On December 29, 1990, four hundred people held an Indian spiritual ceremony at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, marking one hundred years at a mass grave where Sioux Indians were mowed down by federal troops.
More than 200 of those who attended the event arrived on horseback after completing a 175-mile journey that began in Fort Yates, North Dakota, 15 days earlier. The event was called the Big Foot Memorial Ride and followed the route Chief Big Foot and his band of Oglala, Lakota and Minneconju Indians traveled before being massacred at Wounded Knee.
Indian spiritual men led a dawn blessing of the site and a releasing-of-the-spirits rite at a frozen windswept hill on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The ceremony was conducted in the Sioux language, Lakota, to a mostly Indian crowd in temperatures of 25 degrees below zero with 10-15 mph winds.
Those rights marked twin anniversaries of tragedy for the Sioux for those killed at Wounded Knee and the slaying two weeks before of their leader Chief Sitting Bull. This is one of many dark moments in American history.
The massacre at Wounded Knee was the last major encounter between Native Americans and U.S. troops: It deeply scarred the Sioux nation.
On December 29, 1890, U.S. Army soldiers opened fire with Hotchkiss cannons on Chief Big Foot and his band of approximately 350 Indians. This volley lasted about 10 minutes and many who fled from the cannons were hunted down by soldiers.
While the army claimed that 150 men women and children were killed, Indians claimed that more than 300 were slain with many of the victims being buried in a mass grave.
Twenty-nine soldiers were killed and a Congressional Medal of Honor was given to more than 20 of the troopers.
The Sioux nation was split up into nine separate reservations in North and South Dakota.
“The conflict at Wounded Knee was originally referred to as a battle, but in reality it was a tragic and avoidable massacre. Surrounded by heavily armed troops, it’s unlikely that Big Foot’s band would have intentionally started a fight. Some historians speculate that the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876. Whatever the motives, the massacre ended the Ghost Dance movement and was the last major confrontation in America’s deadly war against the Plains Indians.” Cite History Channel.
Some historians believe the Sioux were massacred at Wounded Knee by soldiers who were out for revenge for the bloody defeat of General George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn 14 years earlier.
Today marks the 121st anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee.