December 29, 1890
The lone Dakota watched from behind the canons as they fired into the makeshift camp in the depression to the South. He had never before experienced what he felt at this moment; hollow, numb, with sadness so powerful he could hardly sit his horse. The Warriors struggled to retrieve weapons given willingly only to be cut down by the immense firepower being unleashed.
He stared, unbelieving, at what was taking place below as the bile began to rise. Brave men, men with peaceful intent, were being slaughtered indiscriminately. Women and children were raked with shrapnel as the Hotchkiss guns opened fire on the weaponless braves now running for their lives. Small bodies were trampled under hooves lined with steel, and blood covered the ground.
Then there was silence, absolute silence, as though his ears were stuffed with clay. He surveyed the scene where the carnage continued. He saw the smoke from the big guns, and that from the firearms carried by the troopers, but there was no sound. The open mouths of innocent women screaming for their children were silent. He leaned to his right and retched as sweat froze on his forehead.
He reined his horse, nudged her side with his heels, and began to move to the North, the cacophony of slaughter again ringing in his ears, totally unable to process what was happening. For the first forty yards or so, he walked the roan mare. She had been with him for the past thirty years, and she felt his inner emotions; within one hundred yards, she was at a dead run as tears cut paths through the icy skin on the temples of the man mounted on her back. He had seen death a hundred ways, taking many lives himself, but this was something his mind could not grasp. This was not a battle; there was no honor in killing the innocent. Every fiber of his existence screamed for release from the scene that left him in agony. With his mind reeling from the sheer barbarism evidenced by the needless slaughter, he wondered at the events that led to what he considered the probable death of the Sioux Nation.
The mare stumbled, nearly unseating her rider and he pulled on the reins slowing her to a canter, then to a walk. Her withers and neck were lathered as steam created an aura surrounding the two. He dismounted and unstrapped the army saddle, throwing it to the ground, followed by the blue troopers jacket he was wearing exposing the buckskin shirt he wore beneath. He then wiped her dry with the blanket, removed the bridle and replaced it with a solitary piece of rawhide looped around her muzzle and knotted to her mane. They walked, man and horse; she, cooling down; he, trying to purge his mind of what he had witnessed.
The year was 1890, and the Sioux knew the location as Cankpe Opi Wakpala—Wounded Knee Creek, Dakota Territory. In truth, the location was in the newly formed state of South Dakota. The man’s name was Four Wings, and he was now overcome with emotion.
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