Guest blog – Pine Ridge (Wounded Knee) blessing

Pine Ridge S.D  (Sept. 17 2011) – Saturday was a glorious day of sun and light winds that carried the scent of prairie sage. 

My husband and I drove to Pine Ridge from Omaha, Nebraska to participate in NLM health totem’s blessing mostly because it occurred on the site of the Wounded Knee massacre site of December 1890.  Some have referred to this cemetery (which is on a hill accessible only by narrow dirt roads) as one of the saddest places on earth.  Fortunately, resilience and hope were the prevailing sentiments in the healing totem’s blessing.

Dorothy Sun Bear and her grandchildren bless pole with sage gathered at Wounded   Knee Creek

(Photo courtesy of Barbara Robins)

I teach Native American studies and routinely attend blessings and other ceremonial events. However, to bless a healing pole is unique.

The gathering was small, no more than 20 people including a few curious tourists.  The event was informal with a Lakota elder offering short cultural lessons for the audience between prayers given for the victims of the 1890 massacre, the healing totem pole, and all those sharing the journey eastward to Maryland.

Our group stood in a circle at the entry arch to the cemetery for the blessing, behind us was the mass grave for nearly 300.  This was an intersection of history where the losses of 9/11 were recalled in the same moment as those of Wounded Knee. However, the tribal elder spoke of compassion and the importance of sharing prayers as a counterpoise to continued conflict and anger.

Afterwards, attendees dispersed to walk down the hill to the museum dedicated to the history of the Lakota and the events leading up to the Wounded Knee massacre. Despite history’s solemnity, there was laughter, sharing of stories, and new friends were made among local residents, caravan participants, and surprised tourists.

  NLM’s healing totem arrives at the arch entry to Wounded Knee

(Photo courtesy of Barbara Robins)

At least one woman went tearfully to Jewell James to embrace and thank him for the blessing and NLM’s healing totem pole. The spontaneous burst of emotion left no doubt that blessings have an impact and create healing ripples.

Barbara K. Robins

Associate Professor of English & Native American Studies

University of Nebraska at Omaha


2 thoughts on “Guest blog – Pine Ridge (Wounded Knee) blessing

  1. I believe I am the tearful woman referred to in your post. I just happened upon Wounded Knee that day as part of my own spiritual journey. And as it turned out, it was the perfect day to visit the site where many lost their lives and many still find it a place to congregate. I am honored that I was able to participate in the blessing and meet the artist. As I continue to create my own path in an unsavry world, I take the spirit of the totem with me, and use it to fuel my journey and make a difference in the lives of others from all races.

  2. I enjoyed your blog. It’s easy to read, the content is good, and your an educated writer unlike most of the blogs I come across when searching on this topic. I will check back in the future and see if you have anymore articles. Thanks for posting this, I appreciate the infomration and the effort you put into your site.

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