August 22, 2011
Before heading out to South Dakota, I stumbled across Frugal Traveler Matt Gross and his account of Wounded Knee. After reading it, I decided we needed to visit the site since it was only 2 hours south of Badlands National Park.
The drive down to Wounded Knee was scenic with views of rolling hills, blue skies, and the blacktop road ahead. The hills were broken up by sporadic scars of silt and clay, natural to the badlands. Signs of desolation were around us as we drove past run down buildings and empty lots littered with broken boxes and shards of glass. We didn't see any indications of a thriving community, just some horses in fenced-in plots and what seemed like empty homes scattered intermittently across the green knolls. Little did we know that what we saw was the Pine Ridge Reservation, which is one of the poorest areas in the US. We drove onward until we could see the sign for the Wounded Knee Massacre site.
The red sign with white lettering detailed the Massacre at Wounded Knee of 1890. We walked over to the stand where two Lakota men were talking to tourists. While listening to them, we rifled through some of the books that were laid out on the stand. The books contained newspaper clippings about Wounded Knee and had pictures of the children, women, and men who were killed at the creek in front of us. It was unnerving to see the all the dead bodies lying in the snow while US soldiers stood watching with rifles in hand. Since a snowstorm passed after the slaughtering, the bodies laid out in the open for 3 days until the ground softened enough for soldiers to dig a grave. The frozen dead bodies were then piled into the mass grave and that is where they still lie. The two men told us that in December, they always do the Bigfoot Memorial Ride where they retrace the 191 mile trip Bigfoot and the Lakota people took from Standing Rock to where they were killed at Wounded Knee. After talking with the two men, M and I went across the highway to the grave.
We walked up the hill and went through the decrepit Wounded Knee Memorial Arch. Around the perimeter of the grave was a chain link fence and graves from other Lakota people. We unlocked the gate and followed the paved walkway. M and I took some time to pay our respects to those who had passed away and then drove back to our campsite in Badlands National Park with a lot to think about.
|Leaving Badlands National Park|
|Rolling hills and eroded sediment layer|
|What a gorgeous drive|
|Wounded Knee Memorial Arch|
|The mass grave|
|Wounded Knee Massacre grave|