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Wounded Knee Criminal Act or Justice Served?

Guest Author - Vance Rowe

Most people know about the horrible tragedy of Wounded Knee where the Oglala Sioux were, in my opinion, massacred because of fright. They were massacred because of ignorance.

I will try to give you the gist of the events and You Be the Judge!

By the time that the end of the 1880’s rolled around, most of the Native Americans were on reservations somewhere. It wasn’t well received by them, the Native Americans, but they tried to make the best of a bad situation. The lands were poor and almost unusable to grow food of any kind, treaties and promises were broken, Custer was killed at Little Big Horn and finally in 1890, Chief Sitting Bull grew tired of it.

So when a Native American named Wovoka came onto the scene. Things went from bad to worse in a hurry. He introduced a new religious ceremonial dance called “The Ghost Dance.” He also claimed to be the Lord, so to speak, and was going to give them salvation. This was the only flicker of light in an otherwise very dim situation. The Oglala Sioux ate it up. They learned the dance and learned the songs as well.

In the late fall of 1890, a Native American from the Minneconjou people, visited Sitting Bull and explained to him what the Ghost Dance was all about. He told Sitting Bull that Wovoka had come to the earth to kill all of the white people and that the earth will be transformed into something beautiful and where only Native Americans would live there. He told Sitting Bull of the “magical” Ghost Dance shirts would protect the Native Americans from the soldiers’ bullets. The Ghost Dance’s popularity increased more and more everyday and Indian Agents, not knowing that this was a religious dance, got very nervous and one telegraphed Washington to ask for troops to stop the dancing. When the news of a “bunch of Indians were dancing crazily”, the troop soon arrived.

In December of that year, an arrest warrant was issued for Sitting Bull. About two or three days later, his home was surrounded by Tribal Police with a regiment of Army soldiers close by. A man named Bull Head was the police officer in charge and he entered Sitting Bull’s home to arrest him, only to find that the great chief was sound asleep. Bull Head woke him up and informed him that he was under arrest. Sitting Bull said that he would comply and go peacefully. He asked Bull Head if he would go out and get his horse all set to go while he got dressed. A group of Native Americans, dressed in their Ghost Dance regalia, approached the cabin and the officers. As they challenged the police, one of the men picked up his rifle and shot Bull Head. When Bull Head tried to fire back at his would be assassin, he shot Sitting Bull by accident. Then another police man fired his weapon and shot Sitting Bull in the head. Before the Cavalry could come in and stop it all, several of the Tribal Policemen were killed.

When he had heard of Sitting Bull’s death, BigFoot led his people to the Pine Ridge Reservation to seek the protection of Red Cloud and his people. However, they never made it. They were caught by the Army and brought back to the reservation at Wounded Knee. They surrendered their weapons and while the chief, who was very sick, was in a pow-wow with an army officer, a shot rang out outside. Soon the Sioux hurried to get their surrendered weapons back as the soldiers fired shot after shot into the encampment. Some of the Sioux even tried to run to a nearby ravine for safety, but, they were all shot in a cross fire. Men, women and children were all shot and killed. All in all, about 300 hundred Sioux were killed and about a couple of dozen of soldiers were killed. BigFoot was one of the dead ones.

This was a horrible and yet possibly preventable part of our history. So tell me, is it a crime or is it justice? What is your opinion?
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Content copyright © 2014 by Vance Rowe. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Vance Rowe. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Donna Johnson for details.

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