Wounded Knee

Mass Graves

The United States Cavalry killed 153 Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee in South Dakota. The massacre occurred on December 29th. Half of those killed were women and children. The massacre followed the killing of Sitting Bull (the warrior chief of the Sioux) weeks earlier, during an attempt to arrest him.


As western settlement expanded more and more Native American lands were seized by settlers. Partially in response to what seemed like a hopeless situation a new movement developed among the Native Americans surrounding an Indian prophet named Wovoka who founded a Ghost Dance religion that believed the coming of an Indian messiah that would restore all of Indian lands. More and more Indians started participating in the Ghost Dance and settlers and settlers were concerned that this could be a prelude to an Indian attack. In response United States officials decided to take Indian chiefs into custody. At the Standing Rock Agency the Indian police went to arrest arrest Sitting Bull. Crowds gathered to support Sitting Bull and a fight developed, by the time it was over Sitting Bull and eight of his supporters were dead as were six Indian policemen.

Tensions were now very high, and Indians agents tried to get as many Indian chiefs as possible to return to the agency’s which were at the center of the Indian reservations. On December 29, 1890 a detachment of the 7th cavalry led by Major Samuel Whitside met Spotted Elk of the Miniconjou Lakota nation and 350 of his followers who were headed back to the Pine Ridge Reservation. The cavalry escorted the Indians westward to Wounded Knee where they made camp. Soon the rest of the 7th cavalry arrived. There were 350 Lakota in the encampment including 230 men and 120 women and children. In the morning the trooper requested that the Indians give up their weapons. Most did without a problem, but one of the Indians was deaf and did not understand what he was begin asked to do. To this day what happened next is not clear, but a firing broke out and in a few moments a full fledge fire fight broke out. The Lakotas has surrounded the encampment and had placed four rapid-fire Hotchkiss-designed M1875 mountain guns. It was hardly a fight with minutes out of the original 350 an estimated 300 were killed or wounded, including Spotted Elk. The army suffered 25 dead and 50 wounded. It was the last major fight with Native American