only entryway to Ni’lin, Israel will have control over the movement of Palestinian residents.

Israel commonly uses tear-gas projectiles, rubber coated steel bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators.

Since May, 2008, five of Ni’lin’s residents were killed and one American solidarity activist was critically injured from Israeli fire during grassroots demonstrations in Ni’lin.

  • 5 June 2009: Yousef Akil Srour (36) was shot in the chest with 0.22 caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital.
  • 13 March 2009: Tristan Anderson (37), an American citizen, was shot in the head with a high velocity tear gas projectile. He is currently at Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv with uncertain prospects for his recovery.
  • 28 December 2008: Mohammed Khawaje (20) was shot in the head with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition. He died in a Ramallah hospital 3 days later on 31 December 2008.
  • 28 December 2008: Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) was shot in the back with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital.
  • 30 July 2008: Yousef Amira (17) was shot in the head with two rubber coated steel bullets. He died in a Ramallah hospital 5 days later on 4 August 2008.
  • 29 July 2008: Ahmed Mousa (10) was shot in the forehead with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital.

In total, 19 people have been killed during demonstrations against the Wall.

Israeli armed forces have shot 40 demonstrators with live ammunition in Ni’lin. Of them, 11 were shot with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and 24 were shot with 0.22 caliber live ammunition.

Since May 2008, 87 arrests of Ni’lin residents have been made in relation to anti-Wall demonstrations in the village. The protesters seized by the army constitute around 7% of the village’s males aged between 12 and 55. The arrests are part of a broad Israeli intimidation campaign to suppress all demonstrations against the apartheid infrastructure in the West Bank.

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