14 comments on “Wounded Knee And The Bloody Birth Of Empire

    • Jef, thanks for the link and correction. yes, 1070 is the reference. I saw a report on the loathsome PBS Newshour last night on just the subject of the Ethnic Studies fight. Someone needs to rerecord Phil Och’s Here’s to the Sate of Mississippi for Arizona. Why is that next door New Mexico seems downright Social Democratic by comparison?


      • First, Phil Ochs, RIP!

        Why re NM v AZ? Maybe that big balloon fest in Albuquerque each year which carries a lot of the hot air into the stratosphere helps. Anyway, the difference must have a lot to do with the states’ respective histories, though I really wouldn’t know. But obviously Native Americans aren’t having it easy in either state, lots of injustice in both places, and I know lots of enviro injustice in NM.

        Happy New Year! Glad to connect and look forward to more good reads from you.


      • I don’t know the answer to this question but I would speculate about two possible contributions to an answer.

        One – The Ranchero system created after Mexican independence from Spain resulted in explicit property claims that were largely recognized by the US in two states – CA and NM. In CA the Mexican rentier class and the old Ranchero system was basically swamped by the gold rush. In NM by contrast it formed a powerful landowning aristocracy, elements of which still exist an wield influence to this day. AZ by contrast was basically an anglo colonial-settler state.

        Two – in more immediate demographic terms there has been a large influx of white retirees into AZ and not as much into NM.


  1. This:

    “An irrevocable removal of those fences, those divisions that the geometry of capitalist expansion knifed into a blood-stained earth.”

    made me think of the epilogue to Blood Meridian:

    “In the dawn there is a man progressing over the plain by means of holes which he is making in the ground. He uses an implement with two handles and he chucks it into the hole and he enkindles the stone in the hole with his steel hole by hole striking the fire out of the rock which God has put there. On the plain behind him are the wanderers in search of bones and those who do not search and they move haltingly in the light like mechanisms whose movements are monitored with escapement and pallet so that they appear restrained by a prudence or reflectiveness which has no inner reality and they cross in their progress one by one that track of holes that runs to the rim of the visible ground and which seems less the pursuit of some continuance than the verification of a principle, a validation of sequence and causality as if each round and perfect hole owed its existence to the one before it there on that prairie upon which are the bones and the gatherers of bones and those who do not gather. He strikes fire in the hole and draws out his steel. Then they all move on again.”


    • Haven’t read it, though I’ve picked it up half a dozen times with the intention. With rare exceptions I have to be forced to read novels, which is strange because I usually end up enjoying it. Part of growing up in the midwest has meant that I have underappreciated the role the US’s relationship with Mexico has played in history. I certainly agree that that relationship and the development of the border is a defining one for a myriad of reasons– when the 7th Cavalry returned from the Philippines their next mission was into Mexico and after Pancho Villa by the way. Arizona and New Mexico, stolen from Mexico, were territories from 1863 and 1850 respectively until 1912, why sixty years as territories when all around were long admitted as states? The need for a white majority, of course. As 1170 in Arizona shows the definition of the border is an ongoing process, with all of the consequences you mention.


  2. Nice piece RR. I think the connection between US imperialism and the geoncidal ‘frontier’ war with the Native Americans is indeed direct and as a dark undercurrent of US history is on par with the legacy of slavery as a shaping force. I know that the focus of this piece is Wounded Knee on its 120th anniversary, an important symbol, whose ghost haunt us still. But I think there is another dimension to this which cannot be ignored. US imperial ambitions had their precursor in the Monroe doctrine and in particular with the relationship (if such it can be called) with Mexico. There is a real sense in which the ‘Frontier’ became the ‘Border’, a continental division which to this day claims lives in the thousands, divides families, generates untold suffering, a living abomination emanating from the same dark heart that gave us Wounded Knee 120 years ago.


    • “There is a real sense in which the ‘Frontier’ became the ‘Border’”

      – a literal sense too… as in ‘La Frontera’.


  3. Excellent article. I’ve been to Wounded Knee in the Winter when it is even more heart-wrenching than your picture of the memorial site. But it is a holy site as well, not in any religious or mystical way, but as a place of power for future generations to overthrow that history and its present form of empire.

    And your assessment of the fundamentally rapacious nature of capitalist accumulation is apparent not only in the unnatural division of the land, but in what has been built upon it … also visible from the air.


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