AND THE LEGACY
OF RACE RELATIONS
EMMA STEIN LEWIS, Elmhurst College -“The Indian Wars Are Not Over”: 100 Years of Photographing Wounded Knee
This paper uses Rebecca Schneider’s conflicting terms of embodied and archival logic to examine photographs from three separate yet connected points in time. In 1890, the 7th Calvary regiment of the United States army shot down more than 200 Lakota people at what is still controversially referred to as the Battle (as opposed to massacre, or mass shooting) of Wounded Knee in South Dakota. In 1973, an activist group called the American Indian Movement (A.I.M.) seized and occupied the site of the nineteenth century massacre for the period of about two months. At the one hundredth anniversary of Wounded Knee in 1990, mourners visited the same site on what the participants called the “Big Foot Ride.” As this analysis will show, the photographs of the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee–the final battle that is said to have ended the Indian Wars of the nineteenth century–reveal an archival logic that is used specifically to reinforce the colonialist-settler origin narrative that presents Native Americans as the enemy, and Manifest Destiny as the justification for the soldiers’ victory. At the same time, the photographs of A.I.M.’s occupation and those of the 1990 memorial ride are saturated with the liveness of reenactment that speaks to an embodied notion of historiography and collective memory.
The practice of reenactment, Schneider writes, “(whether in replayed art or in replayed war) is an intense, embodied inquiry into temporal repetition, temporal recurrence.”1 She argues that the “liveness” of performance in art is typically defined as that which necessarily disappears with the moment. In contrast, she cites an “archive logic” that privileges the document as history.2 Schneider argues that privileging historical documents, such as photographs, letters, first-person written accounts of events, represents a specific notion of truth that is historical and contingent. Specifically, locating history in the form of the material document or record, whether it is the archive or a photograph, favors Enlightenment epistemology over practices that center historical knowledge in the body. Such a theory of temporality questions any notion of truth ascribed to the photograph. Sacrificing the linear form of art historical narratives deemphasizes the concept of originality and also questions the notion of authenticity of the “frozen moment” of the photograph as its primary memorial tactic, allowing each interpretation as event to be as authentic as the event captured in the photograph.
In a list, these moments appear in the form of linear history, three events that took place over a period of 100 years. Positing that they are fixed points in time with a beginning and an end obscures the continuing narratives of United States settler-colonialism. The goal of this paper is to understand these events from a perspective that problematizes linear history and the archival logic suggested by the current historical record from master historical narratives and scholarship. By examining the photos from all three events, I will argue for an embodied, performance-based preservation of history in the body as memorial practices of reenactment and occupation. To say the “Indian Wars are Not Over” is not a general claim referencing continued struggles against federal powers; rather, it is a statement about the persistence of the specific social relations between the colonizer and colonized. It is an acknowledgement that the settler- colonialist policies on which the U.S. was founded—breaking treaties, stealing resources, and appropriating land due to a government intolerance for the ancient and sacred values of the Lakota that contradict capitalist obsession with property ownership—are still being applied at this moment.