News broke last week that a man in Colorado, Paul Rathbun, is slated to profit off the very weapons used to murder the victims of the Wounded Knee Massacre. An auction is scheduled to start on June 11 via Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, where more than 100 items collected from the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations beginning in the 1880s, including three guns used to kill the victims of Wounded Knee, will be sold for financial gain.
On December 29, 1890, hundreds of unarmed Lakota men, women and children were murdered by the United States. The majority of the blood that seeped into the snow that day came from slain mothers and their babies – some of the infants still suckling at their mother’s breast. Grandmothers and grandfathers were made to watch white men on horseback adorning Christian crosses and red, white, and blue banners slaughter their beloved like cattle. They, too, were gunned down or run through by men who would later receive the Medal of Honor for this action.
The crime of these victims – the rightful stewards, sons and daughters of this continent – was simply being indigenous to the land now called America of which the European invaders desired for themselves. Because the Lakota are of dark complexion, because they were not Christ followers, and because the white invaders did not consider Native Americans human beings capable of love, compassion, and vulnerability, more than 300 of them were brutally killed and later dumped into a long trench. Soon after the carnage, a brigade of white men would be paid $2 for every corpse they threw, rolled, or dropped into the pit.
This macabre scene would occur more than 40 years before innocent Jewish families were murdered and cast into trenches at places like the Treblinka death camp in German-occupied Poland during World War II at the behest of the maniacal demagogue Adolf Hitler, who himself praised the United States for its brutal treatment of “the red savages.” Are we, then, to be surprised that Hitler was so effective in his genocide given he had the American template to follow?
Not in the least.
Left, Nazis dump the bodies of Jewish victims into a pit during World War II. Right, soldiers and volunteers drop bodies of slain Lakota into a trench following the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.
And since we are on the subject of ignobility, it was just last month that another weapon used to murder a child was sold at auction. George Zimmerman, the killer, made more than $120,000 when he sold the gun he used to end the life of a young, screaming, frightened Trayvon Martin to an undisclosed buyer.
Rathbun claims that his family had salvaged the weapons from the blood-soaked field following the Wounded Knee Massacre, and were alleged friends of the murdered Oglala. He goes so far as to say a pipe (also up for auction) was given to his grandfather, Raymond, as a gift by Red Cloud himself.
Which of the psychiatric disorders does it take to voluntarily profit off the weapons that killed innocent people? Antisocial? Narcissism? I am not in denial that the world is brimming with sick and twisted shitheads, but to lean on your family lore to profit off items used to massacre alleged friends of your deceased family is a particular low.
How would the United States react if a weapon used during the September 11 attacks was found and later put on the auction block for money? How would the victims’ families feel to know someone was seeking to profit off the very weapon that was used to terrorize and eventually kill their loved one? I would imagine there would be an audible gasp of disgust from coast to coast. I would imagine there would be nationwide protests, and that the auction would be swiftly shut down.
Sadly, the reason there is no nationwide protest, nor will there be one, in the case of the weapons used during Wounded Knee, is twofold: First, Americans expect and, yes, are comfortable with the idea of dead Indians. I’ve said this before. The American narrative as written exalts those who have killed Native Americans in the name of God and expansion; Hollywood and the United States often glorify such villains. Secondly, too much time and distance and bullshit separates Americans from the victims of the Wounded Knee Massacre for them to care as they would for atrocities of recent memory, especially atrocities that impact them personally.
But this is where the U.S. and Native Americans are dissimilar. Our memories and our pains are not limited to decades, nor centuries. We remember what happen to our loved ones as far back as 1492, and we will never forget, as the saying goes. We will never stop speaking for our innocent beloved who were killed so indiscriminately and without regard by invaders who claimed “all men are created equal” and lauded themselves as champions of liberty.
For tens of thousands of years, since time immemorial, we have called this land home. And in a mere couple hundred, the invaders have reduced our numbers so that we are now the smallest racial minority in our ancestral land. Today, Native Americans are statistically more likely to be killed by the authorities than any other demographic; indigenous women in this country are 3.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted, mostly by white men; and Native Americans are still subject to dehumanizing slurs like “redskins” and “savages.”
Given the evidence, we were not the savages and are not still. The European invaders’ blood-thirst, his insatiable desire for selfish gain and profit, his sense of unquestioning privilege, is an indictment and proves his savagery. Such decadence is still here with us today. Anyone who would deny this fact is either blind or a fool – or is the one who profits from such rotten behavior.
Let it be known that this auction is an affront to decency, honor, respect, to everything this country says it stands for. Should this auction commence, as it did for the gun that killed the young Trayvon Martin, let it be another example of the depravity and the hypocrisy that is the United States.
This country has no more moral high ground than the liar and murderer who denies the lie and mocks the murdered.
For me, there is nothing civilized about Western Civilization, especially when the weapons its uses to murder the young and defenseless are cherished more than the lives of those they take.
And one more thing: Regina Garcia Cano of The Associated Press wrote in her report on June 4 that the Wounded Knee Massacre was “the final battle of the American Indian Wars.”
The Wounded Knee Massacre was not a “battle.” It was a MASSACRE. This is a historical fact. And to report on it otherwise perpetuates the American lie.
Simon Moya-Smith. Courtesy Clint Spaulding.
Simon Moya-Smith, Oglala Lakota, is the Culture Editor at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter @simonmoyasmith.