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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

125 Year Anniversay of Wounded Knee Massacre

"Our only safety depends on the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries, we had better in order to protect our civilization… and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth,” - Frank L Baum (writer of The Wizard of Oz).

Within days of one of Baum’s hateful editorials published in 1890, more than 300 Lakota were indiscriminately murdered by the U.S. 7th Cavalry on December 29. The day is remembered as the Wounded Knee Massacre.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015, marks the 125th anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee, a "sad and horrible event" Native and non-Native Americans still struggle to comprehend. This article, by historian Mark Hirsch, was first published in American Indian, the membership magazine of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Hope came from a Paiute holy man from Nevada. Wovoka envisioned a beautiful world in which the living would be reunited with the dead. The buffalo would return, and life would return to what it was before the arrival of the Europeans. Wovoka’s message generated a new religious movement, the Ghost Dance, which spread throughout Sioux Country. Many Lakotas left their homes and converged on the Stronghold, an isolated plateau in the badlands of southwest South Dakota. Wearing special
shirts, which some believed would deflect bullets, they danced to hasten the coming of the new world.

The Ghost Dance unsettled local officials, alarmed at the sight of the Sioux uniting once again. At Pine Ridge, the Indian agent responsible for managing day-to-day reservation affairs wired Washington for protection. In response, more than half the U.S. Army was sent, including the Seventh Cavalry—Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s unit, which had been obliterated at the Battle of the Little BigHorn, 14 years before.

Looters quickly stripped the bodies of Ghost Dance shirts and other possessions, which were sold to collectors and museums. Photographers canvassed the corpse-ridden fields, and sold their photos as postcards. Advertisements said they were “just the thing to send to your friends back east.” On January 1, the bodies were buried in a mass grave. Later, 27 leaders of the Ghost Dance were imprisoned at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, and then released into the custody of Buffalo Bill Cody, who featured them in his Wild West show. By agreeing to go on tour, the Ghost Dancers were spared lengthy prison terms. From 1891 to 1895, the U.S. awarded 18 Medals of Honor to soldiers who served at the “Battle of Wounded Knee.”