AP Photo
A higher cause: Krissy Thornton, right, and Burgundy Hall protest Wednesday with others - they say the cows are a proxy for the freedoms of all Americans

No, Ron Paul, Bundy Ranch Is Not Another Wounded Knee

Jacqueline Keeler

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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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
" In 2003 Federal agents with back up from local cowboys swept onto the Dann sisters traditional grazing lands in helicopters, on ATVs, and on horseback they confiscated 504 horses that belonged to the Dann sisters. At one point elder Clifford Dann doused himself with gasoline to stop federal agents to no avail. In the end the Federal government hung a 3 million dollar bill around the Dann sisters necks and kept their horses." _______________________________________________- I wonder how many of these "cowboys" are father or grandfather to the armed bunch that helped the Bundy's? Can you imagine the furor that would have been raised had the Dann sisters had thirty or forty NDNs with guns show up in their support? The potential for it to actually BE just like Wounded Knee II is too scary to even consider.

ces614's picture
Submitted by ces614 on
Thanks so much Ms. Keeler for your well researched and informative article. This is probably one of the best and most succinct explanations of Native American sovereignty that I've come across.

rockymissouri's picture
Submitted by rockymissouri on
These fools are NOTHING like Wounded Knee. They are disgraceful to even compare themselves..

curtj's picture
Submitted by curtj on
it is sick our so called leaders refuse to self educate themselves to the history, pre colonialism and after syphilis afflicted lost slaver, rapist and mass murderer Columbus(> 500,000 murdered Indigenous) stumbled onto this hemisphere. Our college educated young are educated with an education system extolling the ideals, parameters and philosophies of a race of people who make their careers out of stealing other countries lands and resources. They are not given an education for Indigenous who have to deal with the after math of centuries of having the policies of colonialism rammed down their peoples throats, centuries of having their land base stolen and their leaders voiceless to counteract the theft. Reason being that the politicians in Washington and career employees in the Dept of Interior being bribed to allow others to go in and steal the Indigenous peoples lands and resources. The court system in America is geared to legalizing the land and resource theft from the Indigenous with the Supreme Court justices and federal judges having the ability to have conflict of interest and collusion relationships with the ones siphoning and digging stolen resources. Be it past employees, present and future employees, or having professional, personal and investment relationships with them.

Shotgun John's picture
Shotgun John
Submitted by Shotgun John on
Speaking as a conservative, mostly white (Scotch/Irish/English/Welsh/German/Cherokee) man, allow me to say how embarassed I am by Ron Paul. While I strongly approve of Free Speech, what Mr. Paul is engaging in is Brain-free speech (no brain involved) While this situation is obviously nothing like the tragedies of Wounded Knee, it does show a startling example of a Federal Government gone amuck, willing to do anything to achieve it's own ends, even at the expense of it's own citizen's. I am appalled by the Federal actions in this matters, and I remain sorrowed and shamed by the murderous actions of Federal troops and officials in the massacres at Wounded Knee. To borrow a quote. "Those who fail to learn history's lessons, are doomed to repeat it's mistakes." May we all have finally learned our lesson, and may God protect our children, if we haven't.

choctawgirl's picture
Submitted by choctawgirl on
I agree he is making a hullabaloo. Bundy is a criminal for using Native land knowing it belongs to Natives and was stolen. Natives should have never made any treaties with the government. It's naive to think that the government is going to uphold any treaties in the first place The constitution is for whites, if people actually read it. It excludes "filthy savages." That form of government never should have been established. Tribal groups worked fine until whites showed up. Whites are insecure because they have no homeland and need to cling to anything that remotely resembles culture like cowboys, flags, guns, and bibles. They don't use guns in the right way they just use it as a way to look "tough." They don't even realize that people see right through them. Whites are albinos that migrated out of Africa because they couldn't withstand the heat and were outcast with lepers because of their recessive genes and wicked nature and the tribes didn't want their recessive genes and then spread out into other countries and mixed with other people. They are always looking for a way to look superior to other people because of their insecurities. They have to grab at anything they can no matter how ridiculous they look.

BHirsh's picture
Submitted by BHirsh on
Our fight to protect our INDIVIDUAL sovereignty is no less legitimate than your failed effort to protect your pseudo-nation sovereignty. And lose the Native American schtick. I was born here, therefore I am a "Native American". You folks are not even indigenous Americans - you migrated here from Asia through Alaska. And your various tribes were barbaric and at war with each other. The "in harmony with the planet" myth is just that - a myth. Every nation on the face of the Earth was created by conquest. That's just life. Get used to it, and spare us the propaganda. We ain't buying it.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
So, Clive Bundy has made the national news and proven that WITHOUT A DOUBT he IS a racist! His comment regarding African-Americans being better off as slaves raised the ire of many people IN SPITE of the fact that he's hired African-Americans as bodyguards. (you can catch his racist rant on YouTube). ________________ Of course THEY defend him, but then he is signing their paycheck, isn't he? _______________ So much for the rhetoric of all those verbose Conservatives who were defending him as NOT being a racist and being an honorable man. Nothing new to see here: rich, White, Christians with guns doing what they want. The Dann Sisters were chastised by the government in spite of old treaties, but Bundy scares off the government with his own armed posse. How is THAT one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all?

dreamsthunder's picture
Submitted by dreamsthunder on
Mr. Hirsch: I am not sure what you are insinutating with your statement of "your pseudo-nation sovereignty." Treaties guaranteed the tribes sovereignty; therefore, your statement is false and belies the truth. The only thing that keeps the tribes from becoming soverign is military might and misguided rulings by the Supreme Court, which is not as autonomous as it claims it is. I challenge you to show me where your so called "INDIVIDUAL sovereignty" is protected by the Consitution, to include the Bill of Rights. As I recall, the Constitution states "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union..."; it does not say, "I the person who wants it my way or the highway..." and even if you can prove it, then I suggest the following. You want individual soverignty, then don't use any services provided or funded by the U.S. government; this means, public schools, emergency relief funds, federal loans, certain hospitals, highways, etc... You want to be independant, then go ahead, but don't be a hypocrite. And oh yes, don't use the feeble argument that the "Nations" need to do the same then. Treaties guaranteed that the U.S. government would supply us with certain necessities throughout the generations of the tribal nations. And, I am sure you would find many Native Americans who would vote to be free of U.S. governement oversight and be truly soverign, if the government would allow it.