On Mass Shootings and Massacres

Earlier this year, when the Pulse nightclub was attacked, people were going on about how it was the largest mass shooting…and others were going, “no, Wounded Knee was!”

For those not in the loop, the Wounded Knee they’re talking about is the little incident on December 29, 1890, in South Dakota.  Another incident occurred in 1973, when a store near the site of the first incident was taken over and occupied by members of AIM, who were then besieged by the US government.

To be fair, they’re sort of right. In the Pulse nightclub shooting, 49 were killed and 53 injured. At least 150 natives  (possibly as many as 300) were killed at Wounded Knee, with 51 wounded (some of whom later died of their injuries). The survivors were taken to a nearby church, which acted as hospital (and then morgue), still decked out in Christmas decorations.

But, here’s the thing you have to understand: according to the US government, Wounded Knee was not a mass shooting, and not a terror attack, and not a massacre. It was a battle in an ongoing war with the indigenous peoples of this continent – a battle in a war meant to take land that had already been “granted” to those tribes by treaty (as if they needed the US government to say, yeah, you’ve lived here generations, but this land isn’t yours, it’s ours, but hey, we’re nice guys, we’ll let you stay if you give up your livelihoods and your religion and your entire way of life).

It was a battle where 20 people received the Medal of Honor.

Using someone else’s data (http://www.homeofheroes.com/…/histo…/history_statistics.html) it would appear that as of 2014, there had been 3510 MoH awarded in US history. There were 426 given during the Indian Wars….and only 472 given during WWII. 27 of those were given for actions at Iwo Jima, making Wounded knee the second largest number of MoH given for a single action.

You’d think, then, that there was some honor in this battle, some level of heroics.

Women and children were chased across the countryside and shot. Children were lured out of hiding, told they’d be safe, and then shot when they came out. Women and children trying to reach white flags of surrender were shot. Guns were fired indiscriminately, killing horses, dogs, and anything else that moved – in fact, the suspicion is that most of the US soldiers who died were shot by friendly fire, because most of the guns had already been confiscated from the camp.

Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia. org
Big Foot’s camp three weeks after Wounded Knee Massacre; with bodies of four Lakota Sioux wrapped in blankets in the foreground; U.S. soldiers amid scattered debris of camp

That doesn’t sound honorable to me.

Their bodies were left to freeze – a blizzard hit (which is a pretty common thing in the Dakotas this time of year) and when civilians went to bury the bodies 3 days later (because the army decided they weren’t doing it), they found bodies frozen in the shapes they fell in, and babies still alive, having been protected from the elements by their mothers’ dead bodies. The bodies that were found were buried in a mass grave, bodies stacked however they could be, seeing as how they were frozen solid. That grave is on the same hill that Hotchkiss guns fired on them from.

The colonel in charge of the troops was relieved of command at that time, but exonerated during an inquiry and returned to duty.

So there you go. That’s not a terrorist act or a mass shooting. It’s an *honorable* battle, fought by good soldiers who were just following orders.

“Just following orders” is always the excuse, isn’t it?

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