Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Wounded Knee Massacre

The Wounded Knee Massacre was an attack upon the Sioux by the United States Army at Wounded Knee, South Dakota on December 28, 1890. The US Army used Hotchkiss canons which are capable of firing two pound explosive shells fifty times per minute.

The American government, in an attempt to arrest Sitting Bull, sent an Indian agent to Sitting Bull's camp under the pretext of a ritual called the Ghost dance supposed to confer invincibility. The Indian agent sent someone to arrest Sitting Bull, but ended up having him killed instead, leaving the Sioux without a leader.

Sitting Bull's half-brother Big Foot took over the tribe. On the way to help a fellow chief make peace with the Whites, Big Foot was intercepted and fled to Wounded Knee. Seeing the situation, the Indians laid down their arms in surrender, but the Army, consisting of almost 500 men, under General Forsyth, opened fire, thus killing at least 300 Native Americans.

In a description justifying the event, a young newspaper reporter, L. Frank Baum, later famous as the author of the Wizard of Oz, wrote in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer on December 20, 1891:

The nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs that licks the hand that smites them. The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they should die than live the miserable wretches that they are.

In the 20th century, the popular view of the incident changed to one of the most grievious atrocities in American history. It has been commemorated in the popular protest song written by Buffy St. Marie, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.