Wounded Knee
Lakota
December 29, 1890
Miniconjou Chief Big Foot lies dead in the snow after the massacre.
Miniconjou Chief Big Foot lies dead in the snow. He was among the first to die on December 29, 1890
Scenes of Death

A mass grave being filled with the dead Sioux by civilians three days after the slaughter.
Civilian grave diggers bury the Lakota dead in  a mass grave.
The Ghost Dance

    A phenomena swept the American west in 1888 by Paiute holy man Wovoka from Nevada.. Wovoka, son of the mystic Tavibo, drew on his father's teachings and his own vision during an eclipse of the sun. He began spreading the "gospel" that came to be known as the Ghost Dance Religion. He claimed that the earth would soon perish and then come alive again in a pure, aboriginal state, to be inherited by the Indians, including the dead, for an eternal existence free from suffering. 
    To earn this new reality, however, Indians had to live harmoniously and honestly and shun the ways of the whites, especially alcohol, the destroyer. Wovoka also discouraged the practice of mourning, because the dead would soon be resurrected, demanding instead the performance of prayers, meditation, chanting, and especially dancing through which one might briefly die and catch a glimpse of the paradise-to-come, replete with lush green prairie grass, large buffalo herds and Indian ancestors. Kicking Bear, a Miniconjou Teton Lakota, made a pilgrimage to Nevada to learn about this new "religion".

 
 

Wovoka - Paiute holy man who start the Ghost Dance.
Wovoka - Paiute Holy Man
Arapaho women sing and dance.
Arapaho Ghost Dance

   Together with Short Bull, another Miniconjou mystic, they gave another interpretation, choosing to disregard Wovoka's anti-violence and emphasizing the possible elimination of the whites. Special Ghost Dance Shirts, they claimed, would protect them against the white man's bullets


Ghost Dance Shirt
Ghost Dance Shirt

The Wounded Knee Massacre

White officials became alarmed at the religious fervor and in December 1890 banned the Ghost Dance on Lakota reservations.When the rites continued, officials called in troops to Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations in South Dakota. The military, led by veteran General Nelson Miles, geared itself for another campaign. 

The presence of the troops exacerbated the situation. Short Bull and Kicking Bear led their followers to the northwest corner of the Pine Ridge reservation, to a sheltered escarpment known as the Stronghold. The dancers sent word to Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapas to join them. Before he could set out from the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, however, he was arrested by Indian police. A scuffle ensued in which Sitting Bull and seven of his warriors were slain. Six of the policemen were killed.

General Miles had also ordered the arrest of Big Foot, who had been known to live along the Cheyenne River in South Dakota. But, Big Foot and his followers had already departed south to Pine Ridge, asked there by Red Cloud and other supporters of the whites, in an effort to bring tranquility. Miles sent out the infamous Seventh Cavalry led by Major Whitside to locate the renegades. They scoured the Badlands and finally found the Miniconjou dancers on Porcupine Creek, 30 miles east of Pine Ridge. The Indians offered no resistance. Big Foot, ill with pneumonia, rode in a wagon. The soldiers ordered the Indians to set up camp five miles westward, at Wounded Knee Creek. Colonel James Forsyth arrived to take command and ordered his guards to place four Hotchkiss cannons in position around the camp. The soldiers now numbered around 500; the Indians 350, all but 120 of these women and children.

The following morning, December 29, 1890, the soldiers entered the camp demanding the all Indian firearms be relinquished. A medicine man named Yellow Bird advocated resistance, claiming the Ghost Shirts would protect them. One of the soldiers tried to disarm a deaf Indian named Black Coyote. A scuffle ensued and the firearm discharged. The silence of the morning was broken and soon other guns echoed in the river bed. At first, the struggle was fought at close quarters, but when the Indians ran to take cover, the Hotchkiss artillery opened up on them, cutting down men, women, children alike, the sick Big Foot among them. By the end of this brutal, unnecessary violence, which lasted less than an hour, at least 150 Indians had been killed and 50 wounded. In comparison, army casualties were 25 killed and 39 wounded. Forsyth was later charged with killing the innocents, but exonerated.

An Army officer looking at the aftermath of the battle; three days later!
An Army officer looking at the dead

Wounded Knee became a catch phrase for all the wrongs inflicted on Native Americans by the descendants of Europeans. In 1973 Indian activist drawing on the courage of their ancestors would stage another confrontation there.

THE GHOST DANCE
by GaryMinshall


THE LITTLE BRAVE WOULD BEAT HIS DRUM
AND 4000 MORE JOINED IN
AND THE RED MOON SHOWED IT'S EERIE GLOW
AS THE DANCE OF GHOST BEGIN

THEY SANG AND DANCED FOR THE BUFFALO
THAT LONG ESCAPED THEIR PAST
AND THE MIGHTY BRAVE WHO CAME TO SAVE
THAT WILL RETURN AGAIN AT LAST

THEY SANG THEIR SONGS OF THE WASHITA
STAINED WITH BLOOD OF A SANDY CREEK
AND THOSE SET FREE AT WOUNDED KNEE
AND NEW LAND ABOVE MOUNTAIN PEAKS

THEY SANG THEIR SONGS OF VICTORY
OF THE VALLEY AND THRU THE PASS
OF THE LAST GREAT STAND OF THE LONG HAIRED MAN
AT THE BATTLE OF THE GREASY GRASS

THEY'D WAVE THEIR ARMS LIKE EAGLES FLY
THEIR SHIRTS ADORNED WITH CROW
AND THE SMOKE WOULD RISE AND FILL THE SKIES
AND THE WINDS WOULD SOFTLY BLOW

AND WHEN THE MOON WOULD HIDE IT'S FACE
AND EAST WOULD SHOW IT'S SUN
THE DRUMS WOULD STOP AND TEARS WOULD DROP
AND THE DANCE OF GHOST WAS DONE

COPYRIGHT: GARY MINSHALL

Links to other Wounded Knee Websites

CANKPE OPI A comprehensive homepage for this tragic battle
Big Foot page Learn more about Big Foot
A Survivor Speaks Beard, a survivor tells about the tragic battle.
Leonard Peltier Peom Poem about the injustice done to Leonard Peltier


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Native American Atrocities

This is an ongoing examination of how the
Native Americans were treated by the US
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Massacre at Sand Creek - Southern Cheyenne
Wounded Knee - Lakota
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