No, Ron Paul, Bundy Ranch Is Not Another Wounded Knee
In a recent article the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity website posed the question is “The Cliven Bundy Standoff: Wounded Knee Revisited?” As a Dakota woman with painful family memories of the atrocities that took place at Wounded Knee in 1890 when some 300 Lakota were massacred by the U.S. Army—including 200 women and children—I take issue with the comparison. Cliven Bundy’s situation — a wealthy rancher refusing to pay his government a relatively unsubstantial 20 years of grazing fees — is nothing like what our people faced at the end of a terrible war with the United States. These sort of careless exaggerations and conflations of our own painful and real history of dispossession by the Right Wing is both predatory and despicable.
The article that follows Ron Paul’s headline is a fairly dry history lesson on the total war tactics the U.S. military pursued in their war against the Great Sioux Nation, the seven bands speaking three dialects (Dakota/Lakota/Nakota), known in our own language as the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Campfires. As much as I appreciate the sharing of this history, the purpose of it was not to demand redress or a reassessment of these historic wrongs but to act as a call to arms for causes like Bundy’s—nothing more.
And it is not the first time the far right have made this comparison. Last year, gun control opponents circulated on Facebook and Twitter the graphic photo of frozen Lakota victims being buried in a mass grave at Wounded Knee with taglines saying “Wounded Knee was among the first federally backed gun confiscation attempts in United States history. It ended in the senseless murder of 297 people.” A meme also made the rounds featuring a vintage portrait of a Native leader emblazoned with the words, “I’m all for total gun control and trusting the government to protect you, after all it worked great for us” around his face.
Disregard if you can the incredible callousness of using such tragedies to limit restrictions on sales of automatic weapons and to prevent a three-day waiting period for gun purchase—all of which have been shown to save lives; instead I would like to explain to the American public the very real difference between these two fights: one for sovereignty of a pre-existing nation states on this continent and the other, for what Bundy and his supporters call the “Sovereign Citizen” movement, which basically translates to: they make up the rules.
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