Remembering Wounded Knee: Mercy in Reconciliation

Peace is impossible without truth and reconciliation.

On December 29, 1890, soldiers of the US Army’s 7th Cavalry massacred 300 Lakota Sioux (including women and children) near Wounded Knee creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

 Tomorrow, December 29, 2015, Lakota elders who are descendants of the original seventy-five survivors (known as Takini) gather with others to commemorate the massacre with prayer (beginning at 9am CST), ceremonies of remembrance, and celebrations of food. The elders “… invite all people of good will to remember the Wounded Knee tragedy as the Elders will, with the deepest, most profound and unrelenting sorrow, and also with hope in their hearts, epitomized by the 75 Takini, who made it possible for their descendants to live. The Elders invite all people of good will to join them physically or in spirit from afar to remember, and find hope in, their survival as a people, and to participate with them in nourishing for future generations their deep belief in the interconnectedness of all beings, epitomized by their great invocation: Mitakuye Oyasin (All My Relatives).” from their Indiegogo page

The United States has lagged other countries in acknowledging the need for truth and reconciliation regarding our treatment of black slaves or Native peoples as this country was founded. Admitting this hard truth is not a show a weakness but of strength. Accepting and reconciling our personal and communal moral failures is the action that will make the dream for peace a reality.

Perhaps the Jubilee Year of Mercy will contain enough grace to help the process along, for Pope Francis said:

This Holy Year will bring to the fore the richness of Jesus’ mission echoed in the words of the prophet: to bring a word and gesture of consolation to the poor, to proclaim liberty to those bound by new forms of slavery in modern society, to restore sight to those who can see no more because they are caught up in themselves, to restore dignity to all those from whom it has been robbed. The preaching of Jesus is made visible once more in the response of faith which Christians are called to offer by their witness. May the words of the Apostle accompany us: he who does acts of mercy, let him do them with cheerfulness (cf. Rom 12:8).” from Misericordiae Vultus, for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy

The recipients of the benefits passed down from the founding father’s immoral actions have a moral and spiritual obligation to recognize how those injustices traumatized its victims both then and now. In acknowledging the truth of our collective past sins, we can answer the Pope’s call to restore liberty (freedom from poverty), sight (a vision for a better future), and dignity (acknowledgment of our Oneness).

As we reflect on this today, I encourage you to commit to praying with the Elders tomorrow and, if possible, support the commemoration.

Our prayer today:

May we be willing to look courageously at the truth of our communal and personal past so that we can reconcile ourselves to each other and God. May we remember we are One.

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