Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

What does wounded knee symbolize?

At the end of the film, Ohiyesa (“Charles”) was treating those who were hurt at Wounded Knee, as the terrible tragedy occurred. He tended to the wounds of a woman who had been shot in the shoulder by the troops and after doing all he could for her, he walked across the room to a man who had also been shot. The man had been shot in the knee and when Ohiyesa examined him, he told the man, “I cannot mend the leg.” There is no way to mend a wounded knee; all he could do to save him was to remove the leg altogether.

This was not just a coincidence; it stands as a symbol of the irredeemable actions of the US government against the Native Americans at Wounded Knee. This man’s knee cannot be mended just as the mistreatment of the Natives and the butchered agreements made between both parties cannot be mended. To the Native Americans, this massacre is a massive bloodstain on the fabric of their history. It marks the point at which they ceased any belief that Americans would be people of their word and redeem themselves for their sleazy actions from the past.

One thing that I have learned in this section of the course is how important words are to the Natives. Even after receiving compensation for the lousy actions of the US Government, they still want an apology for the massacre. Words are very powerful and the refusal of our government is also a testament to just how powerful they can be. I believe they deserve an apology and taking into account just how much weight the spoken word carries for them, it should be given to them out of respect.

2 responses to “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

  1. What is the meaning of civilization for the whites, why is the assimilation of the Natives of urgency for the Euro-Americans? Why are Natives portrayed as a savages?

    For the Euro-Americans, civilization means having an education, wearing ‘civilized’ clothing, and sending one’s children to school. Their definition for civilization lies on a basis of an organized system, based on records and Christian religion or denominations of such Christian religion, and including others. Assimilation of such natives was needed urgently, because in this way the Native population could be more easily controlled, and the Euro-Americans could expand out west, into Native land. Natives are portrayed as savages because they do not share the same “civilized” ideals of the “white man.” Everything including their religion, their spirituality, is considered profane, and should be cleansed “in the name of God.”

    How is the story of Charles important, what paradox does he represent?

    Charles, formerly known as Ohiyesa, acts as a bridge between the two worlds of his Native peoples and the Euro-Americans. He is torn, and struggles with an inner conflict to be true to his Native peoples, while conceding to European ideals and lifestyles.


  2. The film, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, is representative of not only a dark time in US history, a significant marker in European, westward expansion, and the ever increasing influence of Christianity and its denominations during the time. The role of religion throughout the movie was significant catalyst on the events and development of characters, such Ohiyesa. The absolute, immutable requirement of having to select a Christian name to correct his teacher in class about little crow is a perfect example of the effect of religion on the lives of the Natives. The film was overall moving and eye-opening in the regard of religion and its effect in the world.


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