Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the big business media has made much of the spearhead role of the Seventh Cavalry. 'Rich in glory and agony,' read the New York Times' headline about its history. The 'agony' refers to the 1876 defeat of the Seventh Cavalry and its commander, Col. George Armstrong Custer, at Little Big Horn by combined Lakota and Cheyenne forces. Here, a Seventh Cavalry officer surveys the massacre scene three days following the Dec. 29, 1890, U.S. genocidal attack on the Lakota nation, led by Big Foot of the Hunkpapa Lakota, at Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge.
By Mahtowin - April 10, 2003
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the big business media has made much of the spearhead role of the Seventh Cavalry. "Rich in glory and agony," read the New York Times' headline about its history.
The "agony" refers to the 1876 defeat of the Seventh Cavalry and its commander, Col. George Armstrong Custer, at Little Big Horn by combined Lakota and Cheyenne forces.
Many people know about this. But few know the rest of the "glorious" history and what preceded the battle at Little Big Horn.
Commissioned by Congress in 1866, the Seventh Cavalry is one of the oldest continuously serving regiments in the U.S. It was initially given the task of quelling Native uprisings and ensuring that pioneers were safe in the Midwestern states.
On Nov. 27, 1868, Custer led the regiment in a pre-dawn raid on a peaceful Cheyenne encampment on the Washita River in Oklahoma. It resulted in the massacre of hundreds of women, children and men. Cheyenne leader Black Kettle had already seen many of his people massacred in 1864 at Sand Creek. He had brought the survivors to Washita.
When Black Kettle once again saw his people slaughtered, he and his wife rode out, trying to meet Custer. They carried a white flag, hoping to stop the attack, but were shot on sight.
Moonanum James, co-leader of the United American Indians of New England and spokesperson for the International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) coalition addressing 25,000 antiwar protesters on Boston Common, March 29, 2003
In the early 1870s, the Seventh Cavalry escorted surveyors, prospectors and others into the Black Hills to steal gold and land from the Lakota people.
It was a fine day, indeed, when Custer and many of his soldiers met their death at Little Big Horn in 1876.
Unfortunately, this was not the end of the Seventh Cavalry.
Wounded Knee massacre
In late December 1890, shortly after the murder of Sitting Bull, some Minneconjou and Hunkpapa Lakota left their reservations and headed toward the Badlands.
On Dec. 28, in the village of Wounded Knee at Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dako ta, the Seventh Cavalry arrested a group of Lakota led by Big Foot of the Hunkpapa Lakota. After disarming the Native people, the cavalry began the Wounded Knee massacre, raining fragmentation shells into the village at a combined rate of 200 or more rounds a minute. The 500 well-armed cavalry troops carried out the slaughter methodically.
Unarmed women, children and men were mercilessly massacred. A few ran as far as three miles only to be chased and put to death. Frozen bodies were strewn across the snow-covered land. Many were unceremoniously dumped into a mass grave by the cavalry.
At least 300 Lakota were massacred that day. Many said this was the "revenge" of the Seventh Cavalry for its defeat at Little Big Horn.
Twenty Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded to these troops for this "battle."
The Seventh Cavalry was exonerated for its conduct. Secretary of War Redfield Proctor said, "[I]t was impossible to distinguish buck from squaw. ... The bucks fired from among the squaws and children in their retreat. ... The Indians themselves were entirely responsible for this unfortunate phase of the affair."
Army Gen. Charles Brewster Schofield, in his report regarding the conduct of the soldiers, said: "The evidence shows that great care was taken by the officers and enlisted men to avoid unnecessary killing of Indian women and children in the affair at Wounded Knee, and shows that the conduct of the Seventh U.S. Cavalry under very trying circumstances was characterized by excellent discipline and in many cases by great forbearance."
This kind of lie-filled public relations disinformation sounds just like what is now coming out of the Pentagon to cover up the U.S. military's killing of Iraqi civilians.
That was not the end of the "glorious" history of the Seventh Cavalry, however.
In 1950, the regiment slaughtered hundreds of defenseless civilians near the village of Nogun-ri, South Korea, a massacre covered up for many years.
During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, these latter-day cowboys caused many more civilian deaths.
Perhaps this "glorious" history of slaughtering civilians in wars of imperialist conquest makes the Seventh Cavalry ideally suited for a leading role in Iraq.
As if this history were not odious enough, subdivisions of the Seventh Cavalry have vilely appropriated the names of Native warriors and nations, using appellations such as "Crazy Horse" and "Apache."
The Department of Defense routinely scavenges through Native heritage to give names to its tools of death and destruction. Assault helicopters have names like the "Apache," "Iroquois," "Cayuse," "Black Hawk" and "Kiowa." There is the "Tomahawk" cruise missile.
Naming these weapons of destruction and intimidation after Native warriors and nations is an insult.
Crazy Horse (Tashunke Witko, 1849-1877) was a great Lakota visionary and warrior who was among those who defeated Custer at Little Big Horn. Black Hawk (Makataimeshekiakiak, 1767-1838) was a great Sauk war chief from what is now Illinois. His eloquence and dignity, as well as his courage, were well known.
Why does the U.S. military use the names of Native people and nations? They say it is to give weapons names that are frightening or intimidating.
In that case, says Moonanum James, a Wampanoag Vietnam-era veteran, "They should name their tools of war after Bush, Cheney and their cohorts."
Good afternoon sisters and brothers:
A few short weeks ago I was honored to have opened one of the largest anti-war rally ever held in Washington, DC. I spoke of how our very presence freed the land from those who would wage war. Today, our presence here frees this land from those who have ordered our sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers to wage a most brutal war of racist, imperial conquest on the people of Iraq. I also spoke of my son who is serving in the US Army. Well, he is still in the army only his address has changed. He is now somewhere in Iraq. To the others who have loved ones who are now in harmís way no matter the side, I know what you are feeling in your hearts. To those who have lost loved ones no matter the side, my thoughts and prayers will always be with you.
Women's Fightback Network contingent, antiwar march Boston, MA, March 29, 2003
photo: Liza Green
There are those who seek to marginalize us. For instance, there are those who criticized some of the speakers at the historic January 18th march on Washington by saying that they should not have raised so-called "peripheral" or "freakish" issues such as speaking about labor or the political prisoners Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal. Racism is not a marginal issue. It never has been and it never will be. People of color in this country know first-hand what it is to be on the receiving end of a relentless campaign of war and terror. We know old Uncle Sam all too well, know his greedy, evil ways. And is it not blatant racism that is behind this drive to get us to see our Arab sisters and brothers as somehow less than human, as people who deserve to die? We must support our Palestinian sisters and brothers and denounce in no uncertain terms the israeli theft and occupation of Palestinian lands. We will fight back against being labeled anti-semitic for speaking the truth about zionism. The righteous fight of the Palestinian people for the return of their homeland is not a freakish or peripheral issue.
If you go into most any African-American or Native or Puerto Rican or white working class home, for that matter, you see one or more pictures of a young person in a Marines uniform or an Army uniform. If there are to be American body bags coming back from Iraq or anyplace else, it is primarily our children who will be in them because so many of them are in the military. And setting that aside, we must insist that we do not want to see any more of our Iraqi sisters and brothers murdered by the US. 42% of the civilian population of Iraq is children. Hundreds of thousands of children in Iraq have died as a result of the US sanctions. We must defend these beautiful children as we would our own.
On April 12th there is going to be another gathering in Washington, DC. It is being organized by ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and end Racism). In January we had a half million people on the street in DC. Get on the bus and letís make it a million. Or two or three.
Earlier I mentioned cutbacks and a war at home. Make no mistake about it. There is a war being waged right here at home. A war of oppression against people of color. Against the poor. Women. Disabled. Gay, lesbian, bi and trans. The elderly. And above all, children.
United American Indians of New England co-leader Mahtowin explains it like this:
ďPeople of color in the US know first hand what it is like to be on the receiving end of a relentless campaign of war and terror. Native people have dealt for centuries with the terrorism of the US, Canadian, Mexican and other colonizing governments. I urge all of you here today to consider the knowledge that we have gained during that time. If we had unified early on, worked together rather than as separate nations, we may have prevailed. At this time, we must come together in unity, to speak with one voice and say NO to war! We have the power within us to stop this war and to change the world, and we will do so. Our experiences and our struggles for self-determination and sovereignty must be part of the overall anti-war struggle. We, as people of color, are already in the forefront of this new movement that is growing by the thousands daily. And maybe, just maybe, this movement will lead to a new understanding amongst all of us of each other's struggles and of what it will take to build a new and just society right here in the belly of the beast."
In the spirit of crazy horse.
In the spirit of Metacom.
Free Leonard Peltier.
Free Mumia Abu Jamal.
Free all political prisoners.
Say NO to war.