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In Memory

For Our Uncle, Wallace Black Elk

By Carter Camp

January 28, 2004

Wallace Black Elk

My Relations;

Uncle Wallace Black Elk has gone to join his relatives in the far country. So at this sad time for my Black Elk relatives I want to send them my condolences on behalf of the warrior society of the ION (the Independant Oglala Nation of Wounded Knee). As people around the world mourn him as a healer and kind medicine man who served and doctored all who came to him, I would like to remember him and my Auntie Grace Black Elk as the special caretakers of all us who fought at Wounded Knee. I want to acknowledge how bravely he stood for his people and how well he served those us who were risking their lives in that sacred place. I say this on behalf of the warriors who know and I say this to all who would understand a traditional man of the People. Black Elk.

Let me explain how our Uncle came to be so special to the Warrior Society in the Knee. We had many wonderful holy men and Chiefs with us during the 73 day life of our Nation. Fools Crow, Red Cloud, Crowdog, Mathew King and Pete Catches of the Lakota and Phillip Deere and Horace Dauki from Oklahoma, to name only a few. Six Nations leaders and warriors, Ojibway, Ute, Maya, Dine', Apache, Hopi, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Hoopa and Warm Springs, Choctaw and Uchi, Cherokee, Omaha and Pottawatamie. All came to lend their strength and give themselves to the growing circle. It may be hard for non-Indians to understand but in our sacred ways our spiritual leaders give their sacred strength and blessing to the warrior society in their fight for the People. Their Pipe is for the Nation in war as well as peace. Wallace Black Elk was one of the first traditional men to join AIM and to lend his strength and knowledge in our struggle to survive.

Like never before since the Ghost Dance societies of a past generation, the Traditional elders of the Native Nations joined and endorsed the young warriors of AIM and our desire to rekindle the sacred fires of our people. Just like the rejuvenation of the Ghost Dance in the last generation by Wovoka and the bringing of the sacred fire by Quanna Parker of the Commanche to the Tribes incarcerated in Oklahoma, a great reawakening happened in 1973 at Wounded Knee. Turtle Island shook as the red giant rose from her knees to stand with pride once more. From the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, from North to South, red people decided to fight to preserve their Tribes. It was a glorious time in the history of our people, as Native People fought back from the brink of assimilation and denied the wasicu dream of our extinction.

In Wounded Knee a Traditional Society of the Nations was born and lived. Guided by those ones who had been taught and kept the old ways of our people, and most especially the powerful ways of the Lakota Nation, we put ourselves in defiance of those who would crush our people. We decided to fight for survival and that fight is still joined to this day. In the minds of the world we were a "vanishing race" an entire race of people consigned to the annals of histroy. But at Wounded Knee we stood to tell the world they were wrong and we intended to survive as a people for another five hundred years. We chose to make our stand at Wounded Knee where wasicu historians had said our red world had ended in 1890.

Inside Wounded Knee a society was born that depended on our elder traditional men and women to guide us and direct us on a path chosen by our ancestors. It was a circle of one mind and the work of the Nation was carried out by all. But at the same time a vicious enemy knew that the success of our struggle meant the end of the whiteman's dream that we would disappear and our red history end. They brought their army against our small beginning and they tried to erase our red dream. It became the task, as always in our history, for the young warriors to fight to protect the vision of the elders and leaders and people of the ION.

In the first days of the liberation the fighters and warriors stood strong and carried out thier duties while the leaders I named above took care of the business of the Nation. Fools Crow, Red Cloud, Crowdog, Catches and King led us in the red path we had chosen and spoke for our Nation to the world. And in the natural order of our ways it fell upon Wallace Black Elk and his beautiful companion Grace to minister to the needs of the young men and women of the warrior society of Wounded Knee.

We were a rag-tag group of young men and women from many tribes and nations from throughout this invaded land they call the new world. Our squad leaders and military planners were veterans of Viet Nam and Korea and our cadre were the youth of the red people. We could fight and we were willing to die without exception, but to be a warrior society in the old way we needed to be more than that, we needed the guidance of a wise man to differenciate us from the hired wasicu killers. So we turned to Wallace Black Elk to be that guiding teacher and his companion Grace to be our clan mother.

It was a rule among us for each patrol or squad to be cleansed in a Inipi and for each to pray for bravery and success in the old way. Uncle Wallace was called on to do this sacred thing for us, to make us worthy to fight and perhaps to die for our little nation. It became routine for us to gather at he and Grace's small two room cabin and for him to take us into a ceremony before we carried out our duties. But soon the wasicu blockade grew tighter and tighter and Uncle Wallace had to dig deep within himself to protect the warriors. Aunt Grace would prepare some food and Black Elk would prepare his Chanupa to ready us for battle and to face the enemy with courage. Let me give an example...

Once as we prepared to enter the inipi, the sacred grandfather rocks had already been heated and a dozen warriors were inside the lodge, the enemy began to fire on us and bullets were flying around us like mad hornets. My brother Vic and I were the last ones outside, just undressing after bringing in the rocks. When the enemy began shooting we started to get ready to run and told Wallace and the others inside... "they're shooting!" Let's go!" but Black Elk calmly looked out and said, "come inside nephews, don't leave". Quickly we jumped into the lodge and closed the door. Uncle began to sing and we all began to pray with him, we could hear the wasicu firing their M-16's and machine guns but nothing penetrated the thin covering of the lodge. Calmly, without fear or hesitation, Black Elk performed the ancient ceremony while the shooting continued and we could hear the gentle rain of the bullets falling upon the lodge. Soon we forgot them and sang, and prayed and learned to believe, in an hour maybe two the fight ended and we came out to continue our duties. The next morning the people came and looked at what had happened, women and children picked up hundreds of spent bullets laying around and upon the lodge and then strung them into necklaces as souvenirs.

As the times grew into weeks and months it got harder and harder for our patrols and supply trains to get in and out of the Knee. Again the warrior society turned to Black Elk and the old ways to help us do our duties. Each night we gathered at the little Black Elk house and told Uncle Wallace our intentions. Again he took us into a sweatlodge and told us how to become a part of the land and invisible to the enemy. Many times he would say, "Tonight you must travel towards that hill, stop under a particular tree" Wait there" he would say, "an owl will hoot four times, follow him and he will guide you through enemy line" "Do not talk but when you go two miles put this tobacco on the ground, say Pilamaye, and you will make it". He was never wrong and his Owl relation always came to help us, flying ahead, calling us forward from tree to gully to hill, until we were through enemy lines.

Those of us who followed the Owl and safely did our duties for the warrior society, owe our lives to our brave Uncle Wallace Black Elk and we owe our gratitude to the kindness and comfort of his companion Auntie and Mother, Grace Black Elk. On the final days of the Knee they were two of the last people to leave the Knee, they stayed for the people as long as they could. When they finally surrendered and left with the last of the people, the wasicu knew it was over. They abused my parents, they attacked them, stole their sacred objects, they tore the Pipe from their hands and shattered it in front of their eyes. They handcuffed our holy man and threw his wife on the ground. The whiteman ground their sacred Eagle Feathers under their boot heels and they laughed at their tears. They thought that they were attacking the heart of a defeated nation by hurting our brave and gentle medicine man and his Grace, but they were wrong, they were so very wrong. Wallace Black Elk had already passed his spirit to all of us who were priviledged to sit with him around the fire. He had already made it possible for our people to be proud in knowing we could fight and survive. Wounded Knee is still there, the spirits of Wounded Knee remain and so does my Uncle Wallace Black Elk..... forever.


I am Ponca, I am Carter Camp and what I testify is true. Tomorrow join the warriors to see the Grandfather Sun rise in the East, tomorrow our Grandfather Black Elk walks to the West. Mi-ta-qu-ye-oh-ya-sin he said.