Wounded Knee 1890 and Wounded Knee 1973



First half

  • settler colonial pressure 1830s-1890s
  • Plains Wars
  • reaction & aftermath

where are we?

  • Extermination era 1840-1887
  • Plains wars: 1823-1887/1918
  • Allotment & Assimilation era 1887-1940

Plains Wars 1848-1890

Dakota War 1862

  • 1851: Treaty of Traverse de Sioux
  • Civil War: US defaults on annuities
  • govt monopoly on trade at reservations + corruption
  • April 1862: 5th Minnesota called up
  • August 1862: 800 white settlers killed

Dakota War 1862

Dakota War 1862


  • our friend Ely Parker, Commissioner of Indian Affairs
  • shift to reservations, not extermination
  • govt subsidies and training
  • “any course toward them which tends to their civilization and citizenship”
  • groundwork for Assimilation & Allotment


  • pan-Indian or regional cooperation
  • rejection of some or all European/American practices
  • farming, alcohol, cloth, Christianity
  • religious revivalism, sometimes blended with Christianity
  • sometimes militaristic
  • goal of ejecting whites and/or blacks from traditional lands


  • outlawed in 1870 because conflated with cannibalism and human sacrifice
  • “flesh sacrifice” of piercing (Catholic communion parallels)
  • fasting, sweat lodge, 2-4 days of dancing
  • religious ceremony to solidify and protect community
  • illegal until Indian Religious Freedom Act, 1978


  • growing fear of Sun Dance
  • vastly underestimated number of Native men
  • focus on hostage taking
  • eastern backlash against Grant's Peace Policy
  • "sell or starve" policy

Dawes Act 1887

  • allotted most marginal, driest land
  • required passes and tags to leave reservations
  • tools and rations provided in exchange for children sent to boarding school
  • 1887-1890 worst weather in SD history
  • hunting, cut rations, bad rations
  • "How American Racism influenced Hitler," The New Yorker
  • Hitler's American Model, James Whitman
"They signed away a valuable portion of their reservation, and it is now occupied by white people, for which they have received nothing. They understood that ample provision would be made for their support; instead, their supplies have been reduced, and much of the time they have been living on half and two-thirds rations. Their crops, as well as the crops of the white people, for two years have been almost total failures." Genl Nelson Miles, Dec 19 1890

GHOST DANCE: 1888-1890

  • visions of Wovoka during solar eclipse
  • rejection of alcohol and farming but not Christianity
  • arrest of leaders who did not renounce
  • Lakota rounded up from hunt for winter 1890
"The coming of the troops has frightened the Indians. If the Seventh-Day Adventists prepare the ascension robes for the Second Coming of the Savior, the United States Army is not put in motion to prevent them. Why should not the Indians have the same privilege? If the troops remain, trouble is sure to come." Agent Valentine McGillycuddy


  • Dec 15: Sitting Bull, 8 leaders & 6 BIA police killed
  • Dec 23: Spotted Elk's band leaves Pine Ridge
  • Dec 28: Spotted Elk intercepted
  • Dec 29, dawn: men told to disarm


  • 200 Native men in first twenty minutes (40 armed)
  • 150 Native women and children killed by artillery
  • 100 men, women and children pursued
  • 31 US Army casualties
  • 4 old men, 47 women and children taken captive
Wounded Knee was "the most abominable criminal military blunder and a horrible massacre of women and children." Genl Nelson Miles, Dec 31 1890

Zintkala Nuni/Little Lost Bird

American reaction

  • demands for greater Army presence in west
  • outlawing of all powwow and cultural shift away from Wild West shows
  • 20 Medals of Honor for 7th Infantry
  • shorthand for imperialist massacre

Cultural Legacy

Second half

  • Indian Termination & Relocation
  • American Indian Movement
  • Wounded Knee 1973

where are we?

  • Allotment & Assimilation era 1890-1940
  • Termination era: 1940-1975
  • Self-Determination era: 1975-present


  • 72% of Native people live in urban areas
  • Minneapolis Little Earth of United Tribes
  • promises: job training, moving expenses, insurance, tuition
  • effects: tribal isolation, relocation into poor urban areas, areas with redlining, urban renewal, low-paying jobs

American Indian Movement


  • policing & pan-Indian solidarity Hennepin County Jail 1968
  • Alcatraz occupation 1969-1971
  • BIA occupation November 1972
  • majority women members missing in coverage

American Indian MOVEMENT

  • policing & pan-Indian solidarity Hennepin County Jail 1968
  • Alcatraz occupation 1969-1971
  • BIA occupation November 1972
  • majority women members missing in coverage

Alcatraz 1969-1971


  • Indian Reorganization Act, 1934
  • Richard Wilson: dismissed remainder of elected government
  • ”there's no law against nepotism"
  • Guardians of the Oglala Nation

Wounded Knee 1973

Wounded Knee: Buildup

  • Wilson's (non)impeachment
  • Custer, SD courthouse protest
  • 90% of US watching coverage
  • Feb 28, 1973: 200 protesters, several thousand Marshals, FBI, Nebraska and SD state troopers and National Guard


  • March 1: FBI & BIA roadblocks
  • March 27: DOJ negotiators cut off electricity, water, deliveries
  • April 1: Boston airlift
  • 2 Native deaths & 2 FBI/Marshal deaths
  • May 5: disarmament


  • 60 deaths in 2 years following—GOONs
  • 1200 arrests at Wounded Knee
  • Leonard Peltier conviction, alibis & witnesses
  • Anna Mae Aquash murder