Wednesday, December 29, 2004
DECEMBER 29, 1890
The following is a brief history on the massacre at Wounded Knee, which took place 114 years ago today. Most of it's from websites, but I also wrote some of it. If you would like to learn more about Wounded Knee, as well as some other events that took place, there's a great book called Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.

On the morning of December 29, 1890, the Sioux chief Big Foot and some 350 of his followers camped on the banks of Wounded Knee creek. Surrounding their camp was a force of U.S. troops charged with the responsibility of arresting Big Foot and disarming his warriors. The scene was tense. Trouble had been brewing for months.

The once proud Sioux found their free-roaming life destroyed, the buffalo gone, themselves confined to reservations dependent on Indian Agents for their existence. In a desperate attempt to return to the days of their glory, many sought salvation in a new mysticism preached by a Paiute shaman called Wovoka. Emissaries from the Sioux in South Dakota traveled to Nevada to hear his words. Wovoka called himself the Messiah and prophesied that the dead would soon join the living in a world in which the Indians could live in the old way surrounded by plentiful game. A tidal wave of new soil would cover the earth, bury the whites, and restore the prairie. To hasten the event, the Indians were to dance the Ghost Dance. Many dancers wore brightly colored shirts emblazoned with images of eagles and buffaloes. These "Ghost Shirts" they believed would protect them from the bluecoats' bullets. During the fall of 1890, the Ghost Dance spread through the Sioux villages of the Dakota reservations, revitalizing the Indians and bringing fear to the whites. A desperate Indian Agent at Pine Ridge wired his superiors in Washington, "Indians are dancing in the snow and are wild and crazy....We need protection and we need it now. The leaders should be arrested and confined at some military post until the matter is quieted, and this should be done now." The order went out to arrest Chief Sitting Bull at the Standing Rock Reservation. Sitting Bull was killed in the attempt on December 15. Chief Big Foot was next on the list.

When he heard of Sitting Bull's death, Big Foot led his people south to seek protection at the Pine Ridge Reservation. The army intercepted the band on December 28 and brought them to the edge of the Wounded Knee to camp. The next morning the chief, racked with pneumonia and dying, sat among his warriors and powwowed with the army officers. Suddenly the sound of a shot pierced the early morning gloom. Within seconds the charged atmosphere erupted as Indian braves scurried to retrieve their discarded rifles and troopers fired volley after volley into the Sioux camp. From the heights above, the army's Hotchkiss guns raked the Indian teepees with grapeshot. Clouds of gun smoke filled the air as men, women and children scrambled for their lives. Many ran for a ravine next to the camp only to be cut down in a withering cross fire. After the initial slaughter stopped, the soldiers would call for anyone still alive to come forward. That they would not be harmed. What came out of the ravine were mostly children, who were then executed right where they stood.

When the smoke cleared and the shooting stopped, approximately 300 Sioux were dead, Big Foot among them. Twenty-five soldiers lost their lives. As the remaining troopers began the grim task of removing the dead, a blizzard swept in from the North. A few days later they returned to complete the job.
When the soldiers where moving the bodies into makeshift mass graves, they saw that a blanket was moving. When they went to see what it was, they found a 3 year old little girl still alive being clutched by her dead mother. Scattered fighting continued, but the massacre at Wounded Knee effectively squelched the Ghost Dance movement and ended the Indian Wars.

I know for most, this just another day. Some have probably never even heard of Wounded Knee. But for Indians it's much more significant. It signaled the end to their way of life. That things had changed and that they would never be able to go back. This is one of the worst days in the history of this country, and of our military, and for some reason it's a lost part of that history.
"When I die don't think of me
As one who died too young
But as one who lived too long
And felt too many wrongs

When I die don't mourn for me
Just think about yourselves
For it's you the young that's left
Behind to fight the war of life.

Just take my broken heart and bury it
Don't cry for me
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Don't cry for me
Just take my broken heart and bury it
Don't cry for me

I have cried for liberty
For peace and unity
But the wicked men don't want to see
Us living in harmony

So they try to silence me
To take away my song
But I know long after they're
Dead and gone
My song will carry on
My song will carry on

So take my broken heart and bury it
Don't cry for me
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Don't cry for me."
We Are Poor..But We Are Free. No White Man Controls Our Footsteps. If We Must Die...We Die Defending Our Rights