The Sioux are cut down at Wounded Knee

Up to 300 Na­tive Amer­i­cans are killed in one of the most no­to­ri­ous mas­sacres in US his­tory

BBC History Magazine - - Anniversaries -

Bythe win­ter of 1890, the Lakota Sioux had reached a grim nadir. After decades of ex­pan­sion by white set­tlers, with their bi­son herds hunted al­most to ex­tinc­tion, most were now con­fined to reser­va­tions in North and South Dakota. Alien­ated and fright­ened, many were at­tracted to the new Ghost Dance move­ment, which claimed that through an es­o­teric cir­cle dance, the Na­tive Amer­i­cans could ex­pel the set­tlers and re­cap­ture their lands.

For the Amer­i­can author­i­ties, the Ghost Dance move­ment threat­ened a wider Na­tive Amer­i­can up­ris­ing. Mu­tual sus­pi­cion hung in the air when, on 28 De­cem­ber 1890, a party of 7th Cav­alry troop­ers in­ter­cepted a group of around 350 Lakota Sioux en route to the Pine Ridge Reser­va­tion, and es­corted them to Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota.

As dawn broke the next day, the troop­ers or­dered the Sioux to sur­ren­der any weapons. With tem­pers ris­ing, a medicine man, Yel­low Bird, be­gan to per­form the Ghost Dance. When an­other Sioux, Black Coy­ote, who was deaf, re­fused to give up his ri­fle, troop­ers tried to take it by force. No­body quite knows what hap­pened next: there was a scuf­fle, a gun­shot – and then the fir­ing be­gan.

Only when the last shots died away was the ex­tent of the slaugh­ter clear. At least 25 troop­ers had fallen, many to friendly fire. But up to 300 Sioux had been cut down, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren. As one US army vet­eran re­called: “The white hot fury of this mad melee de­fies my at­tempts at de­scrip­tion.” His com­rades, he ad­mit­ted, “sim­ply went berserk”. The re­sult was one of the most no­to­ri­ous mas­sacres in Amer­i­can his­tory.

The dead are buried at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. Women and chil­dren were among those killed in the 1890 mas­sacre

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