Wounded Knee Massacre
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Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee: Sitting Bull meets Colonel Miles
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Nearly half the victims were women and children. The dead were carried to the nearby Episcopal church and laid in two rows underneath festive wreaths and other Christmas decorations. Days later a burial party arrived, dug a pit and dumped in the frozen bodies. For decades, survivors of the massacre lobbied in vain for compensation, while the U. Army awarded 20 Medals of Honor to members of the Seventh Cavalry for their roles in the bloodbath. When Black Elk closed his wizened eyes in , he could still envision the horror. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. It was not the last time blood flowed next to Wounded Knee Creek. In February activists with the American Indian Movement seized and occupied the site for 71 days to protest the U.
The standoff resulted in the deaths of two Native Americans. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! Twice a week we compile our most fascinating features and deliver them straight to you. Live TV. This Day In History. History Vault. Recommended for you. Knights of Labor. Wounded Knee. Remembering the Boston Massacre. The surviving Lakota fled, but U. By the time it was over, at least men, women, and children of the Lakota had been killed and 51 wounded 4 men, 47 women and children, some of whom died later ; some estimates placed the number of dead at Twenty-five soldiers also died, and 39 were wounded 6 of the wounded would later die.
At least twenty soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. The site has been designated a National Historic Landmark. In the years prior to the massacre, the U. Government had continued to seize the Lakota's lands. The once large bison herds an indigenous peoples' Great Plains staple , had been hunted to near-extinction by European settlers. Treaty promises  to protect reservation lands from encroachment by settlers and gold miners were not implemented as dictated by treaty. As a result, there was unrest on the reservations. The Messiah would raise all the Native American believers above the earth.
During this time the white man would disappear from Native lands, the buffalo herds and all the other animals would return in abundance, and the ghosts of their ancestors would return to earth — hence the word "Ghost" in " Ghost Dance ". They would then return to earth to live in peace. All this would be brought about by performance of the "Ghost Dance". Kicking Bear said the shirts had the power to repel bullets.
European Americans were alarmed by the sight of the many Great Basin and Plains tribes performing the Ghost Dance, worried that it might be a prelude to armed attack. US officials decided to take some of the chiefs into custody in order to quell what they called the "Messiah Craze. Crowds gathered in protest, and the first shot was fired when Sitting Bull tried to pull away from his captors, killing the officer who had been holding him.
Additional shots were fired, resulting in the death of Sitting Bull, eight of his supporters and six policemen. Colby commander of the Nebraska National Guard portion of letter dated Jan. It was only the symptom or surface indication of a deep rooted, long existing difficulty; as well treat the eruption of small pox as the disease and ignore the constitutional disease.
I fear it will result as the theoretical enforcement of prohibition in Kansas, Iowa and Dakota; you will succeed in disarming and keeping disarmed the friendly Indians because you can, and you will not succeed with the mob element because you cannot. Respectfully, etc. I neglected to state that up to date there has been neither a Sioux outbreak or war. No citizen in Nebraska or Dakota has been killed, molested or can show the scratch of a pin, and no property has been destroyed off the reservation. It requires the fulfillment of Congress of the treaty obligations that the Indians were entreated and coerced into signing.
They signed away a valuable portion of their reservation, and it is now occupied by white people, for which they have received nothing. Their crops, as well as the crops of the white people, for two years have been almost total failures. These facts are beyond question, and the evidence is positive and sustained by thousands of witnesses. Spotted Elk lies dead after the Massacre of Wounded Knee, Whitside southwest of the badlands near Porcupine Butte. John Shangreau, a scout and interpreter who was half Sioux, advised that they not be disarmed immediately, as it would lead to violence. The troopers escorted the Lakota about five miles westward 8 km to Wounded Knee Creek where they made camp.
Later that evening, Col. James W. Forsyth and the rest of the 7th Cavalry arrived, bringing the number of troopers at Wounded Knee to At daybreak on December 29, , Col. Forsyth ordered the surrender of weapons and the immediate removal and transportation of the Indians from the "zone of military operations" to awaiting trains. A search of the camp confiscated 38 rifles and more rifles were taken as the soldiers searched the Indians. None of the old men were found to be armed. Yellow Bird harangued the young men who were becoming agitated by the search and the tension spread to the soldiers. Specific details of what triggered the fight are debated.
According to some accounts, a medicine man named Yellow Bird began to perform the Ghost Dance, reiterating his assertion to the Lakota that the ghost shirts were bulletproof. As tension mounted, Black Coyote refused to give up his rifle; he was deaf and had not understood the order. Another Indian said: "Black Coyote is deaf. When the soldier refused to heed his warning, he said, "Stop! He cannot hear your orders! At the same moment Yellow Bird threw some dust into the air, and approximately five young Lakota men with concealed weapons threw aside their blankets and fired their rifles at Troop K of the 7th.
After this initial exchange, the firing became indiscriminate. The caption on the photograph reads: "Famous Battery 'E' of the 1st Artillery. These brave men and the Hotchkiss guns that Big Foot's Indians thought were toys, Together with the fighting 7th what's left of Gen. Custer's boys, Sent Indians to that Heaven which the ghost dancer enjoys. This checked the Indian noise, and Gen. Miles with staff Returned to Illinois. According to commanding Gen. Nelson A. Miles , a "scuffle occurred between one warrior who had [a] rifle in his hand and two soldiers. The rifle was discharged and a battle occurred, not only the warriors but the sick Chief Spotted Elk, and a large number of women and children who tried to escape by running and scattering over the prairie were hunted down and killed.
At first the struggle was fought at close range; fully half the Indian men were killed or wounded before they had a chance to get off any shots. Some of the Indians grabbed rifles they had been hiding and opened fire on the soldiers. With no cover, and with many of the Lakota unarmed, this phase of the fighting lasted a few minutes at most. While the Indian warriors and soldiers were shooting at close range, other soldiers used the Hotchkiss guns against the tipi camp full of women and children. It is believed that many of the troops on the battlefield were victims of friendly fire from their own Hotchkiss guns. The Indian women and children fled the camp, seeking shelter in a nearby ravine from the crossfire.
Some of the soldiers fanned out to run across the battlefield and finished off wounded Indians. Others leaped onto their horses and pursued the Lakota men, women and children , in some cases for miles across the prairies. By the end of the fighting, which lasted less than an hour, at least Lakota had been killed and 50 wounded. Historian Dee Brown, in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee , mentions an estimate of  of the original having been killed or wounded and that the soldiers loaded 51 survivors 4 men and 47 women and children of the massacre onto wagons and took them to the Pine Ridge Reservation.
When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead. A mother was shot down with her infant; the child not knowing that its mother was dead was still nursing The women as they were fleeing with their babies were killed together, shot right through Little boys I don't believe they saw their sights.
They fired rapidly but it seemed to me only a few seconds till there was not a living thing before us; warriors, squaws, children, ponies, and dogs Following a three-day blizzard, the military hired civilians to bury the dead Lakota. The burial party found the deceased frozen; they were gathered up and placed in a mass grave on a hill overlooking the encampment from which some of the fire from the Hotchkiss guns originated.
It was reported that four infants were found alive, wrapped in their deceased mothers' shawls. In all, 84 men, 44 women, and 18 children reportedly died on the field, while at least seven Lakota were mortally wounded. An exhaustive Army Court of Inquiry convened by Miles criticized Forsyth for his tactical dispositions, but otherwise exonerated him of responsibility. The Court of Inquiry, however, was not conducted as a formal court-martial. The Secretary of War concurred with the decision and reinstated Forsyth to command of the 7th Cavalry. Testimony had indicated that for the most part, troops attempted to avoid non-combatant casualties.
Miles continued to criticize Forsyth, whom he believed had deliberately disobeyed his commands in order to destroy the Indians. Miles promoted the conclusion that Wounded Knee was a deliberate massacre rather than a tragedy caused by poor decisions, in an effort to destroy the career of Forsyth. This was later whitewashed and Forsyth was promoted to Major General. The American public's reaction to the battle at the time was generally favorable. Many non-Lakota living near the reservations interpreted the battle as the defeat of a murderous cult; others confused Ghost Dancers with Native Americans in general. In an editorial response to the event, the young newspaper editor L. The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians.
Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth. In this lies future safety for our settlers and the soldiers who are under incompetent commands. Otherwise, we may expect future years to be as full of trouble with the redskins as those have been in the past. They sought compensation from the US government for the many fatalities and injured. Today the association is independent and works to preserve and protect the historic site from exploitation, and to administer any memorial erected there. Papers of the association — and related materials are held by the University of South Dakota and are available for research.
More than 80 years after the battle, beginning on February 27, , Wounded Knee was the site of the Wounded Knee incident , a day standoff between militants of the American Indian Movement —who had chosen the site for its symbolic value—and federal law enforcement officials. Historically, Wounded Knee is generally considered to be the end of the collective multi-century series of conflicts between colonial and U. It was not however the last armed conflict between Native Americans and the United States.
The fight occurred on White Clay Creek approximately 15 miles north of Pine Ridge where Lakota fleeing from the continued hostile situation surrounding the battle at Wounded Knee had set up camp. Company K of the Seventh Cavalry — the unit involved in the battle — was sent to force the Lakotas' return to the areas they were assigned on their respective reservations. The Seventh Cavalry was pinned down in a valley by the combined Lakota forces and had to be rescued by the Ninth Cavalry , an African American regiment nicknamed the Buffalo Soldiers. The testimony introduced at the trial of Plenty Horses and his subsequent acquittal also helped abrogate the legal culpability of the U. Army for the Wounded Knee Massacre.
For this offensive, the Army awarded twenty Medals of Honor , its highest commendation.