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The History Behind Nate Phillips’ Song

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

I just saw the incident taking place in Washington, DC, in which a confrontation between the white Make America Great Again (MAGA) representatives and a Native Elder singing a religious song took a horrendous turn. There were threats and insults by the young punks wearing red MAGA hats, while an Elder, who happens to be my long time AIM friend and comrade Nate Phillips, was singing a religious song. Now, I see the media and folks changing it around like it was the Native Elder’s fault.

Let me explain to you what the song’s history is.

The Northern Cheyenne people gave this song to the American Indian Movement for an honor song in 1972 after the 71-day occupation of the Wounded Knee massacre grave site, which is now a memorial site, owned by a white person…Can you believe that? Wounded Knee is a sacred area for the Lakota peoples, where over 350 Elders, men, children, and women with unborn babies still inside of their bodies were slaughtered. There are documented accounts of soldiers who opposed the killing of babies, however there were Calvary soldiers riding their horses around the massacre grounds waving their swords with dead babies on them. The Lakota who had disarmed themselves, given up their weapons of stone tomahawks, bows and arrows and hand-thrown spears to the 7th Calvary, and raised the white peace and American flags, after an agreed truce between them.

The leader of the Lakota Band of Natives was a peace Chief named Bigfoot. The Calvary was heavily armed with portable cannons, rifles, steel bayonets, knives and pistols. The 7th Calvary soldiers were under orders of their commanding officers. After the captives had been fed and convinced they were safe, and the babies began to quiet down and go to sleep under their now warm robes, they did not see or hear what was about to happen. The Cavalry like thieves and rapists in the dark of night, surrounded them with those deadly weapons. Early that next morning on December 25th (isn’t that their Christian God Jesus’s birthday?) after feeding the Natives their last breakfast meal, they began to slaughter them, killing all who could not somehow escape.

A couple decades earlier, this same Army of rapist of girls and boys, and murders of defenseless people, surrounded a band of peaceful Northern Cheyenne at Sand Creek and committed the very the same kind of murderous act. After first approaching them under two flags, the American and white peace flags! When the Natives were given the flags, they were given a promise that if they exposed and flew these flags, the Army would never attack them. Yet over a dozen soldiers were given medals of the highest honor, awards the American government has to bestow. Their soldiers and civilians received these awards for this act of genocide, and called the massacre a great victory of war. Today they call it “Make America Great Again”!

So, a decade or so later, believing their own BS propaganda that these were victorious battles, these same murderous Cavalry, along with dozens of their traitorous Crow scouts,  again attacked  during the Sundance religious ceremony at the Little Big Horn or Greasy Grass Creek, as we Natives named it. Only this time Crazy Horse and many other young powerful war leaders (we call them the “shirt wearers” of the Lakota Nations) and their allies the Cheyenne were at the camp guarding the people, armed only with stone tomahawks, bows and arrows against superior weaponry. They defended and wiped out Custer and his band of murderers and rapists of children, helpless elders, and women and their babies.

On their way back to camp, the young heroic Cheyenne warriors made up the song now known as the AIM song and rode into camp singing it, and the women and men joined in and the whole camp began to sing it.

The songs says thank you to the Great Spirit for allowing our young men to be brave and courageous enough to fight off and protect the young children, the women, the unborn babies, the elderly women and men, and our leaders. Singing thank you Great Spirit for giving us the strength to save our children with the bravery you gave us. Thank you for showing us your Love for our peoples. We pray you give us peace with these people who only want war and to kill our Nations/Peoples. This is the meaning behind the words of the AIM song.

So, this young man stood there acting like he was making fun of our religious leader, and smirking like he was superior to him. Someone should have been there to remind him about what happened to the over twenty-five children in the Catholic School on the Navajo Nations fifteen or so years ago. Not too mention the high numbers of evil crimes done to us in the past hundred years! Hundreds of Native children had been raped and the priests responsible received as punishment a transfer to another church. Most of the Indian boarding schools even had their own graveyards. Some with as many as 200 unmarked graves! This is what those kids were demanding: to return to those days when to them America was great.

In the spirit of Crazy Horse.

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