Indian Wars: Wounded Knee Massacre (1890)

Wounded Knee Massacre


Date:             December 29,1890.

Opponents:  Colonel James W. Forsyth, Major Samuel M. Whitside, and the 7th U.S. Cavalry


                        Chief Sitting Bull and the Lakota Sioux.

Place:             Wounded Knee Creek, Pine Ridge Lakota Indian Reservation, South Dakota.

Factors:       * The Sioux were inspired by a prophet called Wokova.  His Ghost Dance Religion promised a return to the old days, and claimed that special, painted shirts could repel bullets.

                       * Spread of this new “Messiah Craze” alarmed the white leaders, who feared a massive uprising and break-out from the reservation.

                       * The 7th Cavalry was sent in to disarm the warriors and prevent a potential rebellion.

                       * There are differing accounts of what happened next, but many claim that a deaf tribesman – Black Coyote – refused to surrender his rifle and a scuffle broke out.

                      * The army surrounded the village and opened fire, indiscriminately shooting men, women, elders, and children.

                       * Chief Sitting Bull was one of the first fatalities.

Results:       * This was a massacre of such epic proportions that it decimated the Sioux, and effectively ended the Indian Wars.

                      * 39 army soldiers were injured and 25 died, some from “friendly fire.”

                      * 150 Lakota Sioux perished.  51 were wounded.

                      * The Holy Man – Black Elk – who survived the attack claimed, “A people’s dream died there.  It was a beautiful dream.”


Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. New York: Henry Holt, 1970.

McGregor, James H. The Wounded Knee Massacre: From the Viewpoint of the Sioux.  South Dakota: Fenske Media, 1940.

Mooney, James. The Ghost-Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890.  Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

Neihardt, John G. Black Elk Speaks.  Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1993.

Wikipedia, “Wounded Knee Massacre,” at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s