RED CLOUD'S SPEECH AFTER WOUNDED KNEE

- By Chief Red Cloud
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Red Cloud (Lakota: Maȟpíya Lúta) (born 1822 – December 10, 1909) was one of the most important leaders of the Oglala Lakota from 1868 to 1909. He was one of the most capable Native American opponents that the United States Army faced in its mission to occupy the western territories, defeating the United States during Red Cloud's War, which was a fight over control of the Powder River Country in northeastern Wyoming and southern Montana. The largest action of the war was the Fetterman Fight, with 81 U.S soldiers killed, and was the worst military defeat suffered by the United States Army on the Great Plains until the Battle of the Little Bighorn ten years later. After signing the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868), Red Cloud led his people in the important transition to reservation life. Some of his opponents mistakenly thought of him as the overall leader of the Sioux groups (Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota), but the large tribe had several major divisions and was highly decentralized. Bands among the Oglala and other divisions operated independently, even though some individual leaders were renowned as warriors and highly respected as leaders, such as Red Cloud.

RED CLOUD'S SPEECH AFTER WOUNDED KNEE

"Red Cloud" by Charles Milton Bell is in the public domain.

Red Cloud delivers the following speech after the Wounded Knee Massacre in order to shed light on the plight of the Native American peoples living on reservations. Throughout Red Cloud’s life, he was a proponent of peace and in this speech he argues that those who were killed at Wounded Knee and involved in the Ghost Dance movement were not proponents of violence against whites.

I will tell you the reason for the trouble. When we first made treaties with the Government, our old life and our old customs were about to end; the game on which we lived was disappearing; the whites were closing around us, and nothing remained for us but to adopt their way-the Government promised all the means necessary to make our living out of the land, and to instruct us how to do it, and with abundant food to support us until we could take care of ourselves. We looked forward with hope to the time we could be as independent as whites, and have a voice in the Government.

The army officers could have helped better than anyone else but we were not left to them. An Indian Department was made with a large number of agents and other officials drawing large salaries - then came the beginning of trouble; these men took care of themselves but not of us. It was very hard to deal with the government through them - they could make more for themselves by keeping us back than by helping us forward.

We did not get the means for working for our lands; the few things they gave us did little good.

Our rations began to be reduced; they said we were lazy. That is false. How does any man of sense suppose that so great a number of people could get work at once unless they were once supplied with the means to work and instructors enough to teach them?

Our ponies were taken away from us under the promise that they would be replaced by oxen and large horses; it was long before we saw any, and then we got very few. We tried with the men we had, but on one pretext or another, we were shifted from one place to another, or were told that such a transfer was coming. Great efforts were made to break up our customs, but nothing was done to introduce us to customs of the whites. Everything was done to break up the power of the real chiefs.

Those old men really wished their people to improve, but little men, so-called chiefs were made to act as disturbers and agitators. Spotted Tail wanted the ways of the whites, but an assassin was found to remove him. This was charged to the Indians because an Indian did it, but who set on the Indian? I was abused and slandered, to weaken my influence for good. This was done by men paid by the government to teach us the ways of the whites. I have visited many other tribes and found that the same things were done among them; all was done to discourage us and nothing to encourage us. I saw men paid by the government to help us, all very busy making money for themselves, but doing nothing for us&.

The men who counted [the U.S. census] told all around that [we] were feasting and wasting food. Where did he see it? How could we waste what we did not have? We felt we were mocked in our misery; we had no newspaper and no one to speak for us. Our rations were again reduced.

You who eat three times a day and see your children well and happy around you cannot understand what a starving Indian feels! We were faint with hunger and maddened by despair. We held our dying children and felt their little bodies tremble as their soul went out and left only a dead weight in our hands. They were not very heavy but we were faint and the dead weighed us down. There was no hope on earth. God seemed to have forgotten.

Someone had been talking of the Son of God and said He had come [a reference to the Ghost Dance movement]. The people did not know; they did not care; they snatched at hope; they screamed like crazy people to Him for mercy they caught at the promise they heard he made.

The white men were frightened and called for soldiers. We begged for life and the white men thought we wanted theirs; we heard the soldiers coming. We did not fear. We hoped we could tell them our suffering and could get help. The white men told us the soldiers meant to kill us; we did not believe it but some were frightened and ran away to the Badlands. The soldiers came. They said: "don't be afraid - we come to make peace not, war." It was true; they brought us food. But the hunger-crazed who had taken fright at the soldiers' coming and went to the Badlands could not be induced to return to the horrors of reservation life. They were called Hostiles and the Government sent the army to force them back to their reservation prison

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Additional Information:

Rating: B

Words: 950

Unique Words : 318

Sentences : 46

Reading Time : 3:37

Noun : 182

Conjunction : 76

Adverb : 40

Interjection : 2

Adjective : 36

Pronoun : 118

Verb : 191

Preposition : 87

Letter Count : 3,363

Sentiment : Positive

Tone : Conversational

Difficult Words : 128

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