at Wounded Knee
I just pulled out of my Baggallini a small chamois pouch that contains a stone from Wounded Knee. I was there, just about this time five years ago. The Wounded Knee cemetery sits on a bluff overlooking miles and miles of grassland belonging to the Pine Ridge Reservation…if the Lakota who live there wouldn’t laugh at the idea of grassland belonging to anyone. I hadn’t felt so free or so peaceful in a long time, as I felt on the reservation. Go figure.
But I went there for a less than peaceful reason:
In the winter of 1891, my great-grandfather was dispatched from his infantry post in Wyoming to somewhere in South Dakota. The dates said he was probably one of hundreds of officers whose troops were sent to South Dakota just in case the Seventh Cavalry needed help. They didn’t, of course, need help in what I think is generally agreed to have been the infamous incident at the place we remember as Wounded Knee.
So I went there to get down on my knees at a stone monument weathered almost beyond reading, and to lay a little tobacco there, and to say a prayer. I’ve written about that and about the other things I learned about my family’s 200-some years as Americans and as a military family, in a book about the family furniture.
Part memoir, part military history, it is also a meditation on why we Americans are so attached to our stuff — and the destruction that attachment has sometimes caused.
It’s a beginning …