BATTLE OF WOUNDED KNEE
- The Wounded Knee Massacre was a domestic massacre of several hundred Lakota Indians, mostly women and children, by soldiers of the United States Army.It occurred on December 29, 1890.
- By the time the massacre was over, between 250 and 300 men, women, and children of the Lakota had been killed and 51 were wounded.
- The Wounded Knee Battlefield, site of the massacre, has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. In 1990, both houses of the U.S. Congress passed a resolution on the historical centennial formally expressing “deep regret” for the massacre.
- In the years leading up to the conflict, the U.S. government had continued to seize Lakota lands.
- The once-large bison herds, a staple of the Great Plains indigenous peoples, had been hunted to near extinction by European settlers.
- U.S. settlers 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.
- On December 29, the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers under Big Foot, a Lakota Sioux chief, near Wounded Knee Creek and demanded they surrender their weapons.
- As that was happening, a fight broke out between an Indian and a U.S. soldier and a shot was fired, although it’s unclear from which side.
- A brutal massacre followed, in which it’s estimated 150 Indians were killed (some historians put this number at twice as high), nearly half of them women and children. The cavalry lost 25 men.
- The conflict at Wounded Knee was originally referred to as a battle, but in reality it was a tragic and avoidable massacre.
- Surrounded by heavily armed troops, it’s unlikely that Big Foot’s band would have intentionally started a fight. Some historians speculate that the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876.
- Whatever the motives, the massacre ended the Ghost Dance movement and was the last major confrontation in America’s deadly war against the Plains Indians.