Sting of the Bee
A Day-By-Day Account of Wounded Knee and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890–1891 as Recorded in the Omaha Bee
C. H. Cressey and S. L. Russell
Russell Martial Research, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 2016, 322 pages
Book Review published on: July 14, 2017
We live in an age where the electronic reporting of events by the media gives us an almost continually live picture of what is taking place around the world. The obvious danger in this expediency of the story is that the whole truth is not necessarily evident, and as a result, the facts can be misconstrued. This may seem like a new phenomenon, but in truth, it is anything but new. In Sting of the Bee: A Day-By-Day Account of Wounded Knee and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890-1891 as Recorded in the Omaha Bee, we can see the same phenomenon taking place almost 130 years ago without the luxury of modern-day electronic assistance.
Sting of the Bee is a compilation of newspaper articles written by the late Omaha Bee correspondent C. H. Cressey during the time of the Battle of Wounded Knee. S. L. Russell gathered the articles to show an almost play-by-play of the events leading up to the battle at Wounded Knee as well as some of the aftermath.
The goal of journalists should be to remain objective in their approach to covering a story. They should attempt to stay clear of “yellow journalism,” or journalism that attempts to sway an audience a certain way. Russell’s work shows that journalists in the late nineteenth century were anything but objective. Repeatedly, Native Americans are referred to in Cressey’s articles as “savages,” “Mr. Indian,” or one of many other derogatory terms. This influenced readers to view the Native Americans in a negative light. By leaving the material raw and unedited, Russell shows us a not very pleasant picture of the treatment of and attitude toward Native Americans during that time. This is extremely important, as it also shows that the power entrusted to the media was abused and not objective in any way.
Though this book does not deal in tactics or strategy, it does give the modern-day battlefield commander a good idea of how not to interact with the local populace and the media in a hostile environment. The lessons discussed are nothing new. I definitely recommend this book for military leaders. It is a good reminder of why we need to evaluate all of the facts and see the local population as human beings first before we determine who the enemy is.
After reading the compilation, it is obvious that the battle and massacre were brought on largely by anonymous reports from individuals who claimed to have overheard Native Americans or other unspecified individuals make accusations. These accusations held little substance, but the sensationalism they created sold papers. And, as they say in the journalism world, “if it bleeds, it leads.”
Book Review written by: Capt. Eugene M. Harding, U.S. Army National Guard, Auburn, Indiana