Distant Drums of Wounded Knee Part Five
Wounded Knee Cemetary
Distant Drums of Wounded Knee Part Five
He felt quite lonely after Kitty's departure. Following a brief trial, the jury recommended Sam's sentence of six months for disturbing the peace and aiding the enemy. However, since Sam was a first-time offender the judge reduced his sentence to three months in jail and three months on probation. He and several other Indians were sent to a minimum security federal lock-up in Tourniquet, South Dakota, just beyond the Black Hills.
Meets an old Medicine Man in Jail
One old medicine man with a deeply wrinkled face was pushed in Sam's cell to become Sam's cellmate. He had dared to go to Wounded Knee to perform a blessing ceremony but was captured just before he got into the Indian-held territory. He had been booked for obstructing U.S. freedom of religion. His English was not that great to make a statement to the contrary and the judge gave him a sentence of four months with four months probation to which the medicine man gave a raucous chuckle.
"How on earth were you obstructing freedom of religion," Sam asked.
"Hell if I know except that perhaps I was attempting to bless the wrong type of religion. The sun dance was outlawed by the Feds back in the 1880's."
"Well, I was aiding the 'enemy'--or trying to. I was simply backpacking supplies into Wounded Knee but didn't make it to the 'enemy.'."
"What tribe are you from," the old man asked.
"Shoshone--Eastern Shoshone, that is."
"Oh yea, I once knew a tribal elder from Wind River--he was a story teller or something."
"What was his name?"
"Didn't know him, I don't think."
"Well, what ya gona do in this damned cell for three months?"
"Guess I'll do a little writing."
"Yea, my Shoshone ain't that great."
"Well my Lakota has to be great--I'm a wichasha wakan, you know."
"Is that a Medicine Man?"
Medicine Man Explains his Vision Quests
"A Medicine man is a wichasha wakan. I usually go up into the Black Hills--'Paha Sapa Wakan' to go on vision quests. When we get out of here, I"ll take you up there if you'd like."
"That would be great! What is your name?"
Okay, Spotted Hawk, will do that once we're out."
Viet Nam Vet thrown into Jail
Just then a new prisoner was being escorted by guards into the cell area. He shouted and screamed as he was placed in a cell right next to Sam and Spotted Hawk. He was a white guy. He shouted to the guards, "I fought in Viet Nam for two years to defend your damned freedom!"
"Hey." Sam shouted. "Why'd they put you in here, buddy?"
"They caught me flying in supplies from Chicago. My beechcraft ran out of fuel and I had to land not far enough away."
"What;'s you name, my friend?"
"Bill Carlison. Just back from Nam two months ago."
"Why did you try to fly in supplies to us Indians?"
"Just got fed up with the war and the way we were napalming villages. I got home to find out the Feds had surrounded another native village with armored cars and guns. I just couldn't take it! So I rented a beechcraft out of Midway and my neighbors helped fill it up with medicine, food, water, all attached to five parachutes. A buddy of mine pushed the chutes out as we flew over Wounded Knee at sunrise We could hear them cheering us."
"What happened to your friend?"
"He busted his leg jumping out of the plane and is in some hospital in Rapid City. Then he, too, will have to serve time just like me--two years! Just what I spent in Nam."
"Man, is this world ever twisted," Sam said. "I'm Sam Ravelle and my cellmate is Spotted Hawk. He's in for distrupting American freedom of religion and I'm in for backpacking supplies to the enemy."
"You got to be kidding! Disrupting freedom of religion??"
"Yea," Spotted Hawk said with a raucous chuckle. "I was going to bless the wrong religion--one that was outlawed! They seized my eagle feather and turtle rattle."
Sam and Medicine Man and War Vet Become Friends
The prisoners three continued chatting until dark when the guards told them to quit talking.during curfew time. The old man starting humming a chant as quietly as possible. Stars peeked through the bars of the window. They could hear a coyote howling in the distance. Gusts of wind, coming from the Black Hills, blew through a cluster of cottonwood trees. Sam knew it was just a matter of earthly time before he and Spotted Hawk would be up in those sacred Black Hills, Paha Sapa Wakan.
If one visit Wounded Knee today there is no trace in the landscape of those 80 days in 1973.
© 2010 Richard Francis Fleck