The Wounded Knee massacre

Wounded knee battle: what happened?ghost dance

In my previous post, I discussed the Ghost Dance spiritual movement, instigated by Wovoka in the late 1880’s. At the time, Native people were confined to live on reserves controlled by the Indian Agents Bureau. They found themselves with limited freedom, their way of life banned and sanctioned. So some turned to Wovoka, who told them about the coming of a better life, a life where they would rejoice and live happily with their ancestors. The Ghost Dance movement was born. A dance to call upon their ancestors to join them, for the land to be replenished and for freedom. Special shirts were worn, shirts believed to protect against bullets. Unfortunately, the Ghost Dance movement attracted a lot of attention and was not welcomed by the Indian Agents and the troops.

Sitting Bull’s death and the massacre

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull

As I said in my previous post, Chief Sitting Bull was thought to have been a ghost dancer. The Indian Agents sent the police to arrest him as such on December 15, 1890. In an unfortunate series of events, he was killed in the process. When chief Big Foot, Sioux and a Ghost Dancer himself, heard of Sitting Bull’s death, he proceeded to lead his people to safety at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Unfortunately, the army intercepted him and his people on December 28, 1890 and led them to Wounded Knee, a place on the reservation. Big Foot and his men surrendered. The following morning, a sick Big Foot met with the army officers, to discuss the situation. What happened next is a bit of a blur.

December 29, 1890

Big Foot

Chief Big Foot

Indeed, it is hard to know how events truly unfolded. However, it appears that shots were fired as Big Foot was sitting with the army officers. Some say that Chief Big Foot and his people were then unarmed, as they were asked to surrender all weapons the night before. While some say that some weapons were secretly kept by Big Foot’s men. Nevertheless, Big foot and his men were “out weaponed” quickly by the army’s big Hotchkiss guns. You can see them below, almost like a canon.

Hotchkiss guns

Hotchkiss guns

The end result

The Hotchkiss guns quickly tore down the camps set up by Big Foot and his people. Gun smoke filled the air, Big Foot and his men were killed trying to defend themselves but also their women and children, who tried to escape. Without success. The exact number of deaths varies from article to article but it is believed to have been around 300 Sioux and 25 soldiers. Snow began to fall and a blizzard set in, preventing the removal of the dead. It was done a few days later. If you look it up online, you might find the same pictures I found. Of bodies being frozen on the ground, or being shoveled in a make shift grave. I could not put them on this page, as it broke my heart too much. To look at the lives that were lost in an instant. Like Auschwitz, if that’s not a massacre, a genocide, I don’t know what is. I can only be thankful for our ancestors, for the fight they put up to be able to live their life the way they were meant to. I leave you with a wonderful video of Sitting Bull’s life expressed in a song and drawings. It’s really worth taking a look at. A’Ho

26 thoughts on “The Wounded Knee massacre

    1. Terry

      I raised my children telling themselves how the white man killed off our true Ancestor s, just as the German tried to kill off the Jews. Not a pretty picture.

  1. Michael

    Beautiful Website with a lot of good information that can help many people stay healthy using Natural healing alternatives. Nice Job!

  2. Ed

    Hi Emily,
    I see you’ve done your research on The Wounded Knee massacre. I’ve read a book on it and watched the documentary movie about it. This was definitely a dark time for the American Government. People in power back then should have met the same fate they dealt to the natives. There is no excuse that can justify what was done. This story makes me so angry.

    1. Emily Post author

      it is a hard to accept for sure. There is no excuse for this genocide period. Warms my heart that you are interested enough to have read the book and seen the movie

  3. Peter

    Hello and thanks for a fascinating website and interesting article on Wounded Knee. I’m afraid my knowledge of Native American history, and their traditional healing is extremely limited, but the good news of course is that I’ve found your site, so my education will improve… You’re bookmarked!

  4. Dan

    History was never my favorite subject in school but I was always interested in the stories about Native Americains and the suffering they had to endure in those “barberic” times. I know the Wounded Knee Massacre is one of the better known massacres but I am sure there were many more that were just as horrible that were undocumented .
    I also realize that todays mentality has changed from those days but massacres like this had to be considered over board even back then.
    Events like this would be a little harder to hide now a days with all the technologie available to the average person, camera’s and camcorders. It’s too bad that this wasn’t available back then as evidence of these EVIL deeds. Thanks for sharing this, I’m looking forward to your next post

    1. Emily Post author

      Yes unfortunately there were other massacres like the Wounded Knee one….and yes I don’t think there is any reasoning that could ever justify such an event and such robbing of the culture of a nation. Actually many nations.

  5. Hilda

    Hi Emily. Since I am not american, I had never heard anything about the Wounded Knee Massacre. However, Sitting Bull has been famous even in my country. I am glad I read this article. How sad when great people such as Big Foot and his men, are out weaponed and killed . Thanks for sharing!


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