Indian Wars

Wounded Knee

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Wounded Knee: Ghost Dance Turns Deadly

Serious injuries were inflicted at Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation, home to the Sioux Indians. Between 150 and 300 Indians, mostly women and children, were killed by soldiers. The Indians had tried to surrender their guns to the army when a gun accidentally discharged, triggering violent shooting by the army and the resulting Wounded Knee Massacre.

Leading up to the massacre had been the rise among Indian tribes of the Ghost Dance, a religious movement started in 1888, by a Paiute Indian named Wovoka. The belief behind the Ghost Dance was that the world would soon end and Indians would inherit the earth, and the return of ancestors and buffalo who had died. Through frenzied dancing, Ghost Dancers felt they could glimpse this future where the world would be theirs. The Ghost Dance movement also preached rejection of white culture and alcohol.

The Ghost Dance spread in popularity among many Indian tribes and contributed to Indian militancy. The U.S. Army became alarmed at this trend and began to arrest Indian leaders. When Chief Sitting Bull resisted arrest, a skirmish led to the chief and 14 others being killed. Subsequently, 400 of Sitting Bull's followers fled to seek safety with Sioux Chief Big Foot. Then the military pursued Chief Big Foot's group, leading to the Wounded Knee Massacre.