December 29, 1890
Beneath an overcast December sky, the lone Dakota watched as the cannons fired into the makeshift camp in the depression to the south. He had never before experienced what he felt at this moment: hollow, numb, sadness so powerful he could hardly sit his horse. Old women, joints stiffened with age, were unable to run for their lives, while younger women gathered their children to flee but had no place to go. Fighting-age men were being targeted, and bullets ripped through bodies, spitting up dirt as they hit the frozen ground beyond.
He stared, unbelieving, at what was taking place below as the bile began to rise. Brave men, weaponless men under a flag of surrender, were being slaughtered indiscriminately. Women and children were raked with shrapnel as the Hotchkiss guns opened fire. Small bodies were trampled under hooves lined with steel, and blood soon covered the ground.
Then there was silence, absolute silence, as though his ears were stuffed with clay, as if his mind refused to accept the cacophony that punctuated the horrible scene. As though in a dream, he saw the smoke from the big guns and from the firearms carried by the troopers, but there was no sound. The open mouths of innocent women screaming for their children were silent. He leaned over and retched. Sweat froze on his forehead. His mind was shutting out the reality of the moment as though he were alone. Then, from what seemed to be a great distance, he heard the sounds of battle returning.
Again, he looked toward the camp until he could take no more. He reined his horse, nudged her flanks with his heels, and began to move to the north, the terrible sounds of slaughter again ringing in his ears, totally unable to process what was happening. For the first forty yards or so, he walked the roan mare. Within a hundred yards, she was at a dead run as tears cut paths along the icy skin on his temples. He had seen death a hundred ways, had taken many lives himself, but this was something his mind could not grasp. This was not a battle; there was no honor in killing the innocent. Every fiber of his being screamed for release from the agonizing scene. With his mind reeling from the sheer barbarism evidenced by this needless slaughter, he wondered at the events that had led him to this moment, to the death of the free Sioux Nation.
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