The occupation and blockade of Wounded Knee began as a demonstration for Lakota rights organized by members of the AIM. For the Lakota people, the community has great significance. In 1890, Wounded Knee was the site of a major clash between the Lakota and the United States Army, an event many consider to be the end of the Indian Wars.
The Native Americans, whose wisdom Thoreau admired, regarded the Earth itself as a sacred source of energy. To stretch out on it brought repose, to sit on the ground ensured greater wisdom in councils, to walk in contact with its gravity gave strength and endurance. The Earth was an inexhaustible well of strength: because it was the original Mother, the feeder, but also because it enclosed in its bosom all the dead ancestors. It was the element in which transmission took place. Thus, instead of stretching their hands skyward to implore the mercy of celestial divinities, American Indians preferred to walk barefoot on the Earth: The Lakota was a true Naturist – a lover of Nature. He loved the earth and all things of the earth, the attachment growing with age. The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the earth and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth. Their tipis were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The birds that flew in the air came to rest on the earth and it was the final abiding place of all things that lived and grew. The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing. That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life-giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly; he can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him. Walking, by virtue of having the earth’s support, feeling its gravity, resting on it with every step, is very like a continuous breathing in of energy. But the earth’s force is not transmitted only in the manner of a radiation climbing through the legs. It is also through the coincidence of circulations: walking is movement, the heart beats more strongly, with a more ample beat, the blood circulates faster and more powerfully than when the body is at rest. And the earth’s rhythms draw that along, they echo and respond to each other. A last source of energy, after the heart and the Earth, is landscapes. They summon the walker and make him at home: the hills, the colours, the trees all confirm it. The charm of a twisting path among hills, the beauty of vine fields in autumn, like purple and gold scarves, the silvery glitter of olive leaves against a defining summer sky, the immensity of perfectly sliced glaciers … all these things support, transport and nourish us.
One of the main characters in my book is Lakota Sioux and at one point he’s involved in the heroic rescue of a dozen people. In my research of Sioux culture I found that the eagle fathers often associated with Sioux abd other Plains Indian cultures are awarded similarly to medals like the bronze star– for valor and bravery. I guess my question is whether it would be appropriate for a teenaged boy who isn’t a soldier to be awarded an eagle feather for bravery?
Before I start, I’m going to say “Sioux” is considered a slur by tribe members! While it’s what most research is classified as, and what most legal documents are, use Oceti Sakowin instead. Or even better, the tribe name. This post has more info.
Two little misconceptions in here:
1- That there is such a thing as “soldiers” among Native Americans in the way we think of the military in Western society. Yes, eagle feathers are an equivalent of a bronze star, and are awarded to veterans even to this day, but the details of who gets what award shouldn’t be taken to mean the exact same thing in Western versus Native society. Goes double if this is any sort of historical context and not as influenced by Western society. From what I understand, most men were eligible to fight and many would. But I haven’t done much research on the topic; just looked at census data that shows a significant drop in men in the 25 to 49 age bracket.
2- That childhood is under the same constraints in Native as within Western society. Native kids would do stuff for the tribe and train for their eventual responsibilities pretty young, learning how to live in the bush and whatever future responsibilities they’ll hold. While they wouldn’t be considered adults until they reached certain milestones in their lives (these vary by tribe so I’m not even going to bother attempting to list), 15, 16, 17 could be considered “adult” in the tribe. Some tribes skew younger, some older. It varies. It could’ve also changed over time.
Please understand the tribe in its own terms, instead of filtering everything through the Western viewpoint. While that’s a good place to start (especially in regards to eagle feathers and war honours, because that is why you do not wear a headdress if you haven’t earned it), it’s not a good place to write from.
As for your question about the appropriateness of eagle feathers/a recognition of what he did. Who got what award is very detailed— and different— per tribe. I recall reading about the Omaha people (through a fantastically detailed ethnography by Alice Cunningham Fletcher and Francis la Flesche. I believe it’s simply called The Omaha Tribe), who are plains Natives and speak a related language, and how they had about ten or twenty different types of honours depending on the acts of bravery done. Not all of them were eagle feathers. Some where regalia, some where weapons, some were privileges. I recall one particularly high honour being having a close female relative tattooed with a design over her neck (she herself could not utter a sound during the process).
Therefore, while it might be appropriate for him to get an honour, it might not be that honour. He might genuinely be too young, or he might be old enough, or that act might make him be considered old enough. If it was the right context it could be an eagle feather, it might be deemed something else, or it might not even have an honour associated with it. All of these are possibilities.
I am not Lakota or Oceti Sakowin, so I can’t tell you what is appropriate or not. All I can do is provide a slightly broader context, which is “Natives have their own system of honours given for bravery that extends beyond eagle feathers”. Your best bet is to ask the Lakota themselves, giving details about the situation in as much depth as you can. Here is a guide on how to research specific tribal customs and how to approach them. Of course, if any Lakota or Oceti Sakowin followers want to provide information, please do!
The massacre in Las Vegas is the worst mass shooting only in recent memory of USA. But it didn’t have the most casualties. It’s not the only one, and, sadly, it will not be the last, considering we have gun-fucking, genocidal white supremacists in the White House that refuse to do anything about this. This is a white terrorist act, and the media sought to humanize the killer once again.
In 2016, the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando Florida is currently the deadliest massacre of the LGBTQ community in USA. This surpassed the UpStairs Lounge arson attack in New Orleans Louisiana that killed 32 LGBTQ people in 1973. 49 people were lost that night. Most of them were people of color, including Puerto Rican descendants. Even after this tragedy, there is still a blood ban against LGBTQ people in this forsaken country.
Here are some examples of the deadliest mass shootings in USA history. The tribes people of the First Nations of this continent were deliberately massacred, and USA was responsible for these attacks.
“Sand Creek: November 29, 1864, Kiowa County, Colorado. - 163 Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women, and children were killed. After that initial attack, 400 more of their people were killed at Sand Creek, according to the Southern Cheyenne Chief, Laird Cometsevah. - Murderers: US Army Colonel John Chivington, a methodist preacher, and the 1st Colorado Cavalry, 3rd Colorado Cavalry, and a company of the 1st Regiment New Mexico Volunteer Cavalry
Marias River: January 23, 1870. Marias River, Montana. - Piegan Blackfeet tribes people. 15 men, 212 women and children, 50 of those children were just under the age of 12. - Murderers: 2nd US Cavalry Regiment and 13th US Infantry Regiment.
Wounded Knee: December 29th, 1890. Pine Ridge, South Dakota. - 150-300 Lakota men, women, and children. - Murderers: 7th US cavalry regiment. 20 Medals of Honor awarded.
Bear River: January 29th, 1863. Franklin County, Idaho. - 410 Shoshone men, women, and children. - Murderers: 3rd Regiment California Volunteer Infantry.
Yontocket: Autumn of 1853. Yontocket, Del Norte County, California. - 250-600 Tolowa men, women, elders, and children were killed in the middle of their prayer ceremony. After the attack, one eyewitness saw the murderers burn live infants of the slain Tolowa villagers, including their sacred ceremonial clothing and tribal artifacts. - Murderers: Crescent City California militia.
Medals of Honor were awarded. The largest mass shootings, mass murders, were legal actions, with legal assault weapons, carried out by US government, state government representatives, and local citizen militias and were celebrated by the United States.”