Cheyenne, Little Big Horn
The Homestake Gold Mine
Steve Melendez, Paiute, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony
President, American Indian Genocide Museum
The Homestake Gold Mine, in Lead, South Dakota, operated for 125 years and produced 41 million troy ounces of gold (over $48 billion dollars at today’s gold prices of over $1200 dollars an ounce). As George Hearst and his partners consolidated his ownership of the mine and surrounding claims, he bought newspapers in nearby Deadwood. To further influence public opinion concerning the seizure of reservation gold, they sold shares of the mine and listed it on the New York Stock Exchange. From its public offering in 1879, It became one of the longest-listed stocks in the history of the of the New York Stock Exchange. George’s son, William Randolph Hearst, would later buy the San Francisco Examiner on his way to becoming a newspaper mogul and one of the richest men in America. This son of the man who stole a gold mine, had his life of influence and affluence exposed in the film Citizen Kane.
In the summer of 1874, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer was sent into the Black Hills by Gen. Phillip Sheridan to search for gold. This was in direct violation of the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868. Today, there is a large photograph at the mine of Custer and his entourage entering the Black Hills. The caption information tells us that after gold was discovered, many miners came into the Black Hills in defiance of the army and the Indians but fails to mention that Custer’s army was violating the 1868 Treaty. Neither does the caption information remind the visitors to the mine that article 6 of the U.S. Constitution calls a treaty the supreme law of the land.
Custer came into the Black Hills with 1,000 soldiers, over 100 covered wagons, 2 or 3 gatling guns, a cannon, a 16 piece brass band mounted on white horses, and two prospectors who were the experts on gold. On July 30th 1874, Custer sent a dispatch to Ft. Laramie which read, “Gold has been found in paying quantities. I have upon my table 40 or 50 small particles of pure gold. In size averaging that of a small pinhead. And most of it found tod”ay from one pan full of earth.” Today, the area where the placer gold (gold carried by mountain streams) was found, is the town of Custer, South Dakota. Probably the most significant bit of information absent from the Custer photograph at the mine is what the President of the United States said to Congress the following year. “…The Discovery of gold in the Black Hills, a portion of the Sioux Reservation, has had the effect to induce a large immigration of miners to that point. Thus far the effort to protect the treaty rights of the Indians to that section has been successful, but the next year will certainly witness a large increase of such immigration. The negotiations for the relinquishment of the gold fields having failed, it will be necessary for Congress to adopt some measures to relieve the embarrassment growing out of the causes named. The Secretary of the Interior suggests that the supplies now appropriated for the sustenance of that people, Being no longer obligatory under the Treaty of 1868, but simply a gratuity, may be issued or withheld at his discretion.” President Ulysses S. Grant’s entire message can be found in Messages and Papers of the Presidents Vol. 9 Pg. 4306.
The fact that President Grant would suggest that a starvation policy should be implemented may be difficult for most Americans to believe but the attitude of that day can be found in the words of another President whose image is carved 40 miles south of the Homestake Mine on Mt Rushmore.
“The Most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages. The rude, fierce settler who drives the savage from the land lays all civilized mankind under a debt to him…it is of incalculable importance that America, Australia, and Siberia should pass out of the hands of their red, black, and yellow aboriginal owners, and become the heritage of the dominant world races.” The Winning of the West Vol. 4, The Indian Wars, Pg. 56 by Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit the mass grave site of the Wounded Knee Massacre, you must reflect on why such a thing happened. It was the 7th Cavalry that did it, so the average American is led to believe that it was revenge for Custer’s Last Stand at the Little Big Horn. But knowing President Grant’s words to Congress is to know that the gold was on the Sioux Reservation and that Custer was there in violation of the Treaty of Ft. Laramie of 1868. And to know President Grant’s words to Congress is to know that he called on America to starve the Indians off their land. When the President of the United States openly calls for the deliberate and systematic destruction of a people, what other conclusion can be reached? If you ever visit the mass grave site at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, you can know, beyond a doubt, that the men, women and children who were thrown into this trench, were the victims of genocide.
President, American Indian Genocide Museum
Paiute, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony