Opinion

Trump’s Wounded Knee jab evokes dark history of suppressing indigenous religions

Native American cartoonist Ricardo Cate', far right, and Chicano cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, third right, visit Wounded Knee Memorial at Wounded Knee, S.D., on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on May 1, 2015. The nightclub attack in Orlando was initially described by some news organizations, including The Associated Press, as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. In truth, America has seen even bigger massacres, some involving hundreds of men, women and children, like the one at Wounded Knee in 1890 against the Lakota. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

(The Conversation) — President Trump evoked the Wounded Knee massacre in a recent tweet. He was reacting to an Instagram video that Sen. Elizabeth Warren posted on New Year’s Eve.

There’s been considerable criticism of the president’s inaccurate portrayal of Native American history, including from members of his own party. Two Republican senators from South Dakota, Mike Rounds and John Thune, spoke out against the tweet.

Wounded Knee is among the worst massacres in Native American history. It was also one of the most violent examples of the repression of indigenous religion in American history.

Religious suppression

Religion historian Tisa Wenger explains that before the 20th century, many Americans believed that “indigenous practices were by definition savage, superstitious and coercive.” They did not consider them to be religion.

In part because of this belief, the U.S. government decided not to recognize Native Americans as citizens of sovereign governments in the 19th century, but as colonial subjects. In 1883, the Department of Interior enacted the first “Indian Religious Crimes Code” making the practice of Native American religions illegal. These codes remained in place until 1934.

In response, Wenger writes, some Native American groups tried to convince government agents that their gatherings were places of “prayer and worship” similar to Christian churches. Others claimed that their gathering were “social,” not religious.

But this kind of masking of religious practices did not stop the U.S. government from using violence to suppress these Native American ceremonies.

In 1890, the U.S. military shot and killed hundreds of unarmed men, women and children at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in an effort to suppress a Native American religious ceremony called the “ghost dance.”

Historian Louis Warren explains that the ghost dance developed as a religious practice in the late 19th century after Native Americans witnessed the devastating environmental change of their homelands from American settlement. The dance envisioned a return to their unspoiled natural world.

The U.S. military, however, viewed it differently. They believed the Native Americans at Wounded Knee were gathering for war.

In full tribal regalia, Dewey Beard, left, and James Pipe-on-Head, right, survivors of the wounded knee creek massacre of 1890 in South Dakota, arrived in Washington on March 4, 1938, to testify in behalf of a bill to pay $1,000 to each of the survivors of the bloody fight in which 290 members of the Sioux Indian band were slain. They were greeted by John Collier, center, Commissioner of Indian Affairs. (AP Photo)

The darkest moment

The U.S. government changed its policies of openly suppressing indigenous religions in 1934. But it would take another 44 years before the U.S. fully committed “to protect and preserve” religious rights of American Indians through the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in 1978.

As a Native American scholar of religion and environment history, I agree with Republican Sen. Mike Rounds – the Wounded Knee massacre “should never be used as a punchline.”The Conversation

(Rosalyn R. LaPier is an associate professor of environmental studies at the University of Montana.)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Rosalyn R. LaPier

64 Comments

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  • “indigenous religion”

    Is it possible to drop the word “religion” entirely, and just use “tradition”? That is to say, keep religion for Judaism, Christianity and Islam only?

    So far as I can tell, the Native American practices don’t have a god with intentionality; they don’t have a linear view of history; they don’t have doctrines on whom to marry; they don’t comment on law and government policy.

  • Trump would never have known anything about the Wounded Knee massacre unless one of his handlers told him about it. He’s just not that curious about history nor has he ever been. But honestly, having the President of the United States tweeting out sentiments normally reserved for third-graders is beyond embarrassing. Like everything else about the man, it’s unseemly.

  • American Indians and the rest of us would have been much better off without tributes to mythical gods.

  • Since the moderators of this site (if there are any) choose not to enforce their civility rules, I find that the only way to deal with some of these trolls is to block them.

  • Because I am different by not believing in all that Christian mumbo jumbo? I believe your hero was crucified for being different. One more time:

    The Apostles’ Creed 2019: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (references used are available upon request)

  • I don’t find RC’s comments to be necessarily uncivil, I simply find them boring because s/he keeps regurgitating the same thing, over and over and over. It’s time for some new material.

  • “Donald Trump would never have known anything about the Wounded Knee massacre unless one of his handlers clued him in about it.”

    But…but…his handlers likely don’t know about Wounded Knee and might not care about the massacre, anyway.

  • “Because I am different by not believing in all that Christian mumbo jumbo?”

    No, because your comment has absolutely no bearing on what is reported in this article.

  • In related news to our Manbaby in Chief harming people for his own amusement:

    “Shutdowns don’t get bad linearly; they get bad exponentially”
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-15/the-shutdown-s-bad-buckle-up-because-it-could-get-much-worse
    Federal employees missed their first paycheck last week; from here on in, every milestone dramatically exacerbates the pain of the shutdown: a halt to aviation as TSA screeners quit en masse, civil cases stall in federal courts, 38 million hungry Americans denied food stamps and 10% of food sales in the US vanishing; deals expiring with the landlords of 40,000 low income households; then 2.2 million more households are imperiled; landlords renting to federal agencies will go without rent but won’t be able to evict federal tenants, triggering mortgage and debt defaults; prison guards go from today’s skeleton crew to near-total absenteeism; city buses stop running as Federal Transport Agency payments dry up; drugs fall out of the FDA pipeline, denying medication to ill and dying people; and of course, every IPO is stalled (and maybe DOA) for so long as the shutdown continues.

    All this to keep a racist promise to build a useless wall.

  • “Donald Trump would never have known anything about the Wounded Knee massacre unless one of his handlers clued him in about it.”

    Please. As if Trump listens to his handlers. About what a minority group is actually thinking, no less.

  • The existing portion of the wall has been a triumph.

    Illegal entry dropped drastically in the San Diego area thanks to that wall.

    And the promise wasn’t “racist”, it was a promise to do what politicians have been saying they would do for over 30 years and then reneging.

    Example:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0lwusMxiHc

    to get elected, and then guess how he voted?

    A minimum requirement of an actual functioning country is borders and border enforcement.

    But you have done a wonderful job of beginning an outline of what the party of your choice is willing to put the country through to demonstrate absolute rigidity and recalcitrance to try to hold together its coalition of socialists, anti-Americans, left wing Luddites, bean sprout eaters, and sandals wearers on the coasts.

    Thanks.

  • Btw, the entire post beginning with “Federal employees …” and ending with “… useless wall” was copied and pasted from:

    https://boingboing.net/2019/01/17/let-them-eat-wall.html

    https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/boing-boing/

    “…. moderately to strongly biased toward liberal causes through story selection and/or political affiliation. They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage liberal causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy.”

    Do tell.

  • Boo hoo. Federal employees that live in the richest zip codes in all of America missing a mortgage payment. Who cares.
    Maybe the millionaire 20 times over from the destitute city of San Francisco can visit some Angel Moms who’s kids were killed by illegals.

  • You did not read the article. Its not just missed paychecks, its the resulting delays of government services affecting millions of people.

    I can see how a sociopath billionaire from inherited wealth and his delusional supporters have no regard for how the nation is affected by his petulance, but the rest of us can’t.

    “can visit some Angel Moms who’s kids were killed by illegals”

    Will that be before or after visiting the parents of kids who were abducted, abused and killed under the eyes ICE detention. Angel Moms is an astroturf wingnut group who apparently love it when conservative politicians rape the corpses of their children for PR effect.

  • The democrats aren’t serious about anything; most of all, the country.
    Pelosi playing with the state of the union while the TSA slows down.
    Democrats partying in Puerto Rico while food isn’t inspected.
    The class clown, Alex Cortez flits around the Capitol trying to trap McConnell in some Facebook live stunt – all the while illegals are bringing disease and drugs across the southern border.
    Again – who cares.

  • Now you are just avoiding the subject presented.

    The president has caused billions of dollars in damage to the country because of his petulance and immaturity. There is no ends which justify such extortionary means employed by him. But it is typical of the Terrorist in Chief. This is the third time he has tried to take hostages as a way to extort money for the Wall O’ Stupid.

    Sorry Buddy but the economy of the nation is far more important than a racist boondoggle waste of money/corruption magnet.

    “Democrats partying in Puerto Rico while food isn’t inspected. ”
    Didn’t realize Democrats had control of the Executive Branch offices involved in disaster management. The agency which Trump diverted millions from to go towards private prisons for immigrants. That was a funny lie on your part.

    Republicans purposefully and corruptly delaying effective action in Puerto Rico and reducing it to Mad Max conditions for over a year amounted to ethnic cleansing of the region. More proof the president is a destructive manbaby with no regard for the nation.

    TSA could start right up if we had a mature and competent president.

    “all the while illegals are bringing disease and drugs across the southern border. ”

    Actually they are generally not doing either. Drugs not coming overland across the border like that. RUMORS of diseases spread by illegal aliens are mostly fiction and hyperbole.

    None of which is an emergency. None of which comes close to the BILLIONS OF DOLLARS in damage our Manbaby in Chief is intentionally doing to the nation.

    I guess lying and hysterics are the only way to justify such near treasonous damage to the nation being done by presidential petulance.

  • Now you are just avoiding the subject presented.

    The Democrats have caused billions of dollars in damage to the country because of their petulance and immaturity.

    Puerto Rico was a corrupt bankrupt territory prior the hurricane, its government had brought its utility to near bankruptcy, and the fact you bought its PR campaign to hide that says a lot.

  • Congress controls the purse – no?
    Congress passes a budget – no?
    Maybe you and AOC should learn about the three chambers of government.

  • “Congress controls the purse – no? ”
    No. A budget BILL requires signature by the president to become LAW. Hence the shutdown.

    Congress passes a budget – no?
    No. A budget BILL requires signature by the president to become LAW. Hence the shutdown.

    Separation of powers seems to elude you much like presentation of facts to support a position.
    That wasn’t your usual being dishonest. That was just plain boneheaded.

  • Is she the only person in Congress?

    Quit while you are behind here. All you are doing is feigning ignorance. You are better than that. This argument demeans you. 🙂

  • Tater must be branching out. I used to google certain of her postings that seemed suspiciously above her educational level and they usually took me directly to Wikipedia. A slight cut above liberal propaganda but plagiarism from either would earn you Fs in academia.

    Oh well, we’ve known for a long time why Tater calls everyone dishonest…

  • Going back to when Christianity was an indigenous religion:

    Back then:

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus’ story was embellished and “mythicized” by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (references used are available upon request)

  • That is an interesting definition of what characteristics comprise/define religion. That sounds closer to me as a having/not-having characteristics of an institution.

  • That would be a true dick-move.
    He needs to be cautious not to go too far. Conservatives don’t like pelosi at all; but they do have a sense of fair play.
    He needs to go tit-for-tat with her in DC; buy needs to show the American people he is thinking about them.

  • Does the name Mitch McConnell ring any bells with you?
    How about the fact we have two houses of Congress?

    Again, your line of argument here is demeaning to the intelligence of us both.

  • You sound like a kid – it’s everybody else’s fault…,
    Pelosi Has been shooting off her mouth on how things will change when she’s in charge of the house; well, time to put her big girl pants on and make some moves…

  • Projection is strong in this one!

    You keep trying to blame everyone but the incompetent petulant manbaby who is disregarding all notions of appropriate and responsible behavior for a political leader.

    A person who deliberately harms the nation out of spite and frequently takes hostages to get his way is not going to be the hero of the narrative here. 🙂

  • The Smithsonian has a linear view of history, doctrines on whom to marry, and comments on law and government policy?

  • Men don’t whine about slutshaming, Tater. It is something exclusively engaged in, and complained of, by females. Usually young and inexperienced ones.

  • Hardly. It is the perfect description for the vacuous infantile attacks on women used to justify turning them into chattel property of the state. Why use several words when one suits it just fine?

    So you were just being your usual spite filled curmudgeon self.

  • It’s a perfect description of something, for sure, but nothing that a man normally understands. Men do not shame sluts. Men appreciate sluts and wish there were more. They appreciate abortion more than women do, too.

  • Yes, you made it clear you are a nasty minded person who loves to fling infantile insults. That response was rather unhinged and incoherent.

  • Didn’t know “female” was such an insult.

    I’m not surprised my response was incoherent to you. Females living under rocks with cats and screens for company understand little about regular men — or regular women, for that matter.

  • It is insulting when you know with certainty one is male.

    But Really? Pleading ignorance of insulting behavior is what you go with? More infantile than usual from you.

  • Yep, definitely triggered.

    Sorry, Tater, but no one knows anything of a certainty from you, because your preoccupation with calling everyone dishonest reveals you as dishonest. And you simply do not speak as a man in any recognizable way, “slut-shaming” whining being only the most obvious example.

  • Awww you are annoyed that your frequent bald faced lies are called out so often. Poor Shawnie needs a bottle and diaper change.

    Ever wonder why most people here won’t engage you in conversation?
    You are probably blocked as often as Mark/Bob/Jose

  • I’m not annoyed. I’m having an excellent time.

    I’ve also never heard a man call someone a baby, either — except as an endearment. Although such insults were commonplace on the radfem boards I used to read back when I had an interest in gender issues.

    You give yourself away so easily, Tater. 🙂

  • Well I’ll grant you I haven’t had to spend a great deal of time among the most vulgar orders, thank goodness, but I doubt that your men are any more likely to whine about slut-shaming or other typically feminine concerns. If anything, less likely.

    As far as people blocking me goes, I’m totally fine with that.
    Particularly if it’s for the same reason that you guys block Mark — you’re afraid to engage him because you can not refute him.

    It’s wise, after all, to pick your battles according to your ability or lack thereof.

  • I do hate to point this out to you, and indirectly to the author Zoë Robinson, but while the article is entitled “What is a ‘Religious Institution'”, every quote from the Supreme Court refers to an “organization”.

    There is no “also” about it.

    The Smithsonian lacks a god.

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