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Wounded Knee Massacre Museum (Wall, South Dakota)

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A museum and memorial to those who were slaughtered at Wounded Knee located in Wall, South Dakota, USA.

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      16.11.2011 21:15
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      An educational and moving museum

      The Wounded Knee Massacre Memorial Museum, Wall, South Dakota
      WHERE IS THIS - PRICES AND TIMES OF OPENING
      Location: I-90, Exit 110
      217 10th Ave, Wall, SD 57790.
      The museum is open daily from 8.30 to 5.30 from May to October
      Admission price is $6, Senior Citizens over 60 are $5 and children under 12 are free

      WHY WALL?
      This very peaceful and well thought out memorial is actually in the town of Wall, some way away from the actual site mainly because the actual site is not easily accessible and they wanted to have it somewhere where visitors could get to reasonably easily. The Museum is located on Interstate 90, north side of Exit 110 in Wall, South Dakota. It is located on the badlands Loop and so anyone wanted to visit the memorial and the massacre site can get there easily from the museum, provided of course the area is not flooded.


      I went to see the film 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee' when I was at college way back in the 1970s. I remember being very upset by the film and Buffy Sainte Marie's song 'Soldier Blue' sung in the film, haunted me for years. I have wanted to visit the site since that time but although we tried to get to the actual site it was flooded as was the Battle of Little Big Horn site so we failed on two counts however we did manage to visit this memorial museum in Wall and I am so pleased we did as it told the story so sensitively and you left feeling shocked, humbled and ashamed of the way these families were murdered.


      THE MUSEUM
      It was not difficult to find as Wall is not a huge town. We first went to Wall Drug Store to have our 5cent cup of coffee that was advertised along the highway then made our way to the museum. It isn't a huge place, in fact from the outside it looks like a large shed with a small car park beside the entrance. All very uninviting however once inside you are welcomed by the staff and invited to take a feather from a pot and then once you have paid you are given a small postcard with a tear back flap. We thought it was just a postcard until we were shown what it did.


      It is set up like a letter to 'Great White Father (President) , 1600 Pennsylvania Ave,Washington, DC The three labels across the front give the sender's name and return address as : Tantanka Lyotantka , Great Plains, Lakaota Nation. As you tore back each of the three strips under Tatanka Lyontanka we now find " Your name has been Europeanised . You are now named Sitting Bull". Under the 'Great Plains' we now find " Your new home will now be called a reservation" and finally under 'Lakota Nation' we now find " Your new country will be known as Dakota Territory, United States." So telling the storyof what happened to the American tribes in very few words. It was such a simple but effective way of showing how these tribes had their identity and way of life taken from them.

      As Chief red Cloud of the Oglala Lakota once said;
      "They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land and they took it."

      THE SHOP:

      The gift shop was in the front section of the museum as you entered and the museum was organised in a circular tour so you ended up back in the shop before leaving through the door. The shop had books, postcards, reproduction Indian artifacts, jewellery, clothing such as sweat shirts with prints and other spiritual items.

      THE STORY
      The museum's exhibits of authentic photographs and documents tell the story of the small band of Minneconjou Lakota families led by Chief Big Foot who for some reason became the focus of the U.S. Army at this time in its constant effort to subdue the Native American tribes. . The museum presents a carefully researched and thoroughly documented history of this sad and shameful event in American history. This hungry, almost unarmed band of Lakota trailed through the bitterly cold wintry South Dakota landscape. Finally their camp of sleeping elderly folk, women and children and few young men was surrounded by the 7th Cavalry and on the morning of December 29, 1890, up to 300 Lakota men, women, and children died in a hail of bullets from these soldiers without any resistance at all.

      THE EXHIBITS:

      I thought the photographs were fascinating. Obviously they were sepia or black and white but they were often so clear and a real snap shop of the time and place. The first few exhibits told the story of the American tribes way back before the white man arrived in pre-Columbian America, then there were maps to show how very determinedly the tribes were pushed out of their lands as the 'settlers' moved in.

      THE REMEMBRANCE FEATHER HANGING :

      As well as the story of the massacre there was a special Remembrance room. Above this area was a large hoop hanging from the ceiling. From the hoop hung white feathers, one for every person who was killed at Wounded Knee. It was a very sobering sight to see this ring with so many feathers and know every single one was a life taken for no reason other than the fact that they were Indians that they wanted off the lands they were moving on to.

      THE AIMS:
      "Our mission is to share the history and experiences of Native Americans. We are privately funded and supported through visitors like you. We thank you for your support of our educational endeavors."
      The Museum tells the story of the Lakota families whose lives were profoundly changed or lost at Wounded Knee. The displays are obviously carefully researched as are the accounts of the events leading up to, during, and after the massacre. Primary sources like journals, witness reports, Congressional records of the time and original photographs have all been used and many are on display so that the visitor gets the full story. It is s very emotional experience and even the hardest hearted person would have trouble not being moved by the visit.



      We were all very quiet as we left the museum and the remembrance pin in the shape of a feather that I bought which had a quotation on the card it was fixed to and this description sums up the horror of this event and the emotion felt by those who survived:

      "When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream." Black Elk 1931

      I would urge you to visit this museum if you have any interest in American history and the history of the North American Indian. It is a sensitive and thoughtful tribute to those who died and hopefully a reminder to everyone of the awful way these people were treated in the creation of the country we now know as the USA; one of the all too many shameful events in modern history.

      Thanks for reading and I hope this has been of some interest to you. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.

      ©Catsholiday

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