The Ghost Dance War
was an armed conflict in the United States
which occurred between Native Americans
and the United States government
. It involved the Wounded Knee Massacre
wherein the 7th U.S. Cavalry
massacred over 300 men, women and children at Wounded Knee
on 29 December 1890
. It ended when Sioux
leader Kicking Bear
surrendered on 15 January 1891
In an effort to remind the nation of this incident, and the historic government program against Native Americans, the American Indian Movement (AIM) occupied the Pine Ridge Reservation near Wounded Knee in protest against the federal government on 27 February 1973. A 71-day standoff between federal authorities and the AIM ensued. The militants surrendered on 8 May .
The Ghost Dance was a Native American religious movement that occurred in the late 1800s, often practiced by the Sioux indians. It often consisted of a circle dance, invented by the Indian leader Wovoka
, or better known by his white name Jack Wilson
. Wilson was convinced that God talked to him and told him that by practicing the Ghost Dance, they would wash the evil out of their lives and they would be impervious to disease, famine, and old age. This religion quickly spread throughout the entire west and Native American tribes. This dance was given this name by white settlers who were frightened by this spirtual dance, saying that it had a ghostly auroa around it, hence the name. This started the push to bring US troops into the Dakota's where the Sioux were most prominent and where the Ghost Dance
was being practiced the most. Ghost Dance
Ghost Dance War
In the winter of 1890, the Sioux indians had been upset over a series of treaty violations by the US involving land divisions among tribes in South Dakota. There were a series of skirmishes over this but the biggest and most important one was the Wounded Knee Massacre
. The Sioux had encamped themselves at Wounded Knee Creek and were handing over their weapons to US troops. One deaf Indian refused to give up his weapon, there was a struggle, and someone's gun discharged in the air. One of the US commanders heard this and ordered his troops to open fire. What remained when the shooting stopped was 153 dead Indians (mostly women and children) and 25 dead US troops most of which was due to friendly fire. There was a public uproar when word of this reached the Eastern US and the Government reestablished the treaty they had broken with the Sioux
to avoid any further public backlash.
After the Wounded Knee Massacre
, there were several other small skirmishes involving the Sioux
and the US Government, but the most part hostilities ceased, although tensions are still high to this day. Much to the dismay of Native Americans, twenty US troops were awarded the Medal of Honor
for their actions on that day. Native Americans were outraged about this at the time, and have pushed to get these medal rescinded, but nothing has been done to this point. In more recent years, there was a takeover of the Wounded Knee Memorial by militant protesters. There was a standoff between these protesters for several months, but they ended up surrendering peacefully.
- Welch, James and Stekler, Paul. Killing Custer. W. W. Norton and Company, New York, NY, 1994. ISBN 0-393-03657-X.