Robert Lowell Russell* is a writer and trophy husband (obviously). He is a SFWA member and a member of the Writeshop and Codex writers' groups. He is a former librarian, a former history grad student, a former semi-professional poker player, and is now pursuing nursing degree (say "ah!").

Rob has also just noticed how outdated and lame his website has become and will be modifying it in the near future.

Update: Check out my NEW website (still in progress) at robertlowellrussell.com (it redirects to a wordpress account, but it's nice.

His stories have appeared (or will appear) in Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, Penumbra, Digital Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction (thrice!), Stupefying Stories (fice? what's the word for five?), and a whole bunch of other places (see complete list on the right side).

*RLR finds it a bit silly to write about himself in the 3rd person.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Ghost Dance and the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890

During the 19th century, there were a series of conflicts between Native American/American Indian nations and US forces that have been dubbed the "Indian Wars." The final conflict in the Indian Wars is widely regarded as the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre.  The Lakota killed at Wounded Knee were believe to be mostly peaceful followers of the Ghost Dance movement.

The Ghost Dance was a religious movement of sorts. While there was an earlier Ghost Dance, the movement ending in 1890 (or 1891, depending on how you define "end") was based on the visions and teachings of Jack Wilson aka Wovoka.  Unlike the tone of my story, the Ghost Dance was not originally intended to be an apocalyptic event . Wovoka said that if followers performed a certain dance in a certain way, the Earth would be renewed and the dead would rise. Native groups still in conflict with US forces adapted the movement to their own needs. Some suggested that the resulting renewal would in fact wipe whites from the face of the Earth in an apocalyptic event. Some warriors wore "ghost shirts," elaborately decorated shirts that were supposed  to be impervious to bullets.

Federal forces charged with stopping the Ghost Dance movement and forcing the Lakota on to reservations (where there was little food and very poor living conditions) intercepted a few hundred Lakota at a creek called Wounded Knee. On Dec. 29, 1890, US forces attempted to disarm the Lakota. Someone fired a shot and a chaotic "battle" ensued. US forces had arrayed four Hotchkiss guns on hills around the creek. Hotchkiss guns were artillery pieces that were capable of firing explosive shells at a rapid fire with a range of nearly two miles. When the firing started, soldiers opened up with the Hotchkiss guns, sending a stream of what were essentially grenades into the camp, shredding the Lakota as well as the US forces.In the end, somewhere between 150-350 Lakota (many women and children) and 25 troopers were killed (more on both sides were wounded).

When Black Elk lamented the dream that died, I believe he referred to the apparent failure of the Ghost Dance (and the dramatic changes forced on his people). But of course, the Lakota and other Indian nations survive to this day. In the 1973, members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) came once again into armed conflict with US forces (and tribal officials believed to be corrupt) at Wounded Knee. Other groups, such as the National Indian Youth Council fought their own battles (without guns) as well.

While one particular dream may have died, that didn't stop others from dreaming new dreams.

A caveat to this blog post: Much of what I wrote comes from memory of past research, and while I did some brief research to refresh my memory and nail down specific details, it's entirely possible that I've made some errors.  I'll correct any errors as I notice them (or someone points them out).

RLR

"Ghost Dancing" now live at Eschatology.

My story, "Ghost Dancing," is now live at Eschatology. Flash fiction doesn't normally come with footnotes, but I added added this comment below the story on the site:

The old man in this story is Black Elk, an actual witness to the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890. He was a Lakota medicine man and when he was much older, he recounted his memories of Wounded Knee to John Neihardt in the classic book, “Black Elk Speaks.” (1932) Black Elk also detailed a number of visions he had as a medicine man. Much as Neihardt took Black Elk’s translated words and chipped away at them to reveal their inner poetry, I’ve taken some of Black Elk’s words out of context and altered them a bit for dramatic effect. The Wounded Knee massacre is widely regarded as the final conflict in the 19th century Indian wars, and I believe Black Elk lamented the failure of the Ghost Dance movement to restore his people and renew the Earth when he said, “A people’s dream died.” (Black Elk himself did not seem vengeful, just sad) But while that particular dream may have died, Black Elk’s people survived.

Flash fiction doesn’t normally come with footnotes, so I’ll end my comments here, but I’m going to stick a bit more about the Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee on my blog.

Robert Lowell Russell

I'm going to post the additional information I mention in a second blog entry.

RLR