470 rifles of the Seventh Cavalry of the United States Army surrounded the native encampment of 106 unarmed warriors with their women and children. Further back on the high ridges and bluffs, four heavy repeating Gatlin guns were emplaced in the pre-dawn darkness as planned. Then at the first sign of daylight, the Army Commander gave the order to assemble all adult male Lakota to the center for talks. The trusting Mniconjou men went along as asked, since the afternoon of the day before, the soldiers had issued them rations of bacon, beans, hard tacks and coffee, more to lull them into cooperating on this cold and dangerous morning. The talks for disarming the camp quickly became arguments into shouting matches. At the same time, some soldiers ransacked the wagons of the Lakota, scattering their belongings,searching for guns, knives and any tools that may be used as weapons. Shouting became shoving as fear drove the combined, chaotic actions of the several hundred soldiers and Lakota men, women and children. And in panic the first trigger was pulled.
The Lakota had never known such insane and total warfare as to include the killing of women and children.
Aided by several media, first by the sense impressions of the courageous Alive War Bonnet, and her oral history, later written down by her son, we can read the words raw and rare of these final actions.
Also aided by black and white photography ironically by an unknown cavalryman, through slide projection onto the unpainted surface, there by pencil sketches then lastly by acrylic polymer painting, we can see the pale, fosty face of Spotted Elk (Bigfoot), drained of blood, all the blood iced and covered by snow, arms in reverse akimbo. In a half sitting not reclining position, Spotted Elk in his last moments struggled to get up surely to help the lady and baby at his side. The lady now frozen, partly in her own blood, is helpless to her child. Her baby, her right forearm bloodied may be from a small caliber bullet hold on her mother's bleeding, is crawling away, finally giving in, to freeze and to die.
Both the painting and the words make clear the final sacrefice paid by the Mniconjou. For them, an everlasting memory is imprinted in the blood of their direct descendants who live on the Cheyenne River Reservation today. For, by the unsuspecting death by withering point-blank fire, these innocent children, brave ladies and gallant men brought an uncertain peace, but peace nevertheless, to the rest of the continent's nations. This was long, long before this country's atrocities.
But do not speak to the Mniconjou Lakota of programs, of concentration camps and of final resolutions. We have endured and will continue our spiritual relationship with this land forever.