The mass media was quick to label the Oct. 1 shooting in Las Vegas the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The alternative media and others have been quick to challenge that claim, noting that it fails to take into account the mass killings of people of color, such as the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 that left 150 to 300 Lakota men, women and children dead.
This is not to diminish the tragedy of what happened on Sunday and the tremendous grief and suffering that the attack caused. But it is important to remember our past and not ignore other significant massacres that have left communities scarred for generations. It is especially important because many of these massacres happened to communities of color; failing to tell their stories, and their sufferings, only reinforces the narrative that their lives do not matter.
Christina Woods, who is Anishinaabe, posted the following image and comment on her Facebook page.
The media claims the Las Vegas shooting was the biggest in our HISTORY. Not true… what kind of citizens forget their own massacres? The kind that practice several form of bias. …
Don’t let the media white wash any of this!
The publication The Root provided examples of the other mass executions that have been ignored. The article was headlined: Las Vegas Is Only the Deadliest Shooting in US History Because They Don’t Count Black Lives.
It recounted several other massacres that tend not to make it into the history books or get remembered in media accounts of shootings and massacres:
“Bombing of Black Wall Street” Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921
In the early 1900s, blacks in Tulsa had developed a thriving business sector, called Black Wall Street. That success angered white residents, the article said. Tulsans “accused a black man of raping a girl and attacked the area.” The article continued:
While white citizens used dynamite and planes to bomb the city, leaving more than 8,000 people homeless, eyewitness accounts charge that the vast majority of the people killed (estimates range from 80 to 300) died because the city’s law-enforcement officers deputized every able-bodied white man and handed out weapons from the city’s armory.
Colfax Massacre, Easter Sunday, 1871, Colfax, Louisiana
According to Wikipedia, during the Colfax Massacre,
… approximately 150 black men were murdered by white Southern Democrats. The bloodiest single instance of racial carnage in the Reconstruction era, the Colfax massacre was an example of the lengths to which some opponents of Reconstruction would go to regain their accustomed authority. …
In the wake of the contested 1872 election for governor of Louisiana and local offices, a group of white Democrats, armed with rifles and a small cannon, overpowered Republican freedmen and state militia (also black) trying to protect the Grant Parish courthouse in Colfax. Most of the freedmen were killed after they surrendered; nearly 50 were killed later that night after being held as prisoners for several hours. Estimates of the number of dead have varied, ranging from 62 to 153; three whites died but the number of black victims was difficult to determine because bodies had been thrown into the river or removed for burial.
Bloody Island Massacre, Lake County, California, 1850
The backstory to the Bloody Island Massacre is that a number of Pomo Indians had been enslaved and abused by two settlers, Andrew Kelsey and Charles Stone. According to Wikipedia:
Stone and Kelsey regularly forced the Pomo parents to bring their daughters to them to be sexually abused. If they refused they were whipped mercilessly. A number of them died from that abuse. Both men indentured and abused the Pomo women.
Chief Augustine and he starving Pomo ultimately rose up and killed Stone and Kelsey, and fled. The Cavalry went to find Augstine’s band, but instead came upon another group of Pomo Indians. The Cavalry killed between 60 and 400 old men, women and children, at the site now called Bloody Island.
A recent article in Vox “Is Las Vegas the worst mass shooting in US history? It’s surprisingly complicated” adds other massacres to the list.
- The Sand Creek Massacre, 1864,in what is today Colorado. U.S. soldiers killed 230 peaceful Arapho and Cheyenne; half of the dead were women and children
- The East St. Louis Race War, 1917. According to an article in the Smithsonian: “A smoldering labor dispute turned deadly as rampaging whites began brutally beating and killing African-Americans. By the end of the three-day crisis, the official death toll was 39 black individuals and nine whites, but many believe that more than 100 African-Americans were killed.”
- The 1919 Mass Lynching in Arkansas. According to an article in the Daily Beast: “In 1919, in the wake of World War I, black sharecroppers unionized in Arkansas, unleashing a wave of white vigilantism and mass murder that left 237 people dead.”
Blessings and prayers for all who suffer from shootings and massacres, present and past.