Profiling -- A New Name for an Old Battle

by Mitakuye Oyasin

Profiling has been in the news lately. It seems that some police departments have used and are using racial characteristics to determine their favorite criminal types. In the routine of ''select a suspect,'' white is seldom the color of choice. This is in keeping with the racial breakdown of prison populations, where non-Whites are represented out of proportion to their numbers in society.

The problem with this is that prisons are populated with people who lacked the money, the power and/or the political connections to escape the judge's gavel. Nixon comes to mind. Reagan hid behind a bad memory. Clinton barely escaped, but he did. George Ryan is insulated. Outside of the political arena, the Ramseys have proven themselves immune from questioning by the law. And Matt Hale, White, fomenter of hate crimes against non-Whites, continues to receive protection under the 1st Amendment, a protection that was never granted to the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movements of the 1960s and 70s.

But profiling is not new. It was introduced to Native Americans by Columbus and passed from one generation to the next without so much as a speed bump.

With that generalization out of the way, let's look at a typical ''For instance...''.

The year was 1854. The place was a peaceful Sioux encampment near Ft. Laramie, Wyoming. The tribe was camped, waiting for treaty supplies such as food from the agent, who just happened to be late. This meant that food was in short supply at the moment, which explains why, when a Mormon pioneer lost his sickly, scrawny cow after chasing it into the midst of the Sioux camp, they killed it and ate it. Since the Mormon had run away from the camp,the Indians figured it was theirs for the eating, even though it didn't taste good.

The Mormon went to Ft. Laramie and complained about the savages who killed his cow. This meant that Conquering Bear, the representative ''chief'' of the tribe, a chief chosen by the white men, had to go to the fort and try to make peace. He explained to the officer that the man who had killed the cow was a visitor from a northern tribe, a guest with the sacred rights of a guest, so that, to bring him in to be arrested might be troublesome. He also suggested that the Mormon could come to the camp and take his pick of the chief's own herd of horses.

Nothing satisfied the officer. He told the chief that the next day a group of soldiers would come to the camp and arrest the man who had killed the cow. The was the news the chief took back to his people.

The next day, a young, hot-headed lieutenant by the name of Grattan led 30 bluecoats and two cannons to the encampment. Grattan wanted a fight, firing the first shot into the back of Conquering Bear. ln a few brief minutes, Grattan and his soldiers were dead. There was some talk among the Sioux about carrying the fight to Ft. Laramie and finishing off the white man's presence in the area, but cooler, more experienced heads prevailed, and the Sioux moved north to get away from soldiers that were sure to come.

A year went by and no soldiers came. Then, in September of 1855, White Beard Harney left Ft. Laramle In search of the kIllers of Grattan and hIs men. He had many soldiers, many guns. Little Thunder a Brule chief who had always promoted peace with the white man, was camped with his people on the Blue Water, a creek that flowed into the Platte below the Laramie. A runner came to warn him that the soldiers were headed his way. He saw no reason to run. When the soldiers came, Little Thunder, together with Spotted Tail and Iron Shell, rode out to meet White Beard carrying flags of truce.

The bluecoats fired and the chief went down. Women and children were shot or trampled by horses charging them with swords and guns. Over 100 prisoners were taken, most of them women and children. Over 100 were killed. Iron Shell and Spotted Tail threw away their white flags and led their bow-armed warriors as best they could, buying their people the time to run away and regroup, three miles away. Then there was another battle and another fleeing, with many dead and wounded left in the wake, until the soldiers finally turned back.

The Teton Lakotas had never before been so humiliated, and outrage spread from one tribe to the next like wildfire. This thing had happened to Little Thunder, a man of peace. White Beard Harney had used profIling In his assault against the Sioux, and he had been wrong. The effect would be felt for years to come, climaxing at the Little Big Horn twenty years later.

On the day following the Battle of Blue Water, a young teenager named Curly was returning to the Brule camp of his relatives when he spotted the smoke of battle. His home was with the Oglala, but his mother was a Brule, so he had been visiting for several months, and what he saw when he returned to camp made him sick. He saw the prisoners being marched away. Then he wert through the field of battle, viewing the dead and pulling down the skirts of the women who had been shamed by the bluecoats. Then he followed the trail of those who had fled. He saw where they had made another stand about three miles away. A small boy lay with a bullet through his head. A little further he found a young woman, wounded, with her baby. Placing her on travois, he led his horse to the new encampment a day later.

Curly was deeply moved by all he had seen. A few years later, as a young Sioux warrior, his name would be changed. He would be called Crazy Horse.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online April 5, 2000

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