Considered a “Black Spot” in American history, the Battle of Wounded Knee is often just lightly “brushed over” in classrooms across the United States.
Naturally, we as U.S. citizens do not want to look at some of the negative actions that have shaped the future.
But want and should are 2 different things; we may not want to face these facts, but we should! After all, we can learn and grow from them.
Not only that, I am very much a proponent of the Native American ways. I am greatly saddened by the deaths that occurred at Wounded Knee.
In this post, I intend to try and keep it as unbiased as humanly possible. But that may be difficult. While I love and support the United States, I also have many Native Americans I love and respect. (Many are Sioux… Lakota, as I grew up in Northeast Iowa and Nebraska.)
We must always remember to not repeat a wrong such as this ever again!
So today, we are going to go through 9 facts about the Battle of Wounded Knee. Keep in mind that many call it The Massacre of Wounded Knee.
Let’s see how much you already knew and facts you didn’t. Let us know in the comment area just how knowledgeable you were about this Battle.
#1: When It Happened
This battle occurred on December 29th, 1890.
It was cold and snow-packed.
#2: Where It Happened
This took place not far from an Army encampment next to Wounded Knee Creek. It is in Mid to Western South Dakota, not far from the Nebraska border.
#3: Number Killed
According to figures, approximately 30 soldiers were killed.
As for Native Americans, the estimates are about 290… 90 men and 200 women and children.
#4: Sought Safety
Chief Sitting Bull had been killed just 2 weeks prior. Considering the safety of tribe members, Chief Spotted Elk was leading his people to Pine Ridge Reservation for safe haven with Red Cloud. But before they could arrive, the Army intercepted them at Wounded Knee.
In mourning for Sitting Bull, tribal members performed the Ghost Dance. A dance that was to invoke a new age free of European oppression. A dance that invoked fear in U.S. Army leaders.
#5: The Ghost Dance
To explain in slightly more detail what the Ghost Dance meant, the Medicine Men taught that the Red Man had been confined to Reservations because they had left their traditional customs and had angered the gods.
They believed that by completely rejecting the way of the White Man, and practice this dance that set the military on edge.
It is important to keep in mind what was done to Caucasian civilians by the natives as they traveled West. They did not want this happening again.
#6: Arrest Big Foot
Orders were given to arrest Chief Big Foot, the name of Chief Spotted Elk after the death of Sitting Bull.
Army leaders wanted the Ghost Dance stopped and all weapons taken. So troops moved into the Indian camp to take the weapons and then arrest the Chief.
#7: The Deaf Indian
Let me ask you, if you were in defense of your family and a unit of soldiers came to your home and started ordering you to give up your defensive weapon, would you?
Most of you would probably say no.
Now, what if you were deaf and could not understand what the soldiers were ordering?
That is what happened to the strong Lakota Warrior, Black Coyote. He could not hear and did not know English. As the soldiers yelled at him, another warrior told them the man was deaf. But the soldiers wouldn’t have it.
Grabbing Black Coyote from behind, his weapon accidentally went off. What happened in the next few minutes had to been a nightmare.
Tensions were high and that one gun shot popped the cork. Machine gun like, Hotchkiss guns were fired on every red skinned person in the camp. From men to women and then children and even babies were gunned down.
Of course, Indian men did fight back in a last stand. They did kill some soldiers, but many experts believe that some of the soldier deaths was a result of friendly fire from the Hotchkiss guns.
All this because a man who was defending his family was deaf and probably frightened.
#8: The Second Wounded Knee Battle
I really had to include this part of the Wounded Knee story because this was actually a Battle and not a massacre.
In the late 1960’s, a movement was started to unite Native Americans from all reservations. It was called AIM – American Indian Movement. AIM representatives traveled to various reservations to organize and rally against Indian oppression.
The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota was ripe for AIM’s message. In 1972, 2 AIM members traveled there, Leonard Peltier and Dennis Banks. It seems some whites had killed an Indian nam
ed Yellow Thunder.
Dick Wilson was the Sioux Tribal Chairman and felt threatened by AIM. He took refuge with Federal Marshals and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
AIM and Sioux supporters occupied Wounded Knee. Wilson attacked with the help of Federal agents. Gunfire was heard day and night over 71 days. 2 natives were killed and 1 agent was paralyzed. Many natives were arrested.
A settlement was reached and the Indians gained stature.
Pine Ridge Reservation turned chaotic. The various Indian factions were battling each other and suddenly 2 FBI agents were killed in a gunfight in 1975.
Leonard Peltier was convicted of shooting those agents, but to this day, many supporters maintain his innocence.
#9: Medal’s Of Honor
In the original Battle of Wounded Knee, 20 United States soldiers were awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor.
But hold on…
Does that action deserve any Medal’s of Honor?
Native Americans across the United States have asked that those medals be rescinded.
What do you think?
Many of my years of life have been in Iowa and Nebraska. Over the years, I have known many Native Americans and I am also honored to say that I was friends with 2 who were at the 1970’s Wounded Knee protest.
I say honored because how can I not respect a man who defends his homeland and his honor?
This was a situation where the United State’s Army and its leaders were dreadfully wrong. It was handled inappropriately and I hope and pray, nothing like this happens.
So what do you think?
There could be a variety of opinions, so please allow others to share their view. Keep it civil please.
Thank you and have a great day.