Wounded Knee

History of the Massacre

On December 29, 1890, nearly three hundred Lakota people were massacred by U.S. Army soldiers near Wounded Knee Creek on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. 

Government officials had become concerned about a growing religious movement known as the Ghost Dance, so troops from the Seventh U.S. Cavalry Regiment were dispatched. A band of Lakota traveling toward the Pine Ridge Reservation were arrested and confined to a camp near Wounded Knee Creek. The following day, when the military was attempting to collect weapons from the group, a gun went off and the soldiers opened fire. During the ensuing massacre, hundreds of Lakota men, women and children were shot and killed along with 25 cavalry men.

This was the last major massacre by the U.S. government of the Lakota Nation. Wounded Knee became a place of remembrance for Native Americans and would go on to become a rallying cry in the struggle for Native American rights.

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1973 Occupation and Protest

On February 27, 1973, Oglala Lakota and members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) occupied the town of Wounded Knee in protest of what they viewed as the mishandling of Native American affairs. The protesters also wanted to renegotiate treaties that natives had entered into with the U.S. government in the 19th and 20th centuries in an effort to secure equitable treatment of Native Americans.

The siege lasted 71 days during which time the United States Marshals Service, FBI agents, and other law enforcement agencies regularly exchanged gunfire with the protesters. Two Native Americans were killed and a federal marshal was paralyzed during the conflict and hundreds more were arrested. The siege ended on May 8 when the leaders of AIM negotiated a settlement. This protest served to bring national attention to the problems of modern Native Americans.

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Library Resources

Explore book and movie lists, blogs and more that showcase the rich history and present day lives of Native Americans.

Learn more about Wounded Knee with these library materials.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

The Ghost-Dance Religion and Wounded Knee

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Last Battle