“To own the Earth, There is no word for this in the Sioux Language. ” The Battle of Wounded Knee was the last battle of the American Indian Wars it was also one of the most gruesome battles that either side had seen.
An estimated three hundred Indians lay dead while the US army had lost twenty five and thirty nine were wounded some of who would die later. This was one of the worst acts that the Americans have ever done to the Native Americans. One Native American stated later “it was as if the soldiers were crazed by the sight of blood and had appeared wild eyed as they shot again and again into some of the bodies. Many Native Americans still hold grudges to this day over what happened to their ancestors on that sacred piece of land this is their story. This monumental battle took place in the winter of 1890 it would forever change the course of history and the lives of many Native Americans all across the mid-west. The year is 1890 and the United States government have been taking and forcing many Native American tribes off of the land that they had called home for generations. There had been numerous wars leading up to this point in time such as the three Seminole Wars, The Black Hawk War, and many other battles all around the country.
By this point in the history of the United States the size of the Indian reservations had been reduced drastically. The movement also left many Indians off of their homelands due to this many settled where the government told them to. Many of the tribes that called the plains of the mid-west home had been fighting with whites for many years.
Due to the mass movement of settlers onto their lands, one major reason was the discovery of gold in the Black Hills which were part of the Lakota reservation given to them in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.Whites tried many time s to purchase this land but the Lakota refused to sale their sacred Black Hills. In 1876 the US government became impatient and frustrated with the Lakota Indians.
Due to this the US ordered the Lakota to stay on the reservation if found off of it they would be considered threats and would be forced to return. When General George A. Custer and his Seventh Calvary was defeated at the Battle of The Little Bighorn on the twenty fifth of June 1876 the US forced the Lakota to sell the Black Hills. “In 1889, the situation on the reservation was desperate.The US failed to honor its promise of increased rations in return for the Lakotas’ agreement to reduce Sioux treaty lands by half and create six separate and smaller reservations (Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River, Rosebud, Standing Rock, Crow Creek, and Lower Brule).
Conditions were ripe for the Ghost Dance religion on Lakota reservations. The Ghost Dance originated in Nevada around 1888 under a Paiute prophet Wovoka. He said that if they would sing and dance these songs then their family members and buffalo would return and the white men would go away.Tribal leaders went and visited Wovoka and brought back the Ghost Dance and taught it to their people.
At the time all of this was taking the place the loss of the buffalo, drought, famine, influenza, and prohibition of traditional religious rites were decimating to the Lakota. The Lakota were not allowed to hunt any sort of game and there ration had been cut in half due to corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Ghost dancing gave the Indians hope enough to make it from day to day.
In the fall of 1890 during October the Lakota of Rosebud and Pine Ridge went against their government agents and danced themselves moments of sure excitement that scared and officials and settlers alike. A few weeks later in November Lakota started dancing while wearing shirts they believed to be bulletproof. This event set off panic with the white settlers.
Daniel F. Royer the agent at Pine Ridge was scared of an Indian uprising so he called military help to restore order. Many people said that the newspaper created a genocidal frenzy and unwarranted fear among the white settlers.The single most notable cause behind the Battle of Wounded Knee was the killing Sioux leader Sitting Bull or Tatanka Iyotaka to the Native Americans.
Sitting Bull was born sometime between 1831 and 1837 there is not an accurate record of his birth he was killed on the fifteenth of December 1890. Sitting Bull became the Leader of the Sioux tribe in his mid twenties. Sitting Bull had been living on the Standing Rock reservation in the Dakota Territory since 1883. In the fall of 1890 General Nelson A.Miles caught wind of Sitting Bull taking an interest in the Ghost Dance Religion.
He wanted Sitting Bull arrested immediately so just before daylight on the fifteenth of December 1890 the Indian Police surrounded Sitting Bulls cabin. One of Sitting Bulls followers fired a shot at the Indian police when this happened the officer returned fire at the man who fired the first shot then he fired a bullet that struck Sitting Bull in the head. The man who said his bullet was the one that killed the chief was a sergeant of the Indian Police at Standing Rock named Red Tomahawk.
Before his death Sitting Bull stated “I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle. ” Just two weeks after the death of the Lakota leader Sitting Bull, US troops would surround more than three hundred Sioux Indians and there leader Big Foot there was no escape. Colonel James W. Forsyth and his troops took up positions on the ridges around the Indians camp he then told the Indians that the US was their friend but he wanted them to turn over their guns to prevent fighting. He and his troops proceeded to search the Indians to make sure they did not have any guns or weapons.After the search it revealed a number of axes, hatchets, butcher knives, tent pegs, and no more than 40 rifles which were in pretty bad shape. Tension mounted between troops and the Indians; a tussle between a soldier and an Indian broke out.
During which a shot was fired as some soldiers shouldered their rifles a couple of Lakota warriors revealed concealed weapons as they did the soldiers opened fire on the Lakota people. The troops on the hills fired their Hotchkiss cannons on over three hundred Lakota men, women, and children. Many of the soldiers were rumored to have yelled “Remember the Little Bighorn,” or “Remember Custer. After the battle was over the troops left the estimated three hundred dead and wounded Indians lying on the ground due to the fact that a blizzard was blowing in. The Indians were frozen in the blizzard some crawled as far as three miles away where they died and froze. On the first and second of January 1981 US troops returned to the site of the massacre and started to move the frozen bodies to a mass grave where the cannons had been fired from. Later fifty one Lakota mostly women and children were found after surviving the blizzard.
Colonel Forsyth was not charged with any kind of wrong doing in the case of the Battle of Wounded Knee.Many say that this battle marked the end of the American Indian Wars over land in the Midwest. American Horse a leader of the Lakota once stated in a speech “The men were separated, as has already been said, from the women, and they were surrounded by the soldiers. Then came next the village of the Indians and that was entirely surrounded by the soldiers also. When the firing began, of course the people who were standing immediately around the young man who fired the first shot were killed right together, and then they turned their guns, Hotchkiss guns, etc. upon the women who were in the lodges standing there under the flag of truce, and of course as soon as they were fired upon they fled, the men fleeing in one direction and the women in two different directions. So that there were three general directions in which they took flight.
There was a woman with an infant in her arms who was killed as she almost touched the flag of truce , and the women and children of course were strewn all along the circular village until they were dispatched.Right near the flag of truce a mother was shot down with her infant; the child not knowing that its mother was dead was still nursing, and that especially was a very sad sight. The women as they were fleeing with their babes were killed together, shot right trough, and the women who were very heavy with a child were also killed. All the Indians fled in these three directions, and after most of them had been killed a cry was made by all those who were not killed or wounded should come forth and they would be safe.Little boys who were not wounded came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there. ” The Battle of Wounded Knee quickly became one of the greatest tragedies in American Indian History. Even though it was only one of many Indian massacres it would became the one that symbolized the American Indian wars the most.
Many people still refer to this tragic battle as the end of the American Indian wars. This battle would become an ebenezer of centuries of injustices placed upon the Native Americans.The battle would quickly become a rallying point for Indian activists especially during the Red Power movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. No one will ever forget what happened that day in the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota and the actions cannot be reversed nor can the hardships encountered by all of the Native Americans be replaced.
There is no choice but to but this horrible event behind us but we must never forget it; whites and Indians must be at peace to accomplish what they both desire. Chief Sitting Bull stated “Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children. ”