Chief Spotted Elk lies dead in the snow following the Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890. For hundreds of years, marginalized people in the United States have been victims of mass shootings simply because they were different.

Courtesy Trager and Kuhn, photographer/Northwestern Photo Co., Chadron, Nebraska. (Denver Public Library; Western History Collection)

Chief Spotted Elk lies dead in the snow following the Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890. For hundreds of years, marginalized people in the United States have been victims of mass shootings simply because they were different.

Moya-Smith: For Hundreds of Years, People Have Been Slaughtered in the U.S.

Too many families and too many friends in this country have had to mourn the death of too many loved ones far too often.

For hundreds of years, people have been slaughtered in the United States because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, belief, or simply because they were different – they looked differently, spoke differently, prayed differently … loved differently, all of them struggling for their lives, their rights, their dignity.

There is a long trench in South Dakota filled with the remains of slaughtered innocent men, women, and children who longed for their life and liberty and peace.

“American Indians encountered Western science in its most deadly technological expression in the Gatling Guns at Wounded Knee,” wrote Vine Deloria Jr., the late Native American scholar, in his book, “Red Earth, White Lies.”

White men stand over the trench at Wounded Knee following the massacre on December 29, 1890. White volunteers were paid $2 for ever corpse dropped into the trench.

White men stand over the trench at Wounded Knee following the massacre on December 29, 1890. White volunteers were paid $2 for ever corpse dropped into the trench.

Yet, 125 years after the carnage at the Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890, the madness and the mass shootings and the hate continue.

And they continue.

And continue.

And continue.

And continue. …

In this country, we have as many monuments and days to remember the murdered, and nights to remember their lives and warmth and love, as we do questions and tears.

We are running out of candles. We are running out of patience.

Following the murder of 49 people early Sunday at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Republican congressmen were sending only their “prayers and condolences” via Twitter to the families of the victims instead of whipping together stricter gun legislation, lending their immediate support to ban easy access to assault rifles like the AR-15 used during Sunday’s early morning massacre.

Yet here we are again, having the same tired conversation, pleading for common sense on the part of our elected officials at Congress.

We know as a global community that we can’t stop bigotry or racism or sexism or homophobia or hate or violence or vengeance, but at least here in the U.S., we can limit, if not entirely end, the access to high-power assault rifles. These things are built for mass killings, and they should not be available for purchase to just anyone with a fist full of money.

And yes, it IS that basic.

So many countries across the world have already instituted such bans. Why can’t we?

Is it because of this nation’s longtime gun addiction? It is a desire for power? Compensation for something? (Most of these mass shootings are executed by men, you see.) Or maybe it is as adolescent and petty and simple as stubbornness.

Maybe all of the above. Maybe none of the above. But one thing is for certain: if we are to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our communities, then we mustn’t arm ourselves with high-power weapons, we must do away with them, lest they fall into the hands of the mass murderer.

Such hands and twisted heads are undoubtedly out there. Orlando is proof. Sandy Hook is proof. Aurora is proof. Virginia Tech is proof. So on and so on.

This country must no longer be the equivalent of an unlocked arsenal inviting anyone – even the deranged and demented, the opportunity to take these assault rifles, and later, scores of innocent lives.

How many people – even children – will have to die before right wing conservatives realize there is no utility in having assault rifles available to the public?

By the inaction of the conservative congressmen and women, by their intransigence, stubbornness and irresponsibility, it would appear not enough have perished to shake them from their grip on a distorted reality.

And the reality they miss is that these assault rifles are too easily accessible at a time when the threat of mass murder is too great.

Still, whether the murdered is one person or two, or 49 of our LGBT brothers and sisters in Orlando, or 300 Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee, such brutal attacks are acts of hate and terror, and they need to stop.

We can rely on the Creator for comfort. We cannot rely on the Creator for action. That is up to us.

Simon Moya-Smith

Simon Moya-Smith

Simon Moya-Smith, Oglala Lakota, is the Culture Editor at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter @simonmoyasmith.

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