History is written by the victors – for a while. Custer was glorified for his grisly campaign and mourned when he died in the hills in northern Wyoming. But a new consciousness arose when Helen Hunt Jackson wrote A Century of Dishonor and Dee Brown’s 1970 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was published. These books gave a voice to the history of American expansionism and the Native Americans’ displacement through forced relocation and effort to destroy the culture, religion, and way of life.
In the 1968 the American Indian Movement (AIM) was born.Its purpose was to address American Indian sovereignty, treaty issues, spirituality, and leadership, while simultaneously addressing incidents of police harassment and racism. 1969-1971 AIM occupied Alcatraz, and the next year it organized a march on Washington, D.C. “The Trail of Broken Treaties.
Wahacanka Peltier, was the youngest child of imprisoned Leonard Peltier. He has never been able to visit his father outside of a prison. His English name was Paul Shields-Peltier. He was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He lived the very hard life that is life on the Pine Ridge, but in recent years he joined a company that was building environmentally sustainable housing for the people of the reservation and it was something he loved to do because it knew he was helping his people.
He died in Washington, D.C. this week. He was there on a vigil to seek clemency for his father.
I learned this news yesterday from my husband who works with an NGO, Trees Water People (TWP), at Pine Ridge. There is a partnership between the visionary Henry Red Cloud, a man I am honored to know, and TWP. Henry Red Cloud founded Lakota Solar and has been a leader and real job creator. Lakota Solar Enterprises He is the direct 5th generation descendant of Chief Red Cloud, one of the last Lakota war chiefs.
It is with a deeply sad heart that I write this. Today my dear younger brother Wa Ha walked on. He was with us here in Washington DC as we pray and work for clemency for our father Leonard Peltier. He was my little brother and I cannot believe his is gone from us. His name was Wahacanka.
His english name was Paul Shields-Peltier and he was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota reservation. He had been sick for many months and was having dialysis for four hours a day three days a week and although his wife and family suggested him not to make this trip he would not be turned back. In true Oglala way he said he wanted to go on this journey to help bring his father home.He adored his wife Emily Two Lance-Peltier and his five children (four daughters and one son) and his mother Audrey Shields, his sisters and brothers and other family members and the Oglala Oyate. He was a quiet man who was known for his soft good humor and kind spirit. He never missed an event or a ceremony for our father. He was never one to stand up and speak but always there to help and support.He lived the very hard life that is life on the Pine Ridge but in recent years he joined a company that was building environmentally sustainable housing for the people of the reservation and it was something he loved to do because it knew he was helping his people.He suffered a very damaging stroke while working and has been trying to recover since.
Our dad had wished to donate one of his kidneys to Wa Ha but because of his imprisonment and his own failing health that was not possible. I will never forget my fathers words when he found out. He said, “Oh No. My Son has died. My baby has died.” I wish we could console him now as we try to console each other.
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation encompasses the poorest counties in the United States. It is the site of tragedy; it was the location of the last of the Ghost Dances. The U.S. authorities attempt to repress this movement eventually led to the Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890.
I learned the rumor that DAPL will continue despite the fact that the Army Corps have denied the permit. DAPL decided that it would rather pay the fines, or so that it the rumor. If this is so, the tragic stripping of the rights and properties of the tribes will continue, and may again lead to violence and loss. The Standing Rock Sioux and millions of people want the 500 years of taking to stop. Standing Rock Sioux
Since Trump has a stake in DAPL, he stands in a unique place to stop history from repeating itself – killings in the snow – loss of life – loss of identity. Will he? Or will he want profits that mean nothing to a billionaire at the expense of land that means everything to people that have endured too much loss for too many centuries. Soon we will know if his history will categorize him as a Custer, a blonde narcissist who would do anything for notoriety.