From Wounded Knee to the Gallows: The Life and Trials of Lakota Chief Two Sticks - Book

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On December 28, 1894, the day before the fourth anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee, Lakota chief Two Sticks was hanged in Deadwood, South Dakota. The headline in the Black Hills Daily Times the next day read “A GOOD INDIAN”—a spiteful turn on the infamous saying “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

On the gallows, Two Sticks, known among his people as Can Nopa Uhah, declared, “My heart knows I am not guilty and I am happy.” Indeed, years later, convincing evidence emerged supporting his claim. The story of Two Sticks, as recounted in compelling detail in this book, is at once the righting of a historical wrong and a record of the injustices visited upon the Lakota in the wake of Wounded Knee. The Indian unrest of 1890 did not end with the massacre, as the government willfully neglected, mismanaged, and exploited the Oglala in a relentless, if unofficial, policy of racial genocide that continues to haunt the Black Hills today. In From Wounded Knee to the Gallows, Philip S. Hall and Mary Solon Lewis mine government records, newspaper accounts, and unpublished manuscripts to give a clear and candid account of the Oglala’s struggles, as reflected and perhaps epitomized in Two Sticks’s life and the miscarriage of justice that ended with his death.

Bracketed by the run-up to, and craven political motivation behind, Wounded Knee and the later revelations establishing Two Sticks’s innocence, this is a history of a people threatened with extinction and of one man felled in a battle for survival hopelessly weighted in the white man’s favor. With eyewitness immediacy, this rigorously researched and deeply informed account at long last makes plain the painful truth behind a dark period in U.S. history.

This book From Wounded Knee to the Gallows got my attention in the first few pages. Being of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, when I think of Wounded Knee, I start with Sitting Bull and the manipulations of agent Mclaughlin. I just had a passing knowledge of what was happening at the Pine Ridge Reservation during this time. This book FROM WOUNDED KNEE to the GALLOWS put it all in prospective for me. I also learned politics and corruption hasn’t changed in 130 years (and more) when it comes to the Indigenous peoples of North America.
In 1890, the Indian Agent for the Pine Ridge Agency was Danial Royer who was as crooked a man as they come. The only real qualification he needed was to be a Republican. Royer being appointed by US Senator Pettigrew who was a double-dealing, unscrupulous, self-serving politician that covered his crooked trail by using trumped up accusations against any who opposed him. Mr. Royer was appointed as agent to Pine Ridge and took charge of it on October 9, 1890 by November 12, 1890, 300 cords of wood, 150 tons of hay, 600,000 lbs. of corn and oats were gone, along with agency cattle. Royer and his chief clerk were splitting the ill-gotten gains. Not surprisingly, the People of Pine Ridge were justifiably upset. The year 1890 was especially a hard one. It was a drought where nothing grew, and then it was one of the severest winters on record on top of the land grab by the government. Due to Royer’s incompetence and thievery along with the untrue telegrams he was sending to his superiors, a large contingent of the army flooded Pine Ridge and Rosebud agencies further upsetting the People. It was no wonder the People were drawn to the Ghost Dance because it promised the Second Coming of the Messiah - meaning Jesus Christ. This time, he was coming to save the Indians, his now chosen people. To hungry exploited people is would mean everything. Also because of Royer’s lies, the large buildup of the army, the People’s fear and uneasiness caused them to gather together at the Stronghold which then increased the fear of the farmers and ranchers, along with the murder of Sitting Bull where it made it the perfect setup for the Massacre at Wounded Knee.
Among the Lakota taking refuge at the Stronghold was Headman Two Sticks and his family. When Miles brokered a truce with the people at the Stronghold and they returned to their various villages, Two Sticks and his sons stayed at No Water’s camp where he and others were now called the “Malcontents”. In the years after Wounded Knee conditions on the Pine Ridge agency were critical. The Oglala People of Pine Ridge were starving. The rations that did come through were rotten and spoiled, and they were still being exploited of what resources were left to them. The jobs that were promised on the condition that they send their children away to boarding schools to learn trades – never materialized. Those jobs were given to political appointment by Sen. Pettigrew to white Republicans whether qualified or not. At times the reservation was so overrun by non-natives it was said there were more of them than there were Indians. Tensions were high to the point that anything could happen and it did with the killing of 4 cowboys. Captain Brown now being the Indian agent for Pine Ridge, was as bad if not the worst of any that had been sent to the reservation. As a result of captain Brown’s lying, his incompetence, and the newspapers reporting an “Indian Uprising”, “Butchered by Reds”, the false and inflammatory stories had their effect. If not for Young Man Afraid of His Horse and George Sword the situation could have ended very differently.
Philip S. Hall and Mary Solon Lewis, put together an outstanding book with “FROM WOUNDED KNEE to the Gallows. I personally gained a lot of new knowledge. To me, it was fascinating. It easily leads into other areas of study of events and people. So many things happened is such a short time period. “FROM WOUNDED KNEE to the GALLOWS” is very much worth the time to read.
Review by Anita Comeau

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Philip S. Hall and Mary Solon Lewis
Book Details:
Published 2020, Paperback, 280 pages