Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre

Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre

Heather Cox Richardson

Language: English

Pages: 392

ISBN: 0465025110

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


On December 29, 1890, five hundred American troops massed around hundreds of unarmed Lakota Sioux men, women, and children near Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota. Outnumbered and demoralized, the Sioux posed no threat to the soldiers and put up no resistance. But in a chaotic scene, the Americans opened fire with howitzers, killing nearly three hundred Sioux in what would become known as the Wounded Knee Massacre. In this definitive account, acclaimed historian Heather Cox Richardson shows that the origins of this quintessential American tragedy lay not in the West but in Washington, where would-be lawmakers, locked in a desperate midterm-election battle, sought to drum up votes through an age-old political tool: fear.

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p. 56. 54 Hyde, Sioux Chronicle, p. 235. 55 FLIN, April 5, 1890, p. 207. Harper’s Weekly, January 11, 1890, p. 19. 56 Hyde, Sioux Chronicle, p. 236. Utley, Last Days, p. 57. 57 FLIN, January 25, 1890, p. 440. Idaho Daily Statesman (Boise Idaho), January 22, 1890. 58 New York Times, February 12, 1890, p. 1. 59 New York Times, February 12, 1890, p. 4. FLIN, February 22, 1890, p. 59. 60 FLIN, March 8, 1890, p. 112. 61 John G. Bourke, On the Border with Crook (New York: Charles Scribner’s

to proceed into the ranks of the soldiers calmly, without any warlike movements.11 The Indian men had no intention of fighting, and they followed Big Foot’s advice. They quickly formed a line, each protected by his horse, at the front of the moving band, to shield the wagons with the women and children and the elderly and sick. The men advanced toward the line of troops. When they were about fifty yards away, three men left the band. They came forward, one on foot between two on horseback,

Greasy Grass in search of better hunting, despite the terrible flies on the river that summer. The crowd of Indians was much too big to stay in one spot for more than a day or two, as they constantly had to find forage for the horses and food for the cooking pots. By June 24, they had settled down in a camp that stretched three or four miles on the west bank of the Greasy Grass. They still anticipated the attack that Sitting Bull had foreseen. They knew that the soldiers would be coming, but they

hills, government officials intended them to dry farm on the plains of Dakota Territory. Those Sioux who continued to try to follow the buffalo were quickly disillusioned, for the settlers pouring into the eastern part of the Territory killed off the game. By 1878, the huge buffalo herds had been decimated and the Sioux tribes were assigned to agencies for rations. Because Red Cloud’s and Spotted Tail’s agencies, located in Nebraska, were now outside the reservation, the government established

really necessary; even those few progressives willing to talk to the commissioners complained of the low price offered for the land. The commissioners gave up on getting the treaty signed even before they visited Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and Cheyenne River. Instead, they arranged for sixty-seven Sioux leaders to go to Washington in October to lay out their conditions for cession.11 The trip to Washington seemed to kill the proposal. The Sioux demanded a price of $1.25 per acre for their land, the

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