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The title of this exhibit is one Lakota word: Takuwe. In English: Why. The focus of the exhibit is the 1890 massacre of Lakotas at Wounded Knee, but it will include historical context leading to the massacre, along with contemporary context related to land issues and opportunities at Wounded Knee today.

The exhibit will begin with positives and end with a call to action. The idea is to have over 300 Lakotas participating in the exhibit. Twenty-nine will be visual artists who create original works for the core of the exhibit, which consists of seven sections:

BELIEF focuses on the spiritual context of the Ghost Dance. A group of Lakotas, including “Good Thunder, Cloud Horse, and Yellow Knife from Pine Ridge and Short Bull, Flat Iron, Yellow Breast, and Broken Arm from Rosebud,” along with “Kicking Bear, an Oglala from Cheyenne River,” traveled in September 1889 to Nevada to learn about this new “religion” from Wovoka. They returned in March of 1890. The Lakota version of the Ghost Dance was in some ways similar to the Lakota Sun Dance, but in other ways distinct, making it more accessible.

ASSASSINATION focuses on the early morning killing of Sitting Bull on Monday, December 15, 1890. Other civilians killed were Black Bird, Catch The Bear, Little Assiniboine, Crow Foot, Spotted Horn Bull, Brave Thunder and Chase Wounded. Indian policemen killed were Bull Head, Shave Head, Little Eagle, Afraid Of Soldier, John Armstrong and David Hawk Man.

TREK focuses on the covert quest of Big Foot (Spotted Elk) to lead over 300 Lakotas of the Mniconjou, Oohenunpa, Sihasapa, Itazipco and Hunkpapa oyates to Red Cloud’s community in Pine Ridge Reservation. They left Cheyenne River Reservation on Sunday, December 21. The following Sunday afternoon, December 28, they were intercepted by the U.S. Seventh Cavalry near Porcupine Butte, about twenty miles from Red Cloud’s home, and taken to Wounded Knee.

MASSACRE focuses on the senseless killing of innocent Lakotas on Monday, December 29, 1890.

INTERVAL focuses on the four-day period after the massacre, beginning the late afternoon of December 29, 1890 and ending on January 3, 1891. A blizzard blew in on December 31. On January 1, 1891, Dr. Charles Eastman and other American Indians traveled from the agency at Pine Ridge to Wounded Knee where they “found and saved eleven people.”

INTERMENT focuses on the burial on January 3-4, 1891 of the Lakotas whose bodies remained on the site. A group of civilians was hired to bury the bodies in a mass grave atop the hill overlooking the massacre site. They dug a trench 6 feet wide, 72 feet long, and 5 feet deep. This is the fenced-in grave that is at the site today.

PROPOSAL focuses on a challenge to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, to create a memorial or museum at Wounded Knee. The idea is to propose designs for the memorial/museum, and that perhaps some of the designs might include gallery space for this Takuwe exhibit.

These seven sections are the core of the exhibit. Twenty-nine Lakota visual artists will each create a new artwork for one of the sections. The number 29 references the 29th of December, the day of the massacre.

Lakota poets and musicians will also be included. There will be one poem and one song for each section.

So if you are keeping a tally, the number of artists accounted for so far includes 29 for the core sections, plus 7 poets and 7 musicians for a total of 43. But we mentioned above that the idea is for over 300 Lakotas to create artworks for the exhibit. So what about the other 257 persons?

They will be involved in an installation piece of 300 small artworks, each a 5-inch square, thin, textured board that can be used with any media. The creators of these 300 artworks will represent the 300 Lakotas who were massacred at Wounded Knee. Their “squares” will be organized into a grid or some other structure near the entrance to the exhibit.

The Idea