Saturday, November 10, 2007

230 women and children
50 wounded 150 missing
39 wounded
For other uses, see Wounded Knee (disambiguation).
The Battle of Wounded Knee Creek was the last major armed conflict between the Dakota Sioux and the United States, subsequently described as a "massacre" by General Nelson A. Miles in a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Around 150 Lakota are believed to have fled the chaos, many of whom may have died from hypothermia.

Lakota prelude
This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. WikiProject History or the History Portal may be able to help recruit one. If a more appropriate WikiProject or portal exists, please adjust this template accordingly.
Main article: Ghost DanceWounded Knee massacre Ghost Dance
On December 15, an event occurred prior to the Battle at Wounded Knee Creek. Chief Sitting Bull was killed at his cabin on the Standing Rock Reservation by Indian police who were trying to arrest him on government orders. Sitting Bull was one of the Lakota's tribal leaders, and after his death, refugees from Sitting Bull's tribe fled in fear. They joined Sitting Bull's half brother, Big Foot, at a reservation at Cheyenne River. Unaware that Big Foot had renounced the Ghost Dance, General Nelson A. Miles ordered him to move his people to a nearby fort. On December 28, 1890, Big Foot became seriously ill with pneumonia. His tribe then set off to seek shelter with Chief Red Cloud at Pine Ridge reservation. Big Foot's band was intercepted by Major Samuel Whitside and his battalion of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment and were escorted five miles westward to Wounded Knee Creek. There, Colonel James W. Forsyth arrived to take command and ordered his guards to place four Hotchkiss guns in position around the camp. The soldiers numbered around 500 — the Indians, 350; all but 120 were women and children. A rumor among the Lakota during the evening of December 28, 1890, said that all Indians were to be deported to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) which had the reputation for living conditions far worse than any prison. The Lakota became fearful that the rumor was true. The interpreter was not fluent in the peculiar dialect of Hohwoju used by Big Foot's people, and he mistranslated the Indians' speeches making them appear more belligerent than they actually were. Eyewitness accounts also claimed that the soldiers had been drinking and celebrating the capture of Big Foot.

Big Foot
On December 29, the Lakota were informed that it was necessary to turn in any weapons they possessed to prevent violence. A search was ordered, and some of the weapons were collected. A medicine man called Yellow Bird began to perform the Ghost Dance, reiterating his assertion the Lakota that the ghost shirts were bullet-proof. As tension mounted, Black Coyote (a defiant tribe member) refused to give up his rifle unless he was paid fair value for it -- he was deaf. Two soldiers seized him from behind and in the struggle, Black Coyote came down with his rifle -- it discharged, sending a shot into the air. At that same moment, Yellow Bird threw some dust into the air, and approximately five young Lakota men with concealed weapons threw aside their blankets, and pointed their rifles at Troop K of the 7th. The Lakota opened fire on the soldiers doing damage, however, a massive volley was returned back at the tribe. At first, the struggle was fought at close range, but as the Indians ran out of ammunition for their repeating rifles, the fight moved as the Indians sought to escape fire from the troops. By the end of fighting, which lasted less than an hour, over 150 Lakota had been killed and 50 wounded. In comparison, army casualties numbered 25 dead and 39 wounded.

The Battle
The military hired civilians to bury the dead Lakota after an intervening snowstorm had abated. Arriving at the battleground, the burial party found the deceased frozen in contorted positions by the freezing weather. They were gathered up and placed in a common grave. It was reported that four infants were found still alive, wrapped in their deceased mothers' shawls. In all, 84 men, 44 women, and 18 children reportedly died on the field, while at least seven of Lakota were mortally wounded. There are unsubstantiated claims that these numbers are under reported by almost half.
Colonel Forsyth was immediately denounced by General Nelson Miles and relieved of command. An exhaustive Army Court of Inquiry convened by Miles criticized Forsyth for his tactical dispositions but otherwise exonerated him of responsibility. The Court of Inquiry, however—while it did include several cases of personal testimony pointing toward misconduct—was flawed.
The American public's reaction to the battle was at the time generally favorable. Twenty Medals of Honor were awarded for the action. A decade later when these were reviewed, Miles saw that they were retained. Currently, Native Americans are urgently seeking the recall of what they refer to as "Medals of Dis-Honor". Many non-Lakota living near the reservations interpreted the battle as a defeat of a murderous cult, though some confused Ghost Dancers with Native Americans in general. In an editorial in response to the event, a young newspaper editor, L. Frank Baum (later known as the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), wrote in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer on January 3, 1891:
"The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination 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 future 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." [1]

Wounded Knee massacre Skirmish at Drexel Mission
In the late 20th century, critical reaction to the event became more widespread and vocal. Many consider the incident one of the most grievous atrocities in United States history. In 1970, it was the subject of the best-selling book "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" by historian Dee Brown.
In 1972, Johnny Cash wrote and released a song entitled "Big Foot" describing the tragedy at Wounded Knee. Like many of Cash's songs about Native Americans, it describes their poor treatment and victimization.
More than eighty years after the massacre, beginning on February 27, 1973, Wounded Knee was also the site of a 71-day standoff between federal authorities and militants of the American Indian Movement.
In 1973, the American rock band Redbone, which was formed by two Native Americans, released the politically oriented song "We were all wounded at Wounded Knee", recalling the Battle of Wounded Knee Creek in 1890. The song ends with the subtly altered sentence "We were all wounded by Wounded Knee". The song reached the number one chart position across Europe but did not chart in the U.S. where it was initially withheld from release and then banned by several radio stations.
'Wounded Knee' is a track from Nik Kershaw's 1989 album "The Works". The lyrics in the first 2 verses portray the persecution of fictitious native peoples of an "island in the sun" and a "village in the trees" after the arrival of the "white man". The theme in the chorus is that this is a repetition of what happened at Wounded Knee: "Oh no, not a Wounded Knee again". The final verse refers back to the plight of Native American Indians: "We were pow-wowing to our hearts content; We had the great spirit, we didn't need a president; 'Long came a white man from the civilized nations; now he ain't having second thoughts; but we've got reservations."
The 1992 video game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time included a wild west level named "Bury My Shell at Wounded Knee".
In 1992, the film Thunderheart starring Val Kilmer and Graham Greene was released, which intertwines a modern era crime-story with spiritual allusions to both the massacre in 1890, and a fictionalized version of the Wounded Knee incident which took place in 1973 on the Sioux reservation. Also in 1992 the Battle of Wounded Knee Creek was commemorated in the popular protest song Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee written by Buffy Sainte-Marie. This song includes not only allusions to the massacre but also references to the plight of present day Native American activists. Three years later the Indigo Girls released a cover of this song on their 1200 Curfews (Live) CD.
In 1997, rock band Toad the Wet Sprocket found mainstream success with a song about Indian rights. The song "Crazy Life," which tells the story of Leonard Peltier in the 1970s, specifically mentions the Battle of Wounded Knee Creek.
Petri Hiltunen's 2000 graphic novel "Aavetanssi" (Ghost Dance in Finnish) depicted the massacre from a Native American point of view.
Five Iron Frenzy penned a song titled "The Day We Killed" which is found on their 2001 release titled: Electric Boogaloo. The song makes references to the massacre at Wounded Knee, and even has a reading of a quote by Black Elk that reads, "I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered along the crooked gulch [as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young.] And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream..."
Primus recorded a song called "Wounded Knee" which appears on the album Pork Soda.
Scottish songwriter Alan Cassidy makes reference to Wounded Knee in his highly charged song The Red The White and The Blue, "tell me of the Raj or Wounded Knee and you'll see clear...".
The Battle of Wounded Knee Creek is briefly shown in the 2004 film Hidalgo. Frank Hopkins is portrayed as a half-Indian who in his work as a government dispatch rider, had carried the orders that directed the local commander to end the standoff by disarming the Indians and deporting them. However, an unexpected tragedy ensued, and subsequently, he held himself partly responsible for the deaths of the Indians. The Sioux are depicted performing the Ghost Dance very peacefully with participants that are primarily old men and women -- however, the reality of history was quite different. The particular tribes involved consisted of members of all ages and both sexes who were very mobile and self-sufficient in the wild -- they were equally adept at evading, pursuing, and fighting against the troops of the US Cavalry.
The battle was reenacted for the 2005 film Into the West (TV miniseries), executive-produced by Steven Spielberg for Turner Network Television. The filming style for this sequence of the program is similar to Spielberg's recreation of the landing on Omaha Beach in his 1998 film Saving Private Ryan, including hand-held cameras and no music.
In 2005 Marty Stuart produced "Badlands; Ballads of the Lakota" with original songs telling the story of the Lakota and a cover of the John R. Cash song "Bigfoot."
In May 2007, HBO Films released the film adaptation of the Dee Brown bestseller "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" on the HBO television network. Like the book, the film culminates with the Battle of Wounded Knee Creek.

See also

No comments: