‘Cankpe Opi’ is Lakota for Wounded Knee…..the site of a massacre which occurred on December 29, 1890 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
On that bleak winter morning, the Sioux chief Big Foot and some 350 of his followers camped on the banks of Wounded Knee creek. They were surrounded by 500 US troops who were to disarm and arrest them. Sitting Bull had been murdered just days before.
During a meeting to try and come to a truce, a shot from an unknown party was fired; this anonymous shot started the massacre. Indians ran to get their guns and defend themselves, but the surrounding army cut them all down. Over 300 Sioux were killed that day, and the massacre officially ended the Indian Wars but began the years of recrimination against the US government for their brutality toward the Indians.
In the late 90’s, we visited the Wounded Knee Monument and it was one of the most chilling experiences I have ever had. Sitting there on the grass outside the fenced area which holds many gravesites, looking out over that valley, I could feel the strong Spirits of the Ancestors. I heard them singing and the beating of the drums permeated my being…I will never forget that feeling….
Today, sitting here in my home on this most beautiful winter’s day in the Rocky Mountains where I am safe and warm, I thought of that awful day and was compelled to create some art to honor those who died there that day in the snow covered hills of South Dakota….