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Memories of Wounded Knee

To the Editor,

When asked to explain how I came to have the pictures taken at Wounded Knee I had to search my heart about whether to write this or not. I have many memories of Wounded Knee that are wonderful, but then I get angry because of what happened during the occupation in the 1970s.

My mother Mary Richter and Mary Clark became friends while working for the Indian Health Service. Girlie Clark Gildersleeve became like a mother to my mother.

We spent many weekends with them as we were growing up. We were taught to respect the elders and to never call anyone by their first names unless grandmother, grandfather, aunt or uncle was put in front of it.

May favorite memories are of my Uncle Wilbur Reigert and the museum at Wounded Knee. The paintings of Martha Bad Warrior along with the antiques that were found in and around Wounded Knee were my favorites. We would always ask to go over and see what had been added while Uncle Wilbur would tell us stories of where things were found and his voice would show his love for the history of Wounded Knee.

Clive, Girlie, Agnes and Mary would run the Trading Post and Post Office. Many times I would hear and see them bartering with the people who needed something, but had no money. They were asked to work of the cost of groceries by doing work around the Church, cemetery or the museum. Men would mow the grass paint, or do yard work while the women traded quilts, bead work or dolls. And yes, they would be sold at a fair price and the money put back into the Trading Post.

The Gildersleeves were always fair with the people. They were kind, giving people who were proud of their Indian heritage and wanted others to be also. They didn’t tolerate drunks or abusive behavior.

I will never understand how those occupiers treated my family, the Gildersleeves, with such disrespect after they had helped most of the people at Wounded Knee at one time or another. Girlee Gildersleeve had her wedding rings pulled from her fingers and the Trading Post was looted and ruined. My Uncle Wilbur’s pride and joy, the museum, was looted and destroyed.

I have no respect for the occupiers, but my love and respect go to those who believed they could make a difference: the Gildersleeves.

My father, a pilot, was asked to drop supplies to the occupiers. His answer was, “Only if the fuse is short enough.” They didn’t deserve supplies after what they did to our extended family.

Mitakuye Oyasin,
“Willie” Kermmeade,
Former resident of Wounded Knee

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