History

Study Notes

Wounded Knee Massacre 1890

Level:
GCSE
Board:
Edexcel

By the end of the 1880’s the atmosphere amongst the Indians on the reservations was one of desperation and despair. The Sioux’s food ration had been cut and their crops had failed. In 1889, a Paiute Indian called Wovoka had a vision. He claimed that if Indians danced a sacred dance, known as the ghost dance, the whites would disappear and the Indians would once again own the Great Plains. 

By the end of the 1880’s the atmosphere amongst the Indians on the reservations was one of desperation and despair. The Sioux’s food ration had been cut and their crops had failed. In 1889, a Paiute Indian called Wovoka had a vision. He claimed that if Indians danced a sacred dance, known as the ghost dance, the whites would disappear and the Indians would once again own the Great Plains.

 

The Ghost Dane quickly spread throughout the reservations and this worried the Indian agents. They tried to ban the dance, but the Indians refused to stop. The police attempted to arrest Sitting Bull, believing he was trying to start a rebellion, and shot him dead.  Sitting Bull’s followers fled to join the band of Big Foot, another leading chief.

 

The US army caught up with Big Foot and his followers and forced them to go to Wounded Knee Creek where they could be kept under guard. On the 29th of December 1890, the US 7th Calvary were sent in to disarm the Sioux. One Sioux resisted, and others began to dance. The 7th Cavalry opened fire. Within just ten minutes 146 Indians and 25 US soldiers were dead, including 7 Indian babies. This was the last conflict between the US army and the Sioux.

 

American public opinion generally approved of the massacre. They had been worried about the Ghost Dance and felt that the massacre was justified as revenge for the Battle of Little Bighorn. 

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