On This Day

Wounded Knee Massacre

Mass grave for the dead after the massacre
Mass grave for the dead after the massacre

Historical Context

The 19th century in America was full of conflicts between the emerging federal government and the Native Americans who had occupied the land before the arrival of European settlers. One such group of Natives was the Lakota, who the US government had steadily been seizing land from prior to the events at Wounded Knee.

An attempt had been made to arrest the famous Lakota Sioux chief Sitting Bull, but he was killed in the attempt. Led by another chief, Spotted Elk, a band of Lakota attempted to make for safety at Pine Ridge reservation, but they were intercepted by American cavalry and taken to Wounded Knee Creek, where a camp was established.

The following morning, December 29, 1890, the cavalry attempted to disarm the Lakota tribesmen. The exact sequence of events is not fully known, but it is believed that a Lakota named Black Coyote quarreled with soldiers when they attempted to take his rifle. Nearby Lakota started doing the 'Ghost Dance', a ritual of a religious movement the Americans had been trying to crush. Black Coyote's gun went off and the Americans began firing at the Lakota, killing between 150-300, including around 200 women and children.

The massacre has been a hugely controversial event ever since. 20 soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their actions at Wounded Knee. In 1990, both houses of the US Congress passed a resolution expressing "deep regret" for the massacre.

Photo Info

Photographer: Northwestern Photo Co.
Location taken: Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, USA

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1890-12-29 US 7th Cavalry massacre 200+ captive Sioux at Wounded Knee, South Dakota

Historical Photos