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  • David Burnette

The Church

Updated: Jan 5, 2018



Today we were taken to a place far out on the open prairie where stands a small church. As you walk up in front of this little building the horizon stretches away in every direction, the snow cover unbroken except for rabbit and coyote tracks. For those of you who know the story of the massacre at Wounded Knee this is the church to which the wounded Lakota people were taken after the shooting stopped. The church was long ago moved from Pine Ridge to its current location near Oglala.

But on December 29, 1890 after over 400 of our people were killed by soldiers of the 7th cavalry the remaining wounded survivors were gathered up and taken by wagon to Pine Ridge. They weren't allowed into the hospital at the Agency so they were taken to a small church. They pushed the pews aside so they wouldn't get blood on them, hay was scattered on the floor and the wounded women and children were laid on the hay. This happened shortly after Christmas services had been held and a banner still hung over the alter that proclaimed "Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men." There, under that ironic banner, the people suffered from their wounds and many died.

Today it was a sobering experience to stand in front of that building that held the spirits of so many who were killed by the violence and hatred of the men of the United States military.

Peace and goodwill were nowhere to be found on that day. The door was locked so we couldn't go inside. I'm not sure I wanted to. But we stood outside and thought about what had taken place within the walls of that small church. How the women and children had been carried through those doors. Bleeding. Suffering.

As I walked around the outside in the deep snow I could feel them there. Lying on a hay covered floor. A blood soaked, hay covered floor. I walked up to one of the small dusty windows to peer inside. There, hanging above the alter, was a sign. "Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Man."

I stood there in the cold snow and wondered, would there ever be?

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2018 by David Burnette

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