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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