- There is only the light of a quarter-moon and a canopy
of shooting stars when Lakota voices in Stronghold camp say,
the distance, fourteen Lakota horseback riders, some riding
are approaching on the same route that survivors of the massacre of
followed 112 years ago.
on Stronghold Table they Ghost Danced so the people would live
they were massacred. Now, the remains of men, women and children --
Paiute, Northern Cheyenne, Northern Arapaho and other tribes -- are
of this earth.
a drum and Lakota song by elder Archie Little, the horseback
circle in the darkness and hear strong advice from Percy White Plume
need to respect women and be kind and loving fathers.
camp on the Stronghold where the Tokala (Kit Fox) Society, the
traditional Lakota warrior society, has come to defend the sacred.
prepared to do whatever necessary to prevent the National Park Service
excavating in the
Robert Tall, 20, rode horseback to the
Stronghold. "I feel we have been
violated, they took our lands from us. We are trying to keep our place
as our home. We are free here.
"I wake up every morning, whether I am
here or at home, not knowing whether
there will be a gun in my face or a big smile and plate of
It is morning in Stronghold camp and the
voices of the
on KILI Radio salutes the horseback riders and Tokala here. The
radio news drifts across camp as the scent of potatoes, onions, bacon
coffee fills the air.
says to Indian young people, "Be who you are and don't
change what you
feel inside. Be strong for your people."
"Toby" Big Boy, says Lakota medicine men are clear on
struggle is about.
"It is not about
fossils and it is not about money. It is about protecting
the sacred, protecting the remains of our ancestors. They are resting
let them rest."
out across Stronghold Table,
Apple says, "This was the last
stronghold of Crazy Horse. He came to this place to escape the troops
were pursuing him."
points out that the National Park Service intends to excavate
place the remains in trust for the tribe in museums.
however, says, "They are already being kept in trust by a
elder Archie Little, Tagliskawakan, said the region of the
is littered with live bombs and explosive from testing during World
While there are tribal and federal efforts underway to clear the
out of the
, he said bombing range efforts are being used as a
guise for something else: elicit searches for fossils and Indian
"There are a lot of live bombs. But
their tracks go right by the bombs.
They are looking for bones. They are like dogs. They like to chew on
Little said of the haunting trafficking of
Indian remains, "If you go to a
fancy office, you will probably find one of these skulls that they are
using for an ashtray."
The secret, he said, is to be humble, show
respect and offer respect. The
white man, however, has violated these spiritual laws.
"When they die are they going to take
this land with them? This earth they
claim will eat them up in the dust."
Little said there are children's bones
here, over the edge of Stronghold
Table, where they were massacred during the Ghost Dance. He hopes
tribes will come to honor their ancestors who died in the Ghost Dance
and help carry on the struggle.
Little also points out that the skulls are
absent from the remains in
Indian graves here.
Then, pointing out that the zeolite mineral
is plentiful here, he said,
"That is also what they want."
Just below Stronghold Table, are the
remains of those who died here. Buried
in shallow graves, the bones are now being exposed by drought and
Lakota say it is no accident. The spirits of those who passed have
this time to reveal themselves.
On a steep cliff, the remains of a Lakota
teenager are present with the
bones of his horse he was buried with. There is a grave, covered with
stones nearby. Teepee rings, now photographed for a pending court case
testimony before a Senate Select Committee, are also here. The number
rocks in the teepee circle and the absence of firepits indicates
have hidden here during winter months during times of massacres.
The National Park Service, however,
planning to excavate here, states there
are no remains here.
"The National Park Service has no
knowledge of any human remains having
been discovered in the South Unit of
. No human
remains are at risk . . ." wrote William Supernaugh,
, to Cecelia "Lovey" Two Bulls, among the leaders of
this movement, on Aug. 2.
Meanwhile, Lakota gathered beneath a
canopy, with sandwiches and stew, at
the Stronghold for a day of sharing and talks on strength and healing.
Michael Standing Soldier, from Wakanyeja Pawicayapi Inc. (Children
in Porcupine spoke on ancestral grief.
Standing Solider said the Oglala have long
held their power in the symbol
of the four colors of the four directions and the powers represented.
had all these things deep inside of us as a people."
Historical trauma, however, has been passed
from generation to generation.
Healing comes through remembering, understanding and placing blame
should be, he said.
The trauma began when the innocent,
children and elderly, were murdered. It
continued through the attack on the minds in boarding schools and on
spirits by Christians.
Although the night was a time of spiritual
revelation for Lakota,
Christians tried to change this. "They made us fear the night. In
nighttime, they said there was a devil out there."
Percy White Plume spoke on fatherhood and
respect. "Hold your children," he
urged. Speaking of how men grow up without being hugged, he told men
the women in their lives to hug them and realize how it feels. Then,
said, think about how good children feel when hugged.
This story begins here, but it does not end
On night patrol in the
following the gathering for strength and
healing, four American Indians and this reporter are staked out on
mesas, armed only with walkie-talkies and pints of water.
eerie in the darkness, the only sounds are of a bull and the
movement is of bats. There is this question, "What do we do if a
lands next to us?"
night before, at the Stronghold patrol lookout point on the
edge of the
mesa, Lakotas watched with binoculars as three helicopters hovered in
darkness above the
. The area is closed by tribal order to the
National Park Service and fossil-hunters. Still, the helicopters come
night. A cable appeared to be lowered from the helicopters and a large
lifted from the area below.
Lakota at the Stronghold fear fossils are
being taken in the cover of
darkness. The other possibility is that the large amounts of zeolite,
in nuclear waste dump lining, baby diapers and cat litter, are being
or taken out in the cover of darkness.
On this night, however, with the team
staked out on the mesas, the
helicopters return and hover in circles above, but do not land. The
National Park Service said it has no knowledge of the helicopters at
Earlier in the week, Toby Big Boy, sister
Lovey Two Bulls and family
members protested the planned excavation at the
of Nature and
with them was Cahuilla "Kaweah"" M. Red Elk,
Lakota, from the
Center on Human Rights and Indian Law in Colorado Springs, Colo. As
National Park Service, under the Interior Department, pressed for the
location of remains, she said Indian tribes are not required to tell
location or description of the remains of their ancestors.
do not have to disclose this to anyone."
Taylor, public relations manager for the
of Nature and
Science told the Two Bulls that the museum became involved because it
asked to be a contractor to help with the science in the project at
we have pulled out of the project until your tribe and the
Park can come to an agreement."
National Park Service, which administers the Oglala land in the
by way of a 1976 memorandum of agreement, told the tribe the
excavation will be a research project and salvage operation of the
which are at risk of vandalism and theft.
Badlands Supt. William Supernaugh said it
would work with the South Dakota
School of Mines and Technology and the Denver Museum of Science and
on the three-year project.
The National Park Service said the site has
always been a "titanothere
graveyard", with animal bones around 40 million years old, but
excavation would not be in the area of human remains. Titanothere was
elephant-sized prehistoric animal and an indirect ancestor of the
Halting the Aug. 12 starting date for the
excavation, Supt. Supernaugh
tentatively scheduled a meeting with Oglala President John Yellowbird
Steele for August 27 at the
office. The National Park Service,
however, has said it does not intend to halt the excavation
do the Lakota at the Stronghold plan to halt their resistance
the excavation, pledging to take any means necessary to protect it.
said, "I don't care if it takes up 10 years, we will stay
the Ghost Dancers led by the Paiute Wovoka and massacred here,
Two Bulls said, "They are resting. Just let them rest."