The Massacre at Wounded Knee

The end of the Sioux Wars

Leading to the Massacre

The Massacre of Wounded Knee was devastating to the Indians, thus ending the long duration of the Sioux Wars. Early in the 19th century, the U.S government had been overtaking the Lakota people's land. There were, of course, treaty promises[1] which were constructed to protect reservation lands from being intruded by settlers and gold miners. Because of this, there was a feeling of insecurity on the reservations. It was later foretold that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was to walk among the Native Americans as one of them, raising up their dead ancestors[2]. With this in mind, the tribes began performing a dance called the “Ghost Dance”[3] which would allow the ancestors to come back and live in peace. When the Americans saw this performance and the amount of tribe members performing, they were alarmed immediately into thinking that the Native Americans were preparing for an attack. (KA)

Ghost Dance Aftermath

A Native American man named Wovoka, provoked the Lakota people into starting the Ghost Dance, scaring nearby Americans. Close by, an agent who belonged to the Standing Rock Agency, witnessed the event and later sent over U.S officials to take Chief Sitting Bull into custody. A crowd came in protest, causing even more of a ruckus. Instead of leaving peacefully, Sitting Bull resisted the authority. In reply to this, a shot was fired by the officials, killing one of their own men. Succeeding this, additional shots were fired, in the process killing Sitting Bull, eight of his companions, and 6 officials [7]. After the death of Chief Sitting Bull, many natives fled to Chief Spotted Elk of the Miniconjou people. (KA)

Picture: Chief Sitting Bull [8]

Events Leading up to the Battle

When the 7th US Cavalry first intercepted Chief Spotted Elks’, also known as Chief Big Foot, tribe a fight was not apart of the plan. They were to simply escort the Indians to the reservation grounds and confiscate any weapons. The Cavalry had brought 500 men to do this job. There was 350 Indians[9]. The US men told the Indians to surrender but many of the Indians refused. One Indian, yellow bird, began to do the ghost dance which agitated the US men. Then another Indian refuse to give up a weapon. This caused the US men to be distracted, while yellow bird threw a cloud of dust in the air. This was a signal to the some other Indians to bring out hidden rifles and start shooting. This was how the massacre began[10].(MC)


The attack on the Indians was originally known as a battle, but the number of casualties says otherwise. At the end, there were only a total of 25 casualties for the Americans. The Indians, however, took a much greater hit. A total of around 90 Indian men were killed while fighting and 200 Indian women and children had been killed[11]. Like anything though, there is much controversy on how many deaths there actually were. While some historians agree with the numbers listed above, many believe that only 150 Indians died that day[12]. There was no official record ever made for the Indian casualties, so historians have to believe what they hear from first hand accounts. Dr. Charles Eastman, a Dakota Indian doctor, was at the battlefield 3 day prior to the battle. He came quickly after he heard of a battle. He writes that when he arrived at Wounded Knee it was very clear that a battle had not taken place but instead a massacre. He reports that they found bodies far away from the battle. It was like they had tried to run but had been hunted down and killed[13]. (MC)

Picture [14]

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The Massacre at Wounded Knee had a great impact on Native American tribes everywhere. This was considered the end of the Sioux Wars, which means that the Indians stopped fighting for their freedom. The Native Americans began to retreat to the assigned reservation sights and didn't bother to argue anymore. This was the beginning of the end for the tribes. After this, the population of Native Americans declined rapidly. Around 20 years after the massacre the population began to go up again. (MC)

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