Zintkala Nuni – or “Lost Bird”- was one of the casualties of the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 but she didn’t die in the gunfire from US Federal troops. Just six months old, she was shielded from the gunfire and kept warm for three days of freezing temperatures by her mother’s dead body. Days after the massacre she was discovered by those who were cleaning up the dead bodies in Wounded Knee. She suffered from frostbite in her extremities but was alive and recovered from the ordeal.
General Leonard Colby, commander of the Nebraska National Guard that had come to help with the “clean-up” of the Wounded Knee massacre adopted the infant despite protests from the Lakota community. She had been given the name Zintkala Nuni - Lakota for “Lost Bird.”
General Colby and his wife Clara were a power couple in their day. He was an military hero from the Civil War and a lawyer, and she a writer, publisher and well-known activist for women’s rights. Though Clara tried her best, Zintkala fit in with neither the white nor Lakota communities. She lived a short and brutal life. Leonard Colby abandoned Clara and Zintkala, leaving them impoverished. Lost Bird married three times, had two children and died during an influenza epidemic at the age of twenty-nine. Her remains were brought home to Wounded Knee by the Lakota people in 1991.
Author, Renee Sansom Flood, wrote a book about Zintkala entitled, Lost Bird of Wounded Knee: Spirit of the Lakota.