lost bird.jpg

`page.data.shortTitle || page.data.title`

Lakota~The Massacre at Wounded Knee


Pictures & Records

`::image.description || image.title`

Add your story…

Ghost Shirts & Dresses

story image(s)
ghost shirts.jpg
Ghost shirts and dresses were specially prepared garments worn by adherents of the new religion. This example from the W.H. Over Museum has the painted V-shaped neck, fringes, and feathers typical of Lakota shirts. Only the Lakotas believed them to be bulletproof. Whites viewed this as evidence of the Lakotas' warlike intentions, choosing to ignore the primarily defensive character of a bulletproof garment. Although many Indians owned weapons, they would not be needed for an offensive war since the whites would disappear through supernatural means. Songs sung at the ceremonies included one about the Messiah's, or Father's, gift of the garments to the believers

Big Foot, or, as he was also known, Spotted Elk

story image(s)
big foot smithsonian photo.jpg
Big Foot, or, as he was also known, Spotted Elk (front row seated, second from the left), was photographed by Smithsonian Institution photographer Thomas William Smillie on October 15, 1888, when he accompanied a delegation to Washington. Big Foot clung to the old Lakota traditions and resisted efforts by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to "civilize" him. He was not overtly hostile, preferring instead a kind of passive resistance and diplomacy of which he was apparently a master.

Stagecoach Photo

story image(s)
The stagecoach moved people and mail from the railhead at Rushville to the Pine Ridge Agency.

Sioux Camp Photo

story image(s)
Sioux Camp.jpg
No better example exists of J.C.H. Grabill's inherent sense of beauty and grace than this pastoral view of a Sioux camp.

Chief Red Cloud's Allegation

story image(s)
On November 21, 1890, the Chadron Advocate published Chief Red Cloud's allegation that 217 people had died of starvation at Pine Ridge, but on November 26, 1890, newspaper reporter Carl Smith mentioned in the Omaha World-Herald the "thousands of cattle roaming all over the reservation." Pine Ridge agent H.D. Gallagher had earlier reported that nearly eleven thousand cattle belonging to the Oglalas grazed on the reservation (U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Fifty-Ninth Annual Report, 1890. The Indians did own the cattle, but the agent made all the important decisions about their issuance. The lack of food was often cited as a major cause of the Ghost Dance's popularity. Although privation undoubtedly contributed to the spread of the religion, a more fundamental cause lay in the Lakotas' desire to reclaim control of their own destiny.

Deputy US. Marshall

story image(s)
US Marshall.jpg
George Bartlett, as deputy U.S. Marshal for the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations, represented another arm of federal authority. His job usually involved enforcing federal laws as they related to whites living on Indian lands rather than apprehending Sioux suspects. Bartlett, here with an Indian police family at Pine Ridge, was sent by Brigadier General John R. Brooke in early December to No Water's camp to persuade him to stop Ghost Dancing. Together with inducements of food and protection, councils such as this brought several groups of Indians to the agency, where they acknowledged the authority of the government.

Second Infantry

Although the months of November and December proved to be unseasonably warm, the Second Infantry prepared for the winter. A steady stream of supplies poured from the railroad station at Rushville to the Pine Ridge Agency. A letter from a sister camp at Rosebud Agency described the soldier's unenviable lot: "The chilly November nights already give us a fair taste of what a winter campaign under canvas is like in this climate, and our only consolation is that the noble red man is probably as uncomfortable in his tepee as we are in a wall tent." ("Our special Reports from the Indian Country," Army and Navy Journal, Dec. 6, 1980.)

The presence of so many soldiers meant boom times for the area's merchants and freighters. The neighboring town of Chadron, Nebraska, even sent a delegation of businessmen to General Brooke to encourage him to throw some of the business to them.

Abandon Homes

story image(s)
abandon homes.jpg
After the army occupied the Pine Ridge Reservation, General Brooke ordered the Indians to abandon their homes and Ghost Dance camps and move to the agency. He hoped to separate the "friendly" from the "hostile" Indians so he could deal with the latter more effectively. Big Road and Little Wound were among the Ghost Dance leaders who chose to move to the agency.

Elaine Goodale Eastman Description

story image(s)
Elaine Goodale Eastman described the situation at the Pine Ridge Indian School during the winter of 1890-91: "The doors of the large Oglala boarding school were kept locked by day as well as by night and the grounds, surrounded by a high fence of barbed wire, constantly patrolled by armed guards. These boys and girls, held partly as hostages for the good behavior of their parents, in part for their own protection, must be fed, taught, and kept in order." (Elaine Goodale Eastman, Sister to the Sioux…1885-91.)

The school was opened in 1884 and soon enlarged to accommodate 200 children. In 1890 the average daily attendance was 166. Children might be kept at the school for weeks or even months while they were rigorously trained in proper white manners and customs as well as academic subjects. The building was destroyed by fire in February 1894.

"The Opening of the Fight at Wounded Knee."

story image(s)
opening fight.jpg

"The Opening of the Fight at Wounded Knee."

(Harper's Weekly, Jan. 24, 1891.)

The noted western artist Frederic Remington depended on the accounts of Seventh cavalrymen for his 1891 drawing. Neither he nor any photographer witnessed the events at Wounded Knee. Photographers recorded the carnage five days later. Philip F. Wells, a mixed-blood Sioux and one of the few eyewitnesses to the Wounded Knee fight who was fluent in both Lakota and English, recounted the events of that Monday morning: "I was interpreting for General Forsyth just before the battle of Wounded Knee, December 29, 1890. The captured Indians had been ordered to give up their arms, but Big Foot replied that his people had no arms. Forsyth said to me, 'Tell Big Foot he says the Indians have no arms, yet yesterday they were well armed when they surrendered. He is deceiving me. Tell him he need have no fear in giving up his arms, as I wish to treat him kindly.' Continuing, Forsyth said, 'Have I not done enough to convince you that I intend nothing but kindness? Did I not put you into an ambulance and have my doctors care for you? Did I not put you in a good tent with a stove to keep you warm and comfortable? I have sent for provisions, which I expect soon, so I can feed your people.'

"Big Foot replied, 'They have no guns, except such as you have found. I collected all my guns at the Cheyenne River Agency and turned them in. They were all burned.'

"They had about a dozen old-fashioned guns, tied together with strings - not a decent one in the lot."

"Forsyth declared, 'You are lying to me in return for my kindness.'

"While the soldiers were searching for arms, Big Foot gave substantially the same answer as before."

"During this time a medicine man, gaudily dressed and fantastically painted, executed the maneuvers of the ghost dance, raising and throwing dust into the air. He exclaimed, 'Ha! Ha!' as he did so, meaning he was about to do something terrible, and said, 'I have lived long enough,' meaning he would fight until he died.

"Turning to the young warriors, who were squatted together, he said, 'Do not fear, but let your hearts be strong. Many soldiers are about us and have many bullets, but I am assured their bullets cannot penetrate us. The prairie is large, and their bullets will fly over the prairies and will not come toward us. If they do come towards us, they will float away like dust in the air.'

"Then the young warriors exclaimed, 'How! With great earnestness, meaning they would back the medicine man."

"I turned to Major Whitside and said, 'That man is making mischief,' and repeated what he had said."

"Whitside replied, 'Go direct to Colonel Forsyth and tell him about it,' which I did.

"Forsyth and I went to the circle of warriors, where he told me to tell the medicine man, who was engaged in silent maneuvers and incantations, to sit down and keep quiet, but he paid no attention to the order. Forsyth repeated the order. After I had translated it into the Indian language, Big Foot's brother-in-law answered, 'He will sit down when he gets around the circle.'

"When the medicine man came to the end of the circle, he squatted down.

"Big Foot's brother-in-law asked at the end of the conversation that the Indians be permitted to take Big Foot, who he said was dying, and continue the journey begun before the troops intercepted them.

"Forsyth replied, 'I can take better care of him here than you can elsewhere, as I will have my doctors attend him.'

"Forsyth then went to one side to give instructions elsewhere. A cavalry sergeant exclaimed, 'There goes an Indian with a gun under his blanket!' Forsyth ordered him to take the gun from the Indian, which he did.

"Whitside then said to me, 'Tell the Indians it is necessary that they be searched one at a time.'

"The old Indians assented willingly by the answering, 'How!' and the search began.

"The young warriors paid no attention to what I told them - sitting next to us, passed through the lines and submitted to search. All this time I kept watching the medicine man, who was doing the ghost dance, for fear he might cause trouble. While turning my eyes momentarily away, I heard some one on my left exclaim, 'Look out! Look out!' Turning my head and bringing my arms to 'port', I saw five or six young warriors cast off their blankets and pull guns out from under them and brandish them in the air. One of the warriors shot into the soldiers, who were ordered to fire into the Indians. The older Indians sitting between the younger ones and us immediately rose up so that the farther end of the circle, forty or fifty feet away, was hidden from my view. I heard a shot from the midst of the Indians. As I started to cock my rifle, I looked in the direction of the medicine man. He or some other medicine man approached to within three of four feet of me with a long cheese knife, ground to a sharp point and raised to stab me. The fight between us prevented my seeing anything else at the time. He stabbed me during the melee and nearly cut off my nose. I held him off until I could swing my rifle to hit him, which I did. I shot and killed him in self-defence and as an act of war as soon as I could gain room to aim my rifle and fire.

"By the time a general fight was raging between the soldiers and the Indians. Troop 'K' was drawn up between the tents of the women and children and the main body of the Indians, who had been summoned to deliver their arms. The Indians began firing into 'Troop K' to gain the canyon of Wounded Knee creek. In doing so they exposed their women and children to their own fire. Captain Wallace was killed at this time while standing in front of his troops. A bullet, striking him in the forehead, plowed away the top of his head. I started to pull off my nose, which hung by the skin, but Lieutenant Guy Preston shouted, 'My God, Man! Don't do that! That can be saved!' He then led me away from the scene of the trouble." (Philip F. Wells, "Ninety-six Years among the Indians of the Northwest.")

Sketch made by Lt. S.A. Cloman

story image(s)
Scene of the Fight with Big Foots Band, Dec. 29th, 1890.
Showing Position of Troops when first shot was fired.
From sketches made by Lt. S.A. Cloman
Act'g Eng'r Officer
Division of the Missouri
-Pvt James Horde, del.

Shattered Wagon

story image(s)
shattered wagon.jpg
The shattered wagon near the center of this view might be the one described by Peter McFarland, a government drayman present at the fight: "The Hotchkiss guns on the hill fired into an Indian wagon…Several Indians were firing on the soldiers from behind this wagon. The shell sent into it knocked it to pieces and killed a number of warriors." (Peter McFarland interview, MS 8, tablet 31, page 95, Ricker Collection, Nebraska State Historical Society.) The view is from the center of the Indian camp to the northeast, across t he council circle.

Charles W. Allen Recalled

story image(s)
allen related.jpg
Charles W. Allen, one of the three newspaper correspondents present at the Wounded Knee fight, recalled the scene in the council circle: "The first gun had no sooner been fired than it was followed by hundreds of others and the battle was on. The fighting continued for about half an hour, and then was continued in skirmish for another hour. When the smoke cleared away from in front of the tent where it began, there were forty-five dead Indians with their impregnable ghost shirts on laying dead on a space of ground about two hundreds in diameter." (Chadron (Nebraska) democrat, Jan. 1, 1891.)

Medicine Man

story image(s)
medicine man dead.gif
A medicine man played a pivotal role in the tragedy at Wounded Knee. He was performing the Ghost Dance and threw a handful of dirt in the air. The first gunshot of the fight rang out almost immediately thereafter. Some of the army officers later asserted that the dirt throwing was a prearranged signal to begin fighting, but most of the witnesses rejected that assumption.

Ethnologist James Mooney's often-repeated identification of the medicine man as Yellow Bird cannot be substantiated. Four eyewitnesses, three Miniconjous and one mixed-blood, identified him as Sits Straight, also called Good Thunder.

" Evening Star, Jan. 28 and 30, 1891, statement of Long Bull; and Donald F. Danker, "The Wounded Knee Interviews of Eli S. Ricker, " statement of Joseph Horn Cloud, 173.) There is no mention of a Yellow Bird at Wounded Knee in any of the accounts of the day.

The identity of the central figure in this image is not known. Joseph Horn Cloud mentioned another man, Shakes Bird, who was also singing Ghost songs when the fighting started. He was killed and perhaps is the man in this photograph.

Big Foot~Dead Miniconjou Leader

story image(s)

Reporter Carl Smith described the dead Miniconjou leader in the Chicago Inter-Ocean on January 7, 1891: "Big Foot lay in a sort of solitary dignity%u2026He was dressed in fairly good civilian clothing, his head being tied up in a scarf." He has underwear of wool and his general appearance was that of a fairly prosperous parsonage. He was shot through and through, and if he ever knew what hurt him, appearances dissembled very much. A wandering photographer propped the old man up, and as he lay there defenseless his portrait was taken%u2026He was however spared the customary adjuration to look pleasant.

(below) The frozen body of Chief Spotted Elk, (Big Foot) the leader who led his people in under the white flag. Left for 4 days in the wasteland with the bodies of over 300 others.

The Wounded

story image(s)
Some of the wounded convalesced in the Miniconjou camp near the agency. Dr. Charles Eastman, a Santee who had treated some of the Indians later wrote, "[They] objected very strenuously to being treated by army surgeons, alleging as a reason that it was soldiers that had been the cause of their wounds, and they therefore never wanted to see a uniform again." (Washington (D.C.) Evening Star, Feb. 7, 1891.)

Some of the Survivors

story image(s)

Some of the survivors escaped during the fighting and found refuge with the Ghost Dancers at the Stronghold. They were reunited with their kinsmen when the dancers surrendered in mid-January. Addison E. Sheldon, editor of the Chadron Advocate, recalled the survivors he saw:

 "I still see them, the defeated, dejected Big Foot Sioux who were prisoners at Pine Ridge, December 31, 1890. It was near two o'clock in a gray grimy morning as we drove…across White Clay Creek into the big yard in front of the Pine Ridge Agency. A band of men, women and children (mostly women and children) occupied the center of that yard. Some of them were prostrate on the ground. Some were sitting cross-legged, rocking to and fro in silent suffering. Some sat upon their ponies stiff and straight, but yet suffering." (Addison E. Sheldon, "After Wounded Knee: A Recollection," 45.) The title assigned to this picture by the photographer for copyright purposes, "What's left of Big Foot's band," may have been intended as an inducement to a potential buyer rather than an accurate identification. The group is the Crow Dog Family of Rosebud, which was not present at Wounded Knee.

Blue Whirlwind

story image(s)
blue whirlwind.jpg
Blue Whirlwind, a survivor of Wounded Knee, said she had received fourteen wounds. Two of her sons were also wounded. Her husband, Spotted Thunder, was killed. Lois Atwood, grand-niece of Clarence Moreledge, identified Blue Whirlwind from another Moreledge photograph in her possession. (Atwood to Wendell Frantz, Curator of Lincoln Museums, Nebraska State Historical Society, Nov. 14,1973.)

Lost Bird

story image(s)
lost bird.jpg
Brigadier General Leonard W. Colby holds his adopted daughter, Lost Bird. Colby commanded the Nebraska National Guard, which had been called out in response to the fears of settlers in northern Nebraska. By January 5 militia companies had arrived and positioned themselves between the reservations and the Nebraska railroad towns. When the Ghost Dancers surrendered to General Miles, the guardsmen were sent home. On January 14, General Colby went to the Pine Ridge Agency to confer with Miles. On this occasion Colby acquired Lost Bird, a nine-month old girls said to have been orphaned at Wounded Knee. She became a celebrity when Colby took her to his Beatrice, Nebraska, home. On January 24, 1891, the Beatrice (Nebraska) Republican reported: "The general arrived home Saturday [January 18], with his newly acquired possession, and the following Sunday not less than 500 persons called at his house to see it…The general has named the child Margaret Elizabeth, after the wives of the two brothers who helped him find it." A decade later Mrs. Colby petitioned the Bureau of Indian Affairs to have Lost Bird listed on the rolls of the Cheyenne River Agency and given full tribal rights, including an allotment of land. An investigation of the matter revealed that Lost Bird's mother, Rock Woman had abandoned the child at Wounded Knee, believing she was dead. The child was found by a rescue party on January 1 and given to Yellow Bird, a Pine Ridge storekeeper. Yellow Bird located the baby's mother at the refugee camp, and the two were reunited. About this time Colby arrived, heard of the battlefield rescue, and expressed his wish to adopt the baby. At first Rock Woman objected, but after a few days she agreed. Colby gave her fifty dollars. (A. C. Towner to John R. Brennan, Aug. 7, 1901, Brennan Scrapbook, MS H72.2, folder 25, John R. Brennan Family Papers, Robinson Museum.)

Crow Dog

story image(s)
crow dog.jpg
Crow Dog was one of the more colorful figures before and during the time of the Ghost Dance. He was present when Crazy Horse was killed at Fort Robinson in 1877 and helped prevent a retaliatory attack on the soldiers. He was chief of police at the Rosebud Reservation in 1879-80 and became engaged in an unsuccessful opposition to Spotted Tail, the Brule chief. The political contest grew to hatred, and on August 5, 1881, he killed the chief. Blood money was paid to the heirs to settle the matter in traditional Brule fashion, but Crow Dog was convicted of murder in a Dakota Territory court. On appeal, the United States Supreme Court judged that the territory had no jurisdiction over the crime, which took place on the reservation, and Crow Dog was freed. Crow Dog was one of Short Bull's converts to the Ghost Dance. Crow Dog was adamantly opposed to the military occupation of the reservations, fled to the Stronghold, and declared that he would not return to his home until the army left. In mid-December he did surrender at Pine Ridge but returned to the Stronghold after the fighting at Wounded Knee. This photograph was taken n January 16 after yet another return to the agency.

Grand Council of Hostile and Friendly Sioux Indian Chiefs

story image(s)
General Miles enlisted the aid of several Indians leaders to induce the surrendered Ghost Dancers to give up their weapons. A council was held on January 17, during which the Indians expressed their opinions on disarmament. Speakers included Kicking Bear, Two Strike, Young Man Afraid of His Horses, American Horse, Short Bull, High Pipe, and Standing Soldier. The only whites invited to speak were Lieutenant Taylor of the Indian scouts and ex-agent Valentine T. McGillycuddy. When the council concluded, only 104 guns were surrendered, but by the end of the month even the more belligerent dancers would concede to Miles' demands.

Words on the photograph read: copyrighted Jan. 30th, 1891 by the North Western Photo Co., Chadron, Neb.

Grand Council of Hostile and Friendly Sioux Indian Chiefs at Pine Ridge Agency of S.D. Jan. 17th, 1891. Chief Young Man Afraid of his Horses talking.


story image(s)
27 ghost dancers.jpg

After the final surrender, twenty-seven Ghost Dancers were imprisoned at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, by order of Miles. The general believed that this group might lead a revival of the religion in the spring. They left Pine Ridge on January 26, expecting to spend six months at the army post near Chicago.

Buffalo Bill Cody realized that such a group could become a feature attraction. Despite their imprisonment and the Bureau of Indian Affair's ban on the employment of Indians by wild west shows, Cody used his considerable influence to secure their release.

On March 30 twenty-three prisoners were placed in Cody's custody and they joined the show for a yearlong tour of Europe. Chicago photographer George E. Spencer identified these prisoners:

(1) Crow Kane,

(2) Medicine Horse,

(3) Call Her Name,

(4) Kicking Bear,

(5) Short Bull,

(6) Come and Grunt,

(7) High Eagle,

(8) Horn Eagle,

(9) Sorrel Horse,

(10) Scatter,

(11) Standing Bear,

(12) Close to House,

(13) One Star,

(14) Know His Voice,

(15) Own the White


story image(s)
General Miles received permission to carry through on a request made to the Adjutant General on January 14, 1891. His proposal: "[I would like] to send a delegation to Washington to receive assurance of the higher authority of good intentions of the Government towards them. This will answer a double purpose, namely, satisfy them, bridge over the transition period between war and peace, dispel distrust and hostility, and restore confidence; it will also be a guarantee of peace while they are absent."

Monument to Big Foot

story image(s)
woundedknee1 sign.jpg
3 images
In 1903 Joseph Horn Cloud, with help from friends and relatives, erected this monument at the side of the mass grave at Wounded Knee. The inscription reads in part: "Big Foot was a great Chief of the Sioux Indians. He often said I will stand in peace till my last day comes. He did many good and brave deeds for the white man and the red man. Many innocent women and children who knew no wrong died here."

Black Elk Speaks

story image(s)

Black Elk was an Oglala Sioux holy man and distant cousin of Crazy Horse. He was born near the Little Powder River in Wyoming and as a teenager he fought in the Battle of the Little Big Horn in which General George Armstrong Custer and his soldiers perished. In 1877, Black Elk was taken by his family into Canada after Crazy Horse's death. Then, he and his family were placed on a South Dakota reservation after the surrender of Sitting Bull.

He joined Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show (Sitting Bull, too, had been a member a year earlier) and with it, traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe. He returned from an overseas tour just in time to witness the tragedy at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in December 1890.

Black Elk shall always be remembered for his mysticism, healing powers and vision. He was visited in 1930 on the reservation by poet John G. Neihardt who translated Black Elk's memoirs and in 1932 published them into a book called "Black Elk Speaks". Carl Jung, the famous philosopher praised the book as an important contribution to the field of philosophy. In 1947, at the age of 84 he was one of the few surviving Sioux to have firsthand knowledge of tribal customs and its teachings. As a result, Black Elk agreed to have an anthropologist named Joseph E. Brown translate his remembrances of Sioux ceremonies and ways and this became the second Black Elk book called "The Sacred Pipe". It was published in 1953, three years after the death of Black Elk.

"Oh hear me, Grandfather, and help us, that our generation in the future will live and walk the good road with the flowering stick to success. Also, the pipe of peace, we will offer it as we walk the good road to success. Hear me and hear our plea." - Black Elk

page 196

The Butchering at Wounded Knee

That evening before it happened, I went in to Pine Ridge and heard these things, and while I was there, soldiers started for where the Big Foots were. These made about five hundred soldiers that were there next morning. When I saw them starting I felt that something terrible was going to happen. That night I could hardly sleep at all. I walked around most of the night.
    In the morning I went out after my horses, and while I was out I heard shooting off toward the east, and I knew from the sound that it must be wagon-guns (cannon) going off. The sounds went right through my body, and I felt that something terrible would happen.
    When I reached camp with the horses, a man rode up to me and said: "Hey-hey-hey! The people that are coming are fired on! I know it!"
    I saddled up my buckskin and put on my sacred shirt. It was one I had made to be worn by no one but myself. It had a spotted eagle outstretched on the back of it, and the daybreak star was on the left shoulder, because when facing south that shoulder is toward the east. Across the breast, from the left shoulder to the right hip, was the flaming rainbow, and there was another rainbow around the neck, like a necklace, with a star at the bottom. At each shoulder, elbow, and wrist was an eagle feather; and over the whole shirt were red streaks of lightning. You will

page 197

see that this was from my great vision, and you will know how it protected me that day.
    I painted my face all red, and in my hair I put one eagle feather for the One Above.
    It did not take me long to get ready, for I could still hear the shooting over there.
    I started out alone on the old road that ran across the hills to Wounded Knee. I had no gun. I carried only the sacred bow of the west that I had seen in my great vision. I had gone only a little way when a band of young men came galloping after men. The first two who came up were Loves War and Iron Wasichu. I asked what they were going to do, and they said they were just going to see where the shooting was. Then others were coming up, and some older men.
    We rode fast, and there were about twenty of us now. The shooting was getting louder. A horseback from over there came galloping very fast toward us, and he said: "Hey-hey-hey! They have murdered him!" Then he whipped his horse and rode away faster toward Pine Ridge.
    In a little while we had come to the top of the ridge where, looking to the east, you can see for the first time the monument and the burying ground on the little hill where the church is. That is where the terrible thing started. Just south of the burying ground on the little hill a deep dry gulch runs about east and west, very crooked, and it rises westward to nearly the top of the ridge where we were. It had no name, but the Wasichus sometimes call it Battle Creek now. We stopped on the ridge not far from the head of the dry gulch. Wagon guns were still going off over there on the little hill, and they were going off again where they hit along the gulch. There was much shooting down yonder, and there were many cries, and we could see cavalrymen

page 198

scattered over the hills ahead of us. Cavalrymen were riding along the gulch and shooting into it, where the women and children were running away and trying to hide in the gullies and the stunted pines.
    A little way ahead of us, just below the head of the dry gulch, there were some women and children who were huddled under a clay bank, and some cavalrymen were there pointing guns at them.
    We stopped back behind the ridge, and I said to the others: "Take courage. These are our relatives. We will try to get them back." Then we all sang a song which went like this:

nbsp;   "A thunder being nation I am, I have said.
    A thunder being nation I am, I have said.
    You shall live.
    You shall live.
    You shall live.
    You shall live."

    Then I rode over the ridge and the others after me, and we were crying: "Take courage! It is time to fight!" The soldiers who were guarding our relatives shot at us and then ran away fast, and some more cavalrymen on the other side of the gulch did too. We got our relatives and sent them across the bridge to the northwest where they would be safe.
    I had no gun, and when we were charging, I just held the sacred bow out in front of me with my right hand. The bullets did not hit us at all.
    We found a little baby lying all alone near the head of the gulch. I could not pick her up just then, but I got her later and some of my people adopted her. I just wrapped her up tighter

page 199

in a shawl that was around her and left her there. It was a safe place, and I had other work to do.
    The soldiers had run eastward over the hills where there were some more soldiers, and they were off their horses and lying down. I told the others to stay back, and I charged upon them holding the sacred bow out toward them with my right hand. They all shot at me, and I could hear bullets all around me, but I ran my horse right close to them, and then swung around. Some soldiers across the gulch began shooting at me too, but I got back to the others and was not hurt at all.
    By now many other Lakotas, who had heard the shooting, were coming up from Pine Ridge, and we all charged on the soldiers. They ran eastward toward where the trouble began. We followed down along the dry gulch, and what we saw was terrible. Dead and wounded women and children and little babies were scattered all along there where they had been trying to run away. The soldiers had followed along the gulch, as they ran, and murdered them in there. Sometimes they were in heaps because they had huddled together, and some were scattered all along. Sometimes bunches of them had been killed and torn to pieces where the wagon guns hit them. I saw a little baby trying to suck its mother, but she was bloody and dead.
    There were two little boys at one place in this gulch. They had guns and they had been killing soldiers all by themselves. We could see the soldiers they had killed. The boys were all alone there and they were not hurt. These were very brave little boys.
    When we drove the soldiers back, they dug themselves in, and we were not enough people to drive them out from there. In the evening they marched off up Wounded Knee Creek, and then we saw all that they had done there.
    Men and women and children were heaped and scattered all

page 200

over the flat at the bottom of the little hill where the soldiers had their wagon-guns, and westward up the dry gulch all the way to the high ridge, the dead women and children and babies were scattered.
    When I saw this I wished that I had died too, but I was not sorry for the women and children. It was better for them to be happy in the other world, and I wanted to be there too. But before I went there I wanted to have revenge. I thought there might be a day, and we should have revenge.
    After the soldiers marched away, I heard from my friend, Dog Chief, how the trouble started, and he was right there by Yellow Bird when it happened. This is the way it was:
    In the morning the soldiers began to take all the guns away from the Big Foots, who were camped in the flat below the little hill where the monument and burying ground are now. The people had stacked most of their guns, and even their knives, by the tepee where Big Foot was lying sick. Soldiers were on the little hill and all around, and there were soldiers across the dry gulch to the south and over east along Wounded Knee Creek too. The people were nearly surrounded, and the wagon-guns were pointing at them.
    Some had not yet given up their guns, and so the soldiers were searching all the tepees, throwing things around and poking into everything. There was a man called Yellow Bird, and he and another man were standing in front of the tepee where Big Foot was lying sick. They had white sheets around and over them, with eyeholes to look through, and they had guns under these. An officer came to search them. He took the other man's gun, and then started to take Yellow Bird' s. But Yellow Bird would not let go. He wrestled with the officer, and while they were wrestling, the gun went off and killed the officer. Wasichus

page 201

and some others have said he meant to do this, but Dog Chief was standing right there, and he told me it was not so. As soon as the gun went off, Dog Chief told me, an officer shot and killed Big Foot who was lying sick inside the tepee.
    Then suddenly nobody knew what was happening, except that the soldiers were all shooting and the wagon-guns began going off right in among the people.
    Many were shot down right there. The women and children ran into the gulch and up west, dropping all the time, for the soldiers shot them as they ran. There were only about a hundred warriors and there were nearly five hundred soldiers. The warriors rushed to where they had piled their guns and knives. They fought soldiers with only their hands until they got their guns.
    Dog Chief saw Yellow Bird run into a tepee with his gun, and from there he killed soldiers until the tepee caught fire. Then he died full of bullets.
    It was a good winter day when all this happened. The sun was shining. But after the soldiers marched away from their dirty work, a heavy snow began to fall. The wind came up in the night. There was a big blizzard, and it grew very cold. The snow drifted deep in the crooked gulch, and it was one long grave of butchered women and children and babies, who had never done any harm and were only trying to run away.

A grandmother shows off her grandchild.

story image(s)

Short Bull - Sioux (c 1845 - 1915)

story image(s)
Short Bull, a member of the Sioux tribe, was born in about 1845. He was a warrior who fought at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and a medicine man who brought the Ghost Dance religion to the Lakotas. After the murder of Sitting Bull and the events that led up to Wounded Knee Massacre Short Bull was imprisoned at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. In 1891 Short Bull was released from custody and he was permitted to join Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show. He remained for several years and made several trips to Europe. Through many miscalculations by federal and army officials, the Ghost Dance religion resulted in the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. After the Massacre, Short Bull was sent to serve a prison term at Ft. Sheridan, near Chicago. Because they wanted to remove the Ghost Dance leaders' influence, the federal government agreed to Buffalo Bill Cody's request that the prisoners be released (1891) to tour with Cody in his Wild West show. Short Bull toured with the show in Europe and the United States over the next two years. In 1894, Short Bull was invited by Thomas Edison to appear along with Annie Oakley in a film utilizing the kinetograph, the prototype of a movie camera. In 1893, Buffalo Bill Cody utilized Short Bull as an actor and a consultant in making a film that re-enacted the Wounded Knee Massacre. Short Bull died on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota in 1915.

Tokala Ta Onakinjin

The area known today as the Stronghold was the place where the Lakota (Oglala) along with their allies (Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and other bands of the Titunwe) made a stand to protect themselves from the 7th Calvary who had just murdered over 200 men, women, and children at a small hamlet that today is called Wounded Knee (Dec. 29, 1890). 

The geographic description of the Stronghold is unique in how easily it can be defended. There is a small opening that widens into a huge area with adjoining tables of smaller acreages.  It has steep inaccessible sides that in the past may have been land bridges that were used to cross onto other adjoining tables. It was this site that provided sanctuary for all the people to gather during the day long battles occuring across Pine Ridge Indian Agency and surrounding areas after the murders at Wounded Knee. Again a tragedy occurred here at Stronghold Table and today the remains of our ancestors are telling us their story. 

    My name is George Tall.  I am an Ikce Wicasa (common man) and am bound under the oath of a Tokala warrior (traditional police).  With this as our authority we dispatched a Tokala group to protect the sacred burial grounds of our ancestors and also to investigate the burial sites.

    In 1976 the national park service (NPS) and the Oglala Sioux Tribe entered into an agreement (MOA, 1976) on how to manage over 200,000 acres of tribal land (badlands south unit). The NPS never implemented the stipulations of the agreement e.g., 3MM dollar buffalo fence, Cultural center, 100% staffed by Indian employment, and others that I cannot remember at this time. Recently the NPS, DOD, DOE, and OST proposed to amend the MOA of 1976.  Instead the OST wanted their tribal lands back. NPS argued that by congressional act the south unit was now a part of Badlands National Park. To the Oglala people this was a treaty violation (1868 Treaty, Art. 12). Furthermore, NPS verbally refused to recognize the moratorium imposed by the OST at a meeting with John Steele, President of the OST. 
NPS plans an excavation from Aug. 12-23, 2002.  NPS's interest stems from the richness of fossils in the area.  As you drop over the edge of the badlands you can immediately see bones and fossils in large numbers.

    For the past three weeks we have been finding remains that were halfway down from the top. With shocking reality we knew immediately that these remains were never buried and in fact may have been murdered on top and thrown over the edge.  We came to this reasoning because we were finding remains mixed with horse bones.  At one particular site we found a foot, an arrowhead, and horse bones mixed with the ribs of a child.  We feel there is an untold story here that may equal the murders at Wounded Knee in terms of genocide and human violations of high degrees.

   At this point we are continuing to keep people away from these sites as well as to continue the tokala investigation.  The next update will probably be in a news packet submitted by our media staff.
Ho Le Miye Yelo, George Tall.


Stronghold Table is a sacred site on Oglala Lakota land.Authority there is reserved for sovereign Oglala Lakota people. Badlands National Park is an illegal entity.

Just as the colonial government is trying to impose it's will on our people & our land, so to are certain elements within our own nation seeking to benefit themselves at our expense. This is sad, but just yet another example of the effects of colonialism on oppressed peoples. The Tokala Okolakiciye from Wounded Knee District is the voice of the Stronghold Table Camp. In these extremely trying times, we all need prayers, especially for those of our own people who are working against us.

Hau Mitakuye Oyasin


"The Last Of Sitting Bull"

St. Louis Republic, St. Louis, Missouri Wednesday, Dec. 17, 1890

The death of Sitting Bull removes one of the obstacles to civilization. He was a greasy savage, who rarely bathed and was liable at any time to become infected with vermin. During the whole of his life he entertained the remarkable delusion that he was a free-born American with some rights in the country of his ancestors. Under this delusion, when civilized immigrants pushed over the Black Hills country in search of gold he considered them trespassers on the lands of his people and tried to keep them out.

He was engaged in this absurd and wicked attempt when General Custer surprised his camp in the interests of civilization. Unfortunately for civilization General Custer was mistaken in the number of the savages who had assembled to fight for the land, which they foolishly believed was their birthright, and "a massacre" ensued. That is, it was one of those rare occasions when savagery for the moment had the best of it in a pitched battle with civilization. It was, of course, only for the moment, and Sitting Bull and his followers, who might have been easily and legally hanged as murderers, were granted a temporary respite. This graciousness of the Great Father they have constantly abused by obstructing civilization in every possible way, especially in the worst way possible by trying to keep their land in a state of barbarism, and by insisting on their own understanding of treaties, regardless of necessary changes in translation into a highly civilized language, and of necessary amendments made in Congress. They have gone on holding ghost dances, complaining about the rations issued to them under treaties, objecting to the way their money was handled by the government, and it is charged on excellent civilized authority, actually stealing from civilized people who have settled on their lands. Under such circumstances there could have been only one ending for Sitting Bull, and now that it has come he has no complaint to make. There is every reason to believe, therefore, that it was perfectly satisfactory to him. He himself had recognized it as inevitable and had fully made up his mind to it, preferring it to death in what in his barbaric way he called the "stone houses of the Great Father," meaning thereby the penitentiaries in which the Great Father, with the aid of Hon. Powell Clayton, Hon. Poker J. McClure and others of his Sanhedrin, attempts on occasion to incarcerate those who disagree with him in such a way as to inconvenience him. So when Sitting Bull was surprised and overpowered by the agents of the Great Father, he set his greasy, stolid face into the expression it always took when he was most overcome by the delusion that he was born a native American from native American ancestry. Disarmed and defenceless he sat in the saddle in which he had been put as a preliminary to taking him to prison, and without a change of countenance urged his handful of greasy followers to die free. This idiotic proceeding he kept up until he was shot out of the saddle. So died Sitting Bull. So was removed one of the last obstacles in the path of progress. He will now make excellent manure for the crops, which will grow over him when his reservation is civilized. The work of redeeming these excellent lands from barbarism has now reached a point where it can be at once carried to completion. The filth and vermin-infested Sioux and other savages who have pretended a desire to live even under starvation rations and broken treaties will be persuaded by Sitting Bull's example, and a little skillful management of the same kind which converted him from a brutal savage into a good Indian, to stand up where they can be shot out of the way of advancing progress. Mr. Harrison should continue to act with the same promptness and firmness he has shown in Sitting Bull's case. While one of these barbarians lives to claim an acre of unentered land in the United States he will remain as an obstacle to progress. A firm persistence by the President in the admirably progressive policy he has illustrated in Sitting Bulls case will make good Indians of all the rest of them, bucks, squaws and pappooses. And the future historian will say of them, no doubt, that they died justly, because they owned lands and would not use fine-toothed combs."


Looking Back at Wounded Knee 1890
by Professor Robert Venables, Senior Lecturer
Rural Sociology Department., Cornell University
published in "Northeast Indian Quarterly" Spring 1990
of Cornell University's American Indian Studies Program

One hundred years ago, on December 29, 1890, in a ravine near Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, the U.S. Army, supported by American Indian mercenaries, slaughtered approximately 300 Lakota men, women and children -- 75 percent of Big Foot's Lakota community. Two-thirds of the massacred Lakotas were women and children. Only 31 of the 470 soldiers were killed, many by "friendly fire" of fellow soldiers.

Big Foot's Lakota followers had already surrendered when they were brought to Wounded Knee by the army. While the Lakota warriors were being disarmed, fighting broke out. Any real resistance on the part of the warriors was quickly over. But atrocities escalated as the U.S. troops turned their weapons -- including four rapid-fire Hotchkiss guns -- against clearly defeated warriors and innocent women, children and old men. Women and children trying to escape were pursued and slaughtered. An official U.S. report noted that "the bodies of the women and children were scattered along a distance of two miles from the scene of the encounter."

The following quotes were printed in "The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer," a weekly newspaper published in Aberdeen, South Dakota. The first was published immediately after Sitting Bull's assasination by Indian Police Dec. 15, 1890.

"Sitting Bull, most renowned Sioux of modern history, is dead.

"He was an Indian with a white man's spirit of hatred and revenge for those who had wronged him and his. In his day he saw his son and his tribe gradually driven from their possessions: forced to give up their old hunting grounds and espouse the hard working and uncongenial avocations of the whites. And these, his conquerors, were marked in their dealings with his people by selfishness, falsehood and treachery. What wonder that his wild nature, untamed by years of subjection, should still revolt? What wonder that a fiery rage still burned within his breast and that he should seek every opportunity of obtaining vengeance upon his natural enemies.

"The proud spirit of the original owners of these vast prairies inherited through centuries of fierce and bloody wars for their possession, lingered last in the bosom of Sitting Bull. With his fall the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick 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 die than live the miserable wretches that they are. History would forget these latter despicable beings, and speak, in later ages of the glory of these grand Kings of forest and plain that Cooper loved to heroism.

"We cannot honestly regret their extermination, but we at least do justice to the manly characteristics possessed, according to their lights and education, by the early Redskins of America."

The editorial begins ambivalently, but concludes by calling for the extermination of American Indians.

The editor and publisher of "The Aberdeen Pioneer" who advocated genocide is well known: his name is L. Frank Baum. A decade later, his book "The Wizard of Oz" (1900) would become a classic. As you [re]read Baum's editorial, you may also recall that last year, 1989, was the 50th anniversary of the MGM version of this children's book.

On December 20, the next editorial, notable for the irony it offers, is separated from the first only by a graphic line:

"On Christmas day the Nativity of Christ is observed. "The Kris Kringle or, Santa Claus, is a relic of the ancient Yule Feast, so that the festival of Christmas is a curious mingling of ancient heathen and Christian customs, albeit a very pleasing and satisfactory celebration to the people of today.

"With this issue it is a pleasant duty for us to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas."

On January 3, 1891 (after the Wounded Knee massacre) "The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer" published another editorial:

"The peculiar policy of the government in employing so weak and vacillating a person as General Miles to look after the uneasy Indians, has resulted in a terrible loss of blood to our soldiers, and a battle which, at best, is a disgrace to the war department. There has been plenty of time for prompt and decisive measures, the employment of which would have prevented this disaster.

"The PIONEER has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extirmination [sic] of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth. In this lies safety for our settlers and the soldiers who are under incompetent commands. Otherwise, we may expect future years to be as full of trouble with the redskins as those have been in the past.

"An eastern contemporary, with a grain of wisdom in its wit, says that `when the whites win a fight, it is a victory, and when the Indians win it, it is a massacre."

I first obtained a microfilm copy of Baum's Saturday Pioneer in 1976, believing that I would probably find editorials which protested the massacre of Wounded Knee. After all, what else would one expect from the original Wizard. After mulling over the editorials for fourteen years, I must admit to the reader that I still love both the books and the movie.

But what of L. Frank Baum? I've tried to read his editorials as satire or parody -- even as proto-Monty Python. They aren't.

The editorials at points are curiously ambivalent -- the description of Sitting Bull, for example. But their core message is genocide. Like so many humans who are capable of uttering and doing the unthinkable, L. Frank Baum was in many respects a sensitive and loving man. But I don't believe it is enough to say that his editorials are an indication of how, in Baum's era, calls for genocide were not abberations, that they were widely held, and that they were public.

I have instead been haunted by a hypothetical parallel: imagine what the reaction would be if a former Nazi newspaper editor who had advocated the "Final Solution" had, ten years after World War II, published a children's book in Germany. Imagine that this author and this children's book became world famous. Imagine a movie, with wonderful music.

All this is possible -- if Germany had won the war.

Contributor: bgill
Created: June 21, 2007 · Modified: June 25, 2007

Start your own page

Only the original contributor of the page can edit this page.