I recently watched Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, about the defeat of the Sioux and their transition to life on the reservations, where every man would be a chief, and each would farm his own plot of land.
This exchange caught my attention:
Sitting Bull: You must take them out of our lands.
Col. Nelson Miles: What precisely are your lands?
Sitting Bull: These are the where my people lived before you whites first came.
Col. Nelson Miles: I don’t understand. We whites were not your first enemies. Why don’t you demand back the land in Minnesota where the Chippewa and others forced you from years before?
Sitting Bull: The Black Hills are a sacred given to my people by Wakan Tanka.
Col. Nelson Miles: How very convenient to cloak your claims in spiritualism. And what would you say to the Mormons and others who believe that their God has given to them Indian lands in the West?
Sitting Bull: I would say they should listen to Wakan Tanka.
Col. Nelson Miles: No matter what your legends say, you didn’t sprout from the plains like the spring grasses. And you didn’t coalesce out of the ether. You came out of the Minnesota woodlands armed to the teeth and set upon your fellow man. You massacred the Kiowa, the Omaha, the Ponca, the Oto and the Pawnee without mercy. And yet you claim the Black Hills as a private preserve bequeathed to you by the Great Spirit.
Sitting Bull: And who gave us the guns and powder to kill our enemies? And who traded weapons to the Chippewa and others who drove us from our home?
Col. Nelson Miles: Chief Sitting Bull, the proposition that you were a peaceable people before the appearance of the white man is the most fanciful legend of all. You were killing each other for hundreds of moons before the first white stepped foot on this continent. You conquered those tribes, lusting for their game and their lands, just as we have now conquered you for no less noble a cause.
Sitting Bull: This is your story of my people!
Col. Nelson Miles: This is the truth, not legend. Crazy Horse has surrendered, with his entire band. And by his surrender, he says to you and your people that you are defeated. And by ceding the Black Hills to us, so say Red Cloud and the other chiefs, who demand that you end this war and take your place on the reservation.
Sitting Bull: Red Cloud is no longer a chief. He is a woman you have mounted and had your way with. Do not speak to me of Red Cloud!