February 2nd, 2023

Descendants of survivors of Wounded Knee organize and advocate

The HAWK 1890 group exists to keep descendants of survivors of Wounded Knee connected to each other and to advocate for issues related to the history of the massacre.

Members have spoken out in favor of the “Remove the Stain Act” in the House of Representatives, cautioned against the continuation of the Big Foot Memorial Ride due to COVID and other concerns, and worked to maintain the gravesite and National Historic Landmark. In the 1990s they promoted the idea of relocating the human remains of the massacre from Pine Ridge to Cheyenne River.

The historic site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but is not owned by the government. It sits on 870 acres on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Neglect at the site was noted by the register ten years ago.

Marlis AfraidofHawk is the granddaughter of Richard AfraidofHawk, a survivor of the Massacre at Wounded Knee. Her father, Daniel AfraidofHawk, was one of the founders of the Big Foot Memorial Ride in 1986. The ride, which was only intended to go on for four years, grew out of a vision by Curtis Kills Ree as a way to heal the grief and intergenerational trauma of Wounded Knee which is still carried today by Indigenous people with roots in South Dakota and across the country.

According to the Lakota People’s Law Project, “While 1890 may seem like a long time ago, it’s actually only been a few generations since the bloodiest military attack on Indigenous people in the United States.”

Like many of the survivors of the massacre, AfraidofHawk’s grandfather fled to Pine Ridge and stayed there. His son, Daniel, left Manderson, SD, in 1952 for Cheyenne River, where he met and married Angeline, Marlis’ mother.

When her father died in 2018, Marlis received a phone call from her aunt in Manderson. Her aunt said, “’My granddaughter, since your father is gone now, you, the family will have to take his place.’ So I took the obligation on behalf of my family to step it up.”

AfriadofHawk speaks of the traditional women’s way of doing things. This attitude informs her advocacy. She said, “As my father’s daughter, and as a Wounded Knee descendant, I am going to stand my ground. It’s like, way back then, you have a staff and you sit it on the ground. And then you stand your ground. So when your enemies come, we know you will fight them off…You can do bad medicine on me. I don’t care. Because I’m stronger than that. Because I’ve got my uncis, my lalas, my ancestors that passed away behind me. And I’m not afraid.”

In 2019 the group put out a statement asking for the Big Foot Ride to end, saying the ancestors were tired of reliving the events of that time over and over again.

Says AfraidofHawk, “So I’m going to tell you a story. This is true. It’s a true story. One of our relatives…he said they went into a ceremony. In that ceremony, the relatives that passed away at Wounded Knee, they said they wanted this ride to stop. They asked the people in the ceremony to have this ride stop, because they are tired of repeating the ride every year. They said, ‘You go on that trail all the way down to Wounded Knee.’ They’re tired! So that’s why they say, ‘We are tired now.’ Si Tȟáŋka’s band, his people, they suffered. They died down there!”

Manny Iron Hawk is the official spokesperson of HAWK 1890. In this capacity he has traveled to Washington to testify at the House hearings on the Remove the Stain Act in 2019. He said, “They couldn’t kill us all…We are the people that survived, and we are the people that today are made flesh and blood of Wounded Knee, and we’re still here.”

Iron Hawk’s mother is the descendant of the ancestor who survived. When she died in 2008, Manny was told to take on her task to help HAWK 1890. The group tries to address issues that still exist at Wounded Knee. Says Iron Hawk, “Our intentions are to address issues with the relatives there.”

In August 1997 a motion was made and passed by the association of descendants that formed at the time. Members from Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River voted to move the human remains from the national memorial to a site on Cheyenne River.

“For me, as far as I’m concerned, I think our relatives should be brought back here on the reservation,” says Iron Hawk. “We’re going to need some help, mainly from the federal government because they are the ones responsible for the massacre.” A new memorial site has been suggested west of the Takini school.

Iron Hawk said he thinks about thirty people survived the massacre and escaped to Pine Ridge where they stayed. The number of the descendants of those people who are alive today is hard to know.

Says Iron Hawk, “The numbers back then are hard to say. Today we do have descendants they are speaking up and coming up, so the association, our group is aware of [them]. They belong to tiospayes and tiwahes too. So I’m thinking a conservative number of thirty but that’s not including their families and the new generation of descendants.”

Descendants of survivors of Wounded Knee organize and advocate