Massacre re-enactors in poor taste

I recently visited the Whitestone Hill Massacre site [in North Dakota]. We came for the Friday Educational Day. I brought two students from Tiospa Zina Tribal School. Recently, we have been learning about the massacre that took place Sept. 3, 1863. It was a massacre on hunting bands of Dakota and Lakota. We came in Thursday evening and camped. It was a very beautiful night, nearly a full moon. We missed the riders that had made the long journey by horseback, they had spent most of the day at Whitestone to honor their relatives who were killed.

On Friday morning, as the students were waking up and getting out of their tents, we heard across the lake and through the fog a bugle call. We packed our tents and drove to the other side of the lake. As we pulled near the base of the monument, I was horrified to see men dressed in Civil War uniforms, women dressed in long skirts, blouses and bonnets of the Civil War era.

I didn’t want to get out of the car. I was in shock, and I was becoming very angry.

Capt. Furnas and his troops slaughtered 300 non-hostile Dakota and Lakota men, women, children and babies. They took hundreds of women and children prisoner and sent them to Fort Thompson. They burned 400,000 pounds of buffalo meat and destroyed other supplies.

An elder Dakota descendant that I was with said, “Let’s go ask that soldier if I can see his gun.” We giggled. Somehow, it was a way to help us cope. She wanted to get out and take a look at a table that had some books for sale, see if they had any photos of her ancestors.

We then went to find one of the Civil War re-enactors. There was one soldier way up at the top of the hill near the large monument. From where we were standing, he looked like a sharp-shooter. Very intimidating for this Dakota elder; thoughts just flooding her mind. Did they still view this massacre as a victory? Do they think it was such a great thing that they want to re-enact it?

We decided to talk to one of the re-enactors at the bottom of the hill. As we got closer, I could see him squirm a bit. He had several large wooden rifles. She asked if he was selling them. He said, “No, I use them with the children in my demonstration.”

We looked at each other and thought the same thing: He is teaching the children how to shoot Indians?

Just then another group of children were coming. The kids had 15 minutes at each learning station. As we walked away we heard the soldier shout orders at the children. I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.

At that point we decided to leave. We had enough


I think re-enactors should be banned at any Indian battle site. It is in such poor taste. This was never a military camp. There was no drilling of troops here. There were no white women in bonnets here during this massacre. There was only murder by the United States military and the destroying of Indian property to put them all in a sudden state of starvation.

Shame on you for allowing such behavior to be perpetuated.

– Sara Childers

Wilmot, S.D.