On Sacred Ground: The Political Origins and Cultural Outcomes of the Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee, 1890 and 1973

Katie Carlson
History 400
12.16.04

"I can see that something else died in the bloody mud and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there," Black Elk was commonly reported to have said of the December 29, 1890 massacre of nearly 300 Sioux Ghost Dancers at Wounded Knee.[1] Historians now acknowledge that those were likely not the words of Black Elk but of John Niehardt who recorded Black Elk's autobiography. However, the sentiment that a dream died, or that the Sioux died, at Wounded Knee remains popular. 1890 was not only said to be the end of the Sioux, but the end of the American Frontier. In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner read his paper, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" to an audience at the Chicago World's Fair and reported that the 1890 Census had found there was no longer enough unsettled land to declare a frontier line.[2] The year 1890 was considered the end of the western frontier, and thus western history, until the 1970s and 1980s. The name "frontier" carried with it images of fields, forests, covered wagons, and Indians. When the frontier "ended," these images were left in the past. Between the Wounded Knee Massacre and the end of the frontier, the Sioux were thought of as part of the past, not of the present and future. Just as historians have come to realize Western History and Frontier History extend beyond 1890, so too have some realized that December 29, 1890 was not the last day of the Sioux, or even the last day of Sioux resistance.[3]

The massacre on December 29, 1890 was the tragic culmination of a political and religious movement, the Ghost Dance, which captured the hopes of many Sioux people. However, it was not the last day the Sioux would clash with the United States government over political issues, the last violent confrontation between the Sioux and the United States, or even the last time that politics and culture would come together at Wounded Knee. On February 27, 1973 a group of Oglala Sioux and members of the American Indian Movement took control of Wounded Knee and began a seventy-one day standoff with the United States government which eventually resulted in the deaths of two Native American participants. The Ghost Dance articulated the political concerns of the Sioux through a religious ritual in 1890 and again in 1973. In 1973, the Sioux went to Wounded Knee to address the political concerns of the tribe, but left with a new sense of culture and community.

By December 29, 1890 many members of the Sioux had "long been under civilizing influences" through relationships with white missionaries and the United States government and military.[4] In the years leading up to the massacre at Wounded Knee, frustration within the Sioux towards whites and the government grew. The discontent of many Sioux towards the United States government can be attributed to four major factors: land loss, disease, hunger and broken promises. Land had been an issue between the Sioux and the government since The Treaty of 1868. This treaty designated that a large section of land, all of present day South Dakota west of the Missouri, be "set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians."[5] The established reservation did not remain intact for long once gold was discovered on the reservation in the Black Hills. In 1876, the United States drew up a new agreement which, as James Mooney reported in his 1890 study, stripped the Sioux of "one-third of their guaranteed reservation, including the Black Hills."[6] Only six years later, the Sioux were forced to give up more territory. The subsequent 1889 agreement resulted in the Sioux having "surrendered one-half (about 11,000,000 acres) of their remaining territory, and the great reservation was cut up into five smaller ones, the northern and southern reservations being separated by a strip 60 miles wide."[7] The loss of land, which included the last of the remaining hunting grounds, resulted in "deep and widespread dissatisfaction throughout the tribe."[8]

In addition to loss of land, widespread disease was a major contributing factor to frustration among the Sioux in 1890. According to Bishop Hare, an Episcopal missionary who lived with the Sioux, disease was epidemic among the tribe. In 1891 Bishop Hare wrote, "The measles prevailed with great virulence in 1889, the grippe in 1890. Whooping cough also attacked the children."[9] These diseases which ravaged the tribe were the result of the increase in white settlement in the area. The effects of disease among the Sioux caused "a marked discontent [that] amounted almost to despair."[10] Hare reported that, "The people said their children were all dying from diseases brought by the whites, their race was perishing from the face of the earth, and they might as well be killed at once."[11] Bishop Hare's statement suggests that the Sioux were not only distraught over the amount of disease present among their people, but also placed the blame for those diseases on white settlers.

Perhaps the most important factor that contributed to dissention among the Sioux was hunger. Thomas J. Morgan, then Commissioner of Indian Affairs, noted that "prior to the agreement of 1876 buffalo and deer were the main support of the Sioux."[12] But this changed with the loss of land and increase in settlement of whites. The buffalo were gone within eight years of 1876 and it was "hard to overestimate the magnitude of the calamity, as they viewed it."[13] After the loss of game, the Sioux were expected to pursue agriculture and raise crops to support their tribe. The land on the reservation was extremely arid and "it was possible for them to raise but very little from the ground for self-support."[14] After the failure of crops, the Sioux were forced to depend on government supplied rations. These rations were then reduced "below the subsisting point," which brought the Sioux "face to face with starvation."[15] Already mounting frustrations were fueled by the loss of game, crops, and rations. The growing discontent was perceived by whites and was later termed the "Sioux outbreak."

Many of losses experienced by the Sioux were the result of broken promises by the United States, causing some Sioux to believe the United States government could not be trusted. The Treaty of 1868 promised the Sioux a large amount of land; but this land was gradually taken away from them. The Treaty of 1876 promised the United States would protect and care for the Sioux; but the reduction of rations "was in direct violation of the promises made to the Indians" by the United States government.[16] Dr V.T. McGillycuddy, a white government agent at Pine Ridge, one of the largest of the Sioux reservations, wrote in a letter to General L.W. Cody addressing the presence of Nebraska state troops on Sioux reservations that the "so-called outbreak" was the result of broken promises.[17] "There can be no question but that many of the treaties, agreements, or solemn promises made by our government with these Indians have been broken," McGillycuddy concluded.[18] In the years leading up to the Wounded Knee Massacre, the Sioux were forced to endure the loss of their land, disease, hunger and a series of broken promises--all resulting in a growing sense of discontent with the United States government.

The growing frustration among the Sioux explains why in 1890 some Sioux became involved with the Ghost Dance Movement. Elaine Goodale Eastman, a white missionary living among the Sioux, recognized the factors that went into the adoption of the Ghost Dance Movement by the Sioux:

Drought, unwise reduction of rations, and dissatisfaction with the results of the last agreement, which many had fought to the end; these made the Dakotas a ready prey to a dangerous illusion. They were the dry grass, tinder dry; the match was the thrilling promise of supernatural help, a Savior for the red man![19]

The Ghost Dance Movement was a messianic religious movement which was popular among many western Native American tribes, including the Sioux. The Ghost Dance religion originated from a Paiute prophet Wovoka and was brought to the Sioux in 1889 through the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes as well Good Thunder, a Sioux who traveled west with a small group to investigate the rumor of the Indian messiah. When Good Thunder returned, he "announced that the messiah had indeed come to help the Indians, but not the whites."[20] Much of what historians know about the Ghost Dance comes from the observations of James Mooney, an ethnologist who was sent to investigate the Ghost Dance religion and the Sioux "outbreak." Dancers would form a circle and dance and sing for up to four days. They often went without food, water or rest. Under these extreme circumstances, some dancers received visions. Mooney described the underlying principle of the Ghost Dance as the belief "that the time will come when the whole Indian race, living and dead, will be reunited upon a regenerated earth, to live a life of aboriginal happiness, forever free from death, disease, and misery."[21] Upon these underlying principles, Native American tribes built ritual and mythology, making each tribe's Ghost Dance unique. The adoption of the Ghost Dance among the Sioux reflected their political concerns with the United States government.

The Ghost Dance was not just a new religious movement, but a response to the existing grievances. The principle themes of the Sioux Ghost Dance addressed the same factors that caused discontent among the tribe, factors present even before the arrival of the Ghost Dance. In response to the loss of land to whites, the Ghost Dance doctrine asserted that "a new earth would behold boundless prairies covered with long grass," restoring the land "which had originally belonged to the Indians."[22] The issue of disease was addressed by the Ghost Dance through the belief that dancing would bring back the dead, including so many who had died from disease, as well as "ward off disease and restore the sick to health."[23] The loss of the buffalo and the problem of hunger was solved by the Ghost Dance through the belief that the messiah would not only restore the dead Indians, but also the "great herds of buffalo and other game."[24] The Ghost Dance religion provided hope to the Sioux that everything they had lost through white settlement and the broken promises of the United States government would be restored.

The distrust the Sioux felt for the U.S. government was demonstrated through an aspect of the Ghost Dance that was only popular among the Sioux--the Ghost Shirt. The Ghost Dance was an inherently peaceful movement. The teachings of Wovoka and the moral code of the Ghost Dance forbade war and violence and preached "peace with whites and obedience to authority until the day of deliverance shall come."[25] The Ghost Dance shirts seem to contradict this principle by suggesting Sioux Ghost Dancers were looking for war. Ghost shirts, "worn by all adherents of the doctrine--men, women, and children alike," were "firmly believed to be impenetrable to bullets or weapons of any sort."[26] While it was a common belief among whites and early historians that ghost shirts were a sign of the violent nature of the Sioux Ghost Dance, more recent scholarship has concluded that the Sioux prescribed to the non-violent doctrine of Wovoka but were willing to defend themselves if necessary. According to historian Jeffery Ostler, Sioux Ghost Dancers "resisted government policies of assimilation and imagined nothing less than the end of colonial relations," but "were just as Ôpacific' as Wovoka."[27] The ghost shirts do not indicate that Sioux Ghost Dancers were advocating violence, but instead suggest that their distrust of the government made physical protection necessary. That ghost shirts were felt necessary in a peaceful religious movement also suggests that those involved in the Ghost Dance were those who were particularly distrustful of whites and the United States government.

The political connections with the Sioux Ghost Dance are clear when examining descriptions of those involved. Sioux Ghost Dancers were described as Indians who were particularly disgruntled by the loss of reservation land and also particularly devastated by hunger. In her memoirs about her time spent living with the Sioux, Eastman observed that "educated and Christian Sioux scorned the whole matter. I knew of no church members or returned students who joined the dance. Yet all alike were the victims of the natural calamity of the drought and the broken promises of the government."[28] White military officials also felt bands of Ghost Dancers, including those led by Sitting Bull and Big Foot, were "most persistent in recounting and proclaiming their grievances." They believed that Ghost Dancers were those Sioux "least willing to help in bettering their condition, and who are opposed to any change or improvement of their old habits and customs, and oppose all progress."[29] While military officials may have seen Ghost Dancers as the most backward of the Sioux, they were more likely those struggling to maintain their old way of life. Those who were dissatisfied with the government and the increase of white influence over the Sioux and Ghost Dancers were described as one in the same.

As the Ghost Dance gained popularity and intensity in the Spring and Fall of 1890, white settlers and government officials became more and more concerned with the "outbreak." In November of 1890, local agents declared the situation "beyond their control" and the War Department responded by sending in troops. In a short time "there were nearly 3,000 troops in the field of Sioux country."[30] Immediately, bands of Native Americans left the reservation for the Bad Lands, but after the death of Sitting Bull by reservation police, more groups headed for the Bad Lands.[31] One such group was Big Foot's band of Ghost Dancers. On December 28, 1890, the Seventh Calvary intercepted the band of refugees and began to disarm the group. Reports of who fired the first shot which initiated the massacre differ. Some claim Yellow Bird flew a handful of dirt into the air which was thought of as a sign of an Indian attack and the cavalry responded. Others report that a Sioux rifle misfired while officers were attempting to confiscate it. In any case, the direct cause of the events of December 29, 1890 is not nearly as important as the resulting loss. Nearly three hundred Native Americans, two thirds of them women and children, were killed.[32] The Wounded Knee Massacre devastated the Sioux, including those who had not been Ghost Dancers. Eastman described the impact on the Sioux still remaining in the reservations:

Stunning as was the impact upon our nerves of the spectacle of extreme agony and violent death, there was still deeper tragedy in the psychological reactions of Dakota who had freely accepted our religion and culture. Many of them had white fathers, and in practically every case they remained loyal to government and church. Theirs, however, was a bitter mental struggle. The native police were objects of passionate abuse and threats from their wilder kin, and all of the 'friendlies' suffered a great deal of unnecessary hardship and loss.[33]

To many Sioux, Wounded Knee represented the culmination of years of hardship and broken promises. While the Wounded Knee Massacre did not represent the end of Sioux culture or Indian resistance as some historians claimed, it has had a large impact on the Sioux since. Eastman's observations demonstrate the immense suffering the massacre caused the surviving Sioux, as well as divisions within the tribe. Though many Sioux "friendlies" did choose to accept aspects of white culture and religion, there were still "wilder kin" who continued to resist the presence of the United States government, in Eastman's observation represented by the tribal police.

The Ghost Dance essentially ended for the Sioux after Wounded Knee. In the decades that followed the massacre, the Sioux who continued to reside on the Pine Ridge Reservation were forbidden from practicing Native American religious ceremonies and wearing traditional dress, but encouraged to participate in Fourth of July ceremonies. Their children attended reservations schools that discouraged the use of traditional Sioux languages. While the Ghost Dance may have ended for the Sioux in 1890, dissatisfaction with the United States Government did not. Conflict with tribal police persisted, as did hunger, poverty, loss, the fight for the Black Hills, and the restoration of the Treaty of 1868.These issues culminated at Wounded Knee, but this time in the year 1973. Again at Wounded Knee, politics and culture combined. What began as a political demonstration resulted in a revival of culture for those Native Americans involved.

The Sioux did not go alone to Wounded Knee in 1973, with them was the American Indian Movement (AIM). AIM was founded in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1968 by a group of concerned Native American ex-convicts wishing to increase opportunities for the urban Native American to "enjoy his full rights as a citizen of the United States."[34] The beginning concerns for AIM were jobs, housing and education for urban Native Americans, but within the first few years they began expanding to perform demonstrations coast to coast to bring attention to the problems of modern Native Americans. Led by Dennis Banks, AIM undertook an occupation of the abandoned prison on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay which lasted from November 1969 until June 1971. The Alcatraz occupation not only gave AIM national exposure, but also led to the recruitment of more Native Americans. One such recruit was Russell Means, an Oglala Sioux born on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Means quickly became a leader in AIM and "'Banks and Means' were soon synonymous with the AIM cause all across the country."[35] AIM's most radical and publicized demonstration, Wounded Knee II--would bring Means back to the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1973.

The Pine Ridge reservation was the perfect location for activism from a civil rights group like AIM. The seventy-one day siege of Wounded Knee in 1973 was an effort by the Sioux and AIM to bring attention to and resolve problems on the reservation. Charlie Red Cloud said in his statement to the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs investigating the Wounded Knee siege, "If I were here two days I could sit here and tell you about everything wrong within this reservation, and if I did, your head would swim. Whenever someone comes from Washington, an inspector or something, all they see is down there, and they never go out to the people to really get to the problem."[36] The grievances addressed by the Sioux and AIM at Wounded Knee were political in origin and included violence inflicted upon Native Americans by tribal police, the structure of the tribal government including leadership and the involvement of the BIA and the treaties and promises broken by the United States government.

As in 1890, in 1973 the reservation was under the control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which, from the perspective of many Sioux was a politically oppressive and destructive situation. "In practice, the U.S. Bill of Rights does not apply to reservations Indians. We are not free to practice our religion. We are not free to bear arms. We suffer cruel and unusual punishment all the time," wrote Russell Means in his autobiography.[37] Means continued to write that this oppression led to two underlying social problems at Pine Ridge: poverty and alcoholism. On Pine Ridge, "every Indian suffers the consequence--poverty, enforced by the might and power of the federal government."[38] Poverty was the result of unemployment, which then led to an increase in alcohol abuse. Mary Crow Dog, writing of her experiences growing up on Sioux reservations in her autobiography Lakota Woman, noted that "Jobs were almost nonexistent on the reservations, and outside the res[ervation] whites did not hire Indians if they could help it. There was nothing for the men to do in those days but hit the bottle."[39] A Department of Health study in 1973 also found that while drinking patterns on Pine Ridge were not that much different than other Indian reservations, there was still a significant problem. The study drew connections between alcoholism or alcohol abuse on Pine Ridge and unemployment, criminal activity and even violence. The study found that "in 1967, among those 18 years and over, there were 3001 arrests for disorderly conduct, out of which 2585 were for D/C drunk."[40] Unemployment and alcohol abuse were problems rampant at Pine Ridge, but unfortunately they were not the only ones.

One of the most prominent problems cited by Native Americans in the causes for the Wounded Knee siege was the constant threat of violence on the reservations and lack of justice for Native American victims. The first threat of violence came from whites in the surrounding communities. If murders of Native Americans were investigated at all, white perpetrators often received minimal punishment. Just one month before the Wounded Knee siege, Wesley Bad Heart Bull was stabbed to death in a bar by white businessmen Darold Schmidt. This was Schmidt's second assault on a Native American. A friend of Bad Heart Bull claimed Schmidt had said earlier in the evening "he was going to kill him an Indian."[41] Schmidt was charged with involuntary manslaughter, a common charge given to whites responsible for the deaths of Native Americans--a charge that many members of the Sioux and AIM found "outrageous."[42] In addition to violence from whites, the Sioux were also threatened by tribal, or auxiliary police forces, known popularly as the "goon squad." Means claimed that before and during AIM's arrival at the reservation, Pine Ridge residents "were being physically harassed and mentally harassed by the goon squad people and without law enforcement in their own community."[43] Ramon Roubideaux, Means' attorney, echoed the thoughts of many when he claimed Wounded Knee was a reaction to "the worst instance of a police state in which the Indian people were helpless in the face of harassment, intimidation, beatings, fire bombings, killings to the point where they had to ask other Indians to come in and help them."[44] Violence by whites and the goon squad was considered a cause of the Wounded Knee siege because it was such a threatening force in the lives of Pine Ridge residents who felt they needed to start protecting themselves. "You don't have no protection at all. You have to carry a gun on this reservation now," Ellen Moves Camp said of the goon squad in 1973.[45] While it was an individual political problem addressed at the Wounded Knee siege, violence was also a symptom of the larger problem of tribal government.

The goon squad was outfitted and armed by Richard "Dick" Wilson, the then President of the Pine Ridge Tribal Council. Wilson's control over Pine Ridge was one of the largest contributing factors to the Wounded Knee siege of 1973. Many Sioux blamed Wilson for the violence inflicted by the goon squad as well as "nepotism, misuse of tribal funds, failure to hold meetings, operating without a budget, and false arrest." [46] In addition to being a corrupt leader, many also held Wilson personally responsible for harassment and violence directed at dissenters. Means described Wilson as "a tin-pot dictator who sought to exterminate all political dissent on the reservation. Anyone whom Wilson or his henchmen thought opposed them was beaten up."[47] Just days before the Wounded Knee siege, AIM aided the Oglala Civil Rights Organization (OSCRO), a Pine Ridge organization, in initiating impeachment proceedings against Wilson. Stanley David Lyman, the BIA Superintendent at the time, described those responsible for the Wounded Knee takeover as a group "composed of individuals who were disgruntled because of the failed effort to impeach Tribal President Dick Wilson."[48] The localized political problems of the Pine Ridge Reservation initiated the February 27, 1973 Wounded Knee takeover. AIM and OSCRO were hoping that a successful impeachment of Wilson "would set the stage for allowing them to enter the Pine Ridge Reservation to assist in a peaceful takeover."[49] When the impeachment proceedings failed, AIM and three hundred members of the Oglala came to a consensus. "We all agreed: Things could not continue as they were. If we didn't stand up for our treaty, we would never be able to do so. Our people were ready to die, if necessary, to end the abuse," Russell Means wrote of the meeting that led to the takeover.[50] The murder of Wesley Bad Heart Bull and the failed attempt at impeaching Dick Wilson were both local events that occurred just before, and contributed to, the takeover of Wounded Knee.[51]

The demands made during the siege were largely political in origin and, in addition to the local problems of the Pine Ridge Reservation, also addressed the larger problem of broken treaties. Those involved in the siege began seeing the local problems widespread at Pine Ridge as consequences of the United States government's failure to uphold the Treaty of 1868. Most of the demands that were made "were for actions that the U.S. government had already agreed to in 1868."[52] Demands which addressed the situation at Pine Ridge included that "Senator Edward Kennedy's subcommittee on administrative practices and procedures immediately investigate the BIA and Department of the Interior for the way they had handled things on Pine Ridge."[53] In addition they also claimed that "Because Dick Wilson and his followers were nothing more than puppetsÉ the Oglala [should] be permitted to choose their own officials without BIA interference."[54] Larger demands that addressed the Treaty of 1868 included a call "to enforce the provisions of the Fort Laramie Treaty by returning our Sacred Black Hills and reestablishing an Independent Oglala Nation" and "for Senator J. William Fulbright's Foreign Affairs Committee to investigate U.S. compliance with all 371 treaties it had signed with Indian nations; we wanted them to confirm that the United States had violated every one of the treaties."[55] The demands made at the beginning of the Wounded Knee siege demonstrated the political nature of the takeover. Every request listed referenced a government office or a specific Senator or committee. The call to establish an Independent Oglala Nation also suggested that those involved in the takeover saw themselves as separate body from the United States. A letter from Matthew King, Teton Sioux Treaty Council Chairmen and Frank Fools Crow, traditional Oglala Sioux Chief, after the siege again suggested the political nature of the siege. The two wrote that the mistrust of the government could only be solved "by having the United States set up a Treaty Commission that will deal with Indian nations and tribes with honor and good faith."[56] "We are determined to control our own destiny," they went on to write.[57] The goals and demands stated during and after the Wounded Knee siege demonstrate the political origins and aspects of the siege.

In addition to using the Treaty of 1868 as a tactical measure to address political demands, AIM and the Oglala occupiers also likely used the history of Wounded Knee, at least in part, for strategic reasons. Historians Paul Smith Chaat and Robert Allen Warrior suggest that Wounded Knee had been in the minds of both AIM and government officials well before the siege. "Russell Means had scrawled maps of Pine Ridge on a napkin in a New York City bar in 1970, and explained to Hank Adams the strategic importance of the reservation's most famous village," Chaat and Warrior wrote in their book, Like a Hurricane.[58] Special advisors to the President, Bradley Patterson and Leonard Garment, were also aware of Wounded Knee when they dealt with earlier AIM demonstrations like Alcatraz. The two had been successful at diffusing tensions at those events "because they followed one rule above all others: No Wounded Knee."[59] The historical significance of the site was not lost on either side. Means suggestion of the site in 1970 and the fact that the Wounded Knee siege was the largest and most radical effort of the American Indian Movement thus far suggest that they used the history of the site as another tactic. It was unlikely that the U.S. government would use extreme force against Native Americans on a site well known for that same thing. It was as if they were challenging the government to break their own rule of "No Wounded Knee."

Wounded Knee was not only historically powerful, but also spiritually significant to those who participated in the siege. In addition to being protected from state violence by the history of the location, many felt Wounded Knee provided spiritual protection as well. "We knew with the spirit of Big Foot and his people we would be protected in Wounded Knee," Means said during the Senate Committee hearing, referencing the 1890 massacre.[60] The historical significance of the location of the siege likely led to the cultural transformations that many experienced while living at Wounded Knee. The spiritual significance of the location of the siege was present in the minds of those involved from the very beginning. Leonard Crow Dog, a Lakota Sioux and the spiritual leader at Wounded Knee, felt AIM was guided to the sacred site from the very beginning. "As soon as Wounded Knee was mentioned, I got very serious. Everybody did. Wounded Knee was our most sacred site. To be standing up there would be the greatest thing we could doÉ the occupation of Wounded KneeÉ came about naturally," Crow Dog wrote.[61] Crow Dog's description of the decision to take over Wounded Knee demonstrates the intense emotions Native Americans still felt for a tragedy that occurred almost a century earlier. Just as in 1890, in 1973 politics and culture collided at Wounded Knee. The siege at Wounded Knee was primarily caused by building resentment on the Pine Ridge Reservation for the tribal government, but the outcomes of the siege were not merely political. The result was not only a 71-day Independent Oglala Nation, following a declaration made two weeks into the siege, but a group of Native Americans with a renewed sense of cultural identity.

The revival of the Ghost Dance at Wounded Knee serves as an example of the cultural transformation which took place there. Religious ceremonies like the Ghost Dance and the Sun Dance had been outlawed by the government, but were not lost completely due to the efforts of traditional medicine men like Leonard Crow Dog. Crow Dog saw religious ceremonies like the Ghost Dance as a way "to be unite [sic] together, how to bring the power together as one."[62] Religious ceremonies for Crow Dog were an important part of the siege because they did not just represent the spiritual aspect of the siege, but the spirit of the siege as a whole. "As an Indian you don't divide life into little boxes: A-politics, B-education, C-religion, and so on. It is all one, it is life," Crow Dog wrote.[63] The revival of the Ghost Dance seems natural because it was not thought of as separate from the political demands made during the siege, but part of the larger goal of independence.

The Ghost Dance was practiced as close to its original form as possible, considering that none of the participants had ever danced it before and resources at Wounded Knee were limited. To prepare for the Ghost Dance, "people pieced together ceremonial clothing from what they could find in the camp."[64] Though participants no longer believed Ghost Shirts would protect them from bullets, they made them to preserve the tradition of the ceremony. The Ghost Dance was also no less intense than it had been in 1890. Dancers "for four days rose at dawn and went to the gully where the massacre took place to dance in the snow."[65] Crow Dog gave the dancers no illusions that the dance would be easy. There were no intermissions; dancers went without food and water. The reaction of the dancers was also similar to those in 1890. Crow Dog informed the dancers that "anybody that gets into the spiritual power, looks like he's gonna get into convulsionsÑdon't be scared. We won't call a medic the spirit's gonna be the doctor, so anything happen like that, back up and keep going."[66] The details regarding the performance of the dance were not the only connections between 1890 and 1973. The dance allowed the Sioux to connect with a part of their past that many assumed was dead. Crow Dog "thought that reviving the Ghost Dance would be making a link to our past, to the grandfathers and grandmothers of long ago."[67] The connection was successful and Leonard Crow Dog "felt that the bodies in their mass grave were dancing with us."[68] Crow Dog and the other dancers' commitment to performing the Ghost Dance as it was performed in 1890 demonstrated their desire to connect with the traditional aspects of Sioux culture that many felt had been lost.

While the Ghost Dance was performed for only four days of the seventy-one day siege, it crystallized the revival of culture that many experienced while at Wounded Knee. Mary Crow Dog's experience at Wounded Knee may not have been typical, but serves as an example of the individual transformations that occurred through the Wounded Knee experience. Mary Crow Dog was a Lakota Sioux born and raised on the Rosebud reservation, but never had a strong connection with her Sioux heritage. She never learned how to speak Lakota and in school would be beaten if she "prayed in Indian to Wakan Tanka, the Indian Creator."[69] Mary Crow Dog experienced many of the negative aspects of reservation lifeÐÐalcoholism, poverty, racism, and violence, but none of the positive aspects of Sioux culture and religion. Then, in the early 1970s,"The American Indian Movement hit our reservation like a tornado," and Mary Crow Dog joined fever.[70] As one of the initial participants in the siege, Mary Crow Dog's experienced many of the same events as other occupants. What made her experience unique was that she gave birth to her first child while there. Though she had never participated in traditional ceremonies before, she was determined to have her baby in as traditional of a manner as possible. "I wanted no white doctor to touch meÉ I was going to have it in the old Indian manner," Crow Dog wrote.[71] Mary Crow Dog gave birth without receiving medicine or going to a hospital, both of which were offered to her. She was offered tranquilizers but instead chose to be medicated in a traditional way. A peyote meeting was held by Leonard Crow Dog and Mary, "on the point of giving birthÉ took medicine."[72] The peyote gave her strength and she "left confident and feeling good."[73] Her commitment and faith in the traditions helped her succeed in giving birth at Wounded Knee, while another pregnant woman had gone to the hospital to give birth a few days earlier. If she had not been at Wounded Knee, Mary Crow Dog would have likely given birth at a reservation hospital with white doctors and nurses and no Native American traditions or medicine. Her experience at Wounded Knee allowed Crow Dog to become connected with traditions that she had never been exposed to before. While Crow Dog's experience may be seen as an extreme case, it, like the Ghost Dance, is an example of the revival of culture that took place at Wounded Knee.

While it did not accomplish all of its political goals or end poverty or violence at Pine Ridge, AIM did succeed at creating a Native American community. One Oglala Wounded Knee participant described his experience of the Wounded Knee community when he said: "First time you ever met somebody in your life, and you say ÔHi, brother.' Then you know what your cause is and what you're fighting for. And that's how close your ties are."[74] By the end of the siege, it was not only AIM members and Sioux present at the siege, but Native Americans from across the nation joined the takeover. Agnes Lamont, a Wounded Knee participant, said that in spite of the practical difficulties of the siege, "we had one thingÑthat was unity and friendship among 64 different tribes and that's more that I could say that the Pine Ridge Reservation has ever had in my life."[75] This sense of community continued to live in the hearts of those who participated in the siege, despite the fact that AIM and Sioux leaders were subject to prosecution and violence by the United States government and BIA police. "Wounded Knee was an educational process for all Indians," one AIM leader said. "Our people on the reservation, where the oppression has been so tremendous, have learned that there's a lot of Indian people off of the reservation that are perfectly willing to come home and fight with them."[76] The community established at Wounded Knee was not just reservation Indians, Oglala Sioux or AIM members, nor was it exclusively political or religious. Wounded Knee in 1973, like Wounded Knee in 1890, represented the coming together of politics and culture, "hostiles" and "friendlies," reservation and urban Native Americans.

While the siege ended in May of 1973, the fight to restore the Treaty of 1868 and bring the Black Hills back into the hands of the Sioux continued. Historian Edward Lazarus felt the Wounded Knee siege played a significant role in the hopes of the Sioux. "For many Sioux, the dream of returning to the glory days of 1868, once the stuff of bedtime stories and idle musing, took root as a tenet of political and even religious orthodoxy. They would live by the treaty and demand that the United States do the same," Lazarus wrote.[77] The fight for the Black Hills continued for years after the Wounded Knee siege. Even though the treaty was not honored and the United States did not recognize an Independent Oglala Nation, for Leonard Crow Dog Wounded Knee "was the greatest moment in my lifeÉ our seventyÐone day stand was the greatest deed done by Native Americans in this century."[78] For Leonard Crow Dog and others, "Wounded Knee lives on in our hearts."[79] The revival of culture that occurred at Wounded Knee and its legacy of independence and tradition carried on after the siege ended.

While the Ghost Dance was revived during the Wounded Knee siege, its enduring legacy can be seen through the growth of another traditional Sioux ceremony, the Sun Dance. The Sun Dance was a central Sioux religious ritual long before the introduction of the Ghost Dance in 1890. Like many traditional religious ceremonies, it was outlawed in the 1880s. The connection between the Sun Dance and the Ghost Dance began in 1890 when the Sioux incorporated aspects of the Sun Dance into their version of the Ghost Dance. The Ghost Dance was a powerful ceremony, in both history and practice, making it a difficult ceremony to perform on a regular basis. The Sun Dance, however, was traditionally preformed annually. Thus, though the Ghost Dance was revived during the Wounded Knee siege, the legacy of cultural transformation lives on through the Sun Dance. In 1971, Leonard Crow Dog began holding Sun Dances on his family's property, known as Crow Dog's Paradise. In 1971 the dance started with just a few religious leaders, but following Wounded Knee the dances grew in number and intensity. The traditional piercing that occurred during the Sun Dance in the beginning was "just a small piece of flesh on the chest" but after Wounded Knee and with the influence of Leonard Crow Dog and other medicine men "the selfÐinflicted pain has become more and more severe."[80] The traditional form of the dance also spread to other Sioux reservations. The Sun Dance continues to be practiced on Crow Dog's Paradise and continues to grow and become increasingly traditional. In a 1977 Sun Dance there were "eighty dancers that day. Now we always have close to two hundred."[81] The piercing that takes place during the Sun Dance has become more intense and "now it is just like in the old Catlin and Bodmer paintings depicting the ritual of a hundred and fifty years ago."[82] Again, Mary Crow Dog serves as an example of the kind of spiritual revival that took place as a result of Wounded Knee. She continued to develop her Native American identity through religious rituals and traditions after Wounded Knee. She began as part of a political movement, but through her activism, Mary Crow Dog discovered a culture and traditions that she had never been exposed to before. While participating in the Sun Dance ritual, Mary Crow Dog, "a white-educated half-blood, became wholly Indian."[83] Mary Crow Dog's experience at Wounded Knee directly contributed to her involvement in Sioux traditions and the discovery of her Native American identity.[84]

On February 27, 1998 about forty Wounded Knee participants returned to the site of the siege for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the event. While there, AIM leader Dennis Banks was asked, "'What did you men and women of 1973 achieve? Are Indians really better off now?'"[85] Banks' response reflected the cultural, as opposed to political, importance of the siege. His response also demonstrated the lasting cultural legacy of Wounded Knee among the Sioux and other Native Americans:

We were the prophets, the messengers, the fire-starters. Wounded Knee awakened not only the conscience of all Native Americans, but also of white Americans nationwide. We changed our people's lifestyle. People replaced neckties with bone or bead chokers. We resurrected old beliefs and ways of life, blending them with the demands of modern life, with what we needed to survive. We created a new culture, wiping out old stereotypes. Out of AIM came a new breed of writers, poets, artists, actors, and filmmakers. We no longer needed whites to 'interpret' our culture.[86]

In addition to the Sun Dance, the cultural legacy of the Wounded Knee siege can be seen in the changes of dress and revival of beliefs and ways of life that Banks points to in his statement. Just as Mary Crow Dog discovered her Native American identity through the Sun Dance, others were able to connect with their identities through the clothing, ceremonies, poetry and art that were part of the cultural revival resulting from the Wounded Knee siege--the legacy of which continues to live on today.

Wounded Knee 1890 and the Ghost Dance may always be thought of together as part of a dark time in the history of the Sioux, but the efforts of the American Indian Movement and the Sioux who joined them in 1973, ensured that Wounded Knee 1890 will not be considered the end of the Sioux, or the end of the story. At Wounded Knee in both 1890 and 1973, frustration with the United States Government was expressed, religious rituals were practiced, and Native Americans lost their lives. Wounded Knee has a unique place in history as the site of one of the greatest Native American tragedies of the nineteenth century, and one of the greatest Native American victories of the twentieth century. However, the connection between Wounded Knee 1890 and Wounded Knee 1973 has not been studied extensively by historians. Much has been written about the Wounded Knee massacre, but the siege at Wounded Knee is often included only as a footnote, or a one sentence addition to a conclusion. The cultural transformations that took place as a result of the Wounded Knee siege are more interesting and useful to historians than the outcomes of the Wounded Knee massacre because they, as Dennis Banks indicated in his anniversary speech, continue to affect the lives of Sioux on and off the Pine Ridge reservation. Wounded Knee 1973 shows that a political movement or demonstration can be unsuccessful in accomplishing its goals, while still succeeding in uniting a group together through cultural traditions. Wounded Knee 1973 is a significant historical event because it demonstrates the importance of history--historical decisions and events, in modern society. Those who took control of Wounded Knee did so under the protection of a century old treaty and in the spirit of an event that occurred almost a century earlier. Contemporary politics and society cannot assume to be removed from the events of the past. Wounded Knee 1973 demonstrated that the consequences of historical events continue to influence politics and culture in the present.

Bibliography
Primary Sources:
Akwesanse Notes, Voices From Wounded Knee, 1973. Roosevelttown, NY: Mohawk Nation at Akwesanse, 1974.

Banks, Dennis. Ojibwa Warrior. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.

Crow Dog, Leonard. Crow Dog: Four Generations of Sioux Medicine Men. New York: Harper Collins, 1995.

Crow Dog, Mary. Lakota Woman. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1995.

Deloria, Vine Jr. God Is Red. Colorado: North American Press, 1992.

Goodale Eastman, Elaine. Sister to the Sioux: The Memoirs of Elaine Goodale Eastman. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978.

Lyman, Stanely David. Wounded Knee 1973: A Personal Account. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

Means, Russell. Where White Men Fear to Tread. New York: St. Martins Press, 1995.

Mooney, James. The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965.

Occupation of Wounded Knee: U.S. Congress Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Subcommittee on Indian Affairs. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1974.

Secondary Sources:
Beck Kehoe, Alice. The Ghost Dance: Ethnohistory and Revitalization. Fort Worth: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1989.

Forsyth, Susan. Representing the Massacre of American Indians at Wounded Knee, 1890-2000. Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2003.

Gibbon, Guy. The Sioux: The Dakota and Lakota Nations. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2003.

Jensen, Richard; Paul, R. Eil; Carther, John E. Eyewitness at Wounded Knee. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

Lazarus, Edward. Black Hills, White Justice. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991.

LeBarre, Weston. The Ghost Dace: Origins of Religion. Illinois: Waveland Press Inc., 1970.

Matthiessen, Peter. In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. New York: Viking, 1991.

Ostler, Jeffrey. The Plains Sioux and U.S. colonialism from Lewis and Clark to Wounded Knee. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Smith, Paul Chaat and Warrior, Robert Allen. Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee. New York: New Press,1996.


[1] John G. Niehardt, Black Elk Speaks, (New York: William Morrow, 1932) reprinted in Edward Lazarus, Black Hills, White Justice, (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991), 116.
[2] Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," reprinted on handout received in History 400 on 31 August 2004.
[3] The sentiment that the Wounded Knee massacre marked the end of Sioux resistance can still be found in books like Robert Marshall Utley's The Last Days of the Sioux Nation (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1963). Utley's book also refers to the Wounded Knee massacre as the Battle of Wounded Knee Creek, a once commonly used name for the massacre, which suggests that both the Sioux and the U.S. Army were engaged in violence, when in fact most of the Sioux killed were unarmed. While the idea of the end of Indian resistance can still be found in recent historical works, most at least acknowledge that what occurred at Wounded Knee in 1890 was a massacre and not a battle.
[4] James Mooney, The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), 60.
[5] "Treaty with the Sioux, Brule, Oglala, Etc., And Arapaho, 1868" reprinted in Occupation of Wounded Knee: U.S. Congress Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Subcommittee on Indian Affairs (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1974), 291.
[6] Mooney, 70.
[7] Mooney, 71.
[8] Mooney, 70.
[9] W.H. Hare, "Statement of Bishop Hare" January 7, 1891, reprinted in Mooney, The Ghost Dance Religion, 85.
[10] Ibid, 86.
[11] Ibid, 86-87.
[12] Thomas J. Morgan, "Commissioner Morgan's Statement" from The Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for 1891, Vol. 1, 132-135, reprinted in Mooney, The Ghost Dance Religion, 74.
[13] Ibid, 74.
[14] Nelson A. Miles, "Statement of General Miles" from The Report of the Secretary of War of 1891, Vol. I, pp, 133, 134, and 149, reprinted in Mooney, The Ghost Dance Religion, 78.
[15] Dr. V.T. McGillycuddy, "Ex-Agent McGillycuddy's Statement" from General L.W. Cody, "The Sioux Indian War of 1890-1891," in Transactions and Reports of the Nebraska State Historical Society, III, 1892 reprinted in Mooney, The Ghost Dance Religion, 77; Mooney, 72.
[16] Mooney, 72.
[17] McGillycuddy, "Ex-Agent McGillycuddy's Statement" in Mooney, The Ghost Dance Religion, 76.
[18] Ibid, 76.
[19] Elaine Goodale Eastman, Sister to the Sioux: The Memoirs of Elaine Goodale Eastman (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978), 138.
[20] Mooney, 63.
[21] Mooney, 19.
[22] Mooney, 30; Mooney, 29.
[23] Mooney, 28.
[24] Mooney, 30.
[25] Mooney, 25.
[26] Mooney, 33-34.
[27] Jeffery Ostler, The Plains Sioux and U.S. Colonialism from Lewis and Clark to Wounded Knee (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 263 and 262.
[28] Eastman, 138.
[29] Joseph H. Hurst, "Report of Captain Hurst" A.G. O. Doc. 6266, January 9, 1891 reprinted in Mooney, Ghost Dance Religion, 81.
[30] Mooney, 95.
[31] Morgan, "Report of Commissioner Morgan" in Mooney, Ghost Dance Religion, 98.
[32] Edward Lazarus, Black Hills White Justice, (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991), 115.
[33] Eastman, 167-168.
[34] Bellecourt, Clyde, reprinted in Matthiessen, Peter, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, (New York: Viking Press, 1991), 34.
[35] Matthiessen, 38.
[36] Charlie Red Cloud, "Statement of Charlie Red Cloud as Translated by Bob Barnett" reprinted in Occupation of Wounded Knee: U.S. Congress Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, 128.
[37] Russell Means, Where White Men Fear to Tread (New York: St. Martins Press, 1995), 21.
[38] Means, 21.
[39] Mary Crow Dog, Lakota Woman (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1995), 15.
[40] Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service reprinted in Occupation of Wounded Knee: U.S. Congress Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, 69.
[41] High Eagle, Robert reprinted in Matthiessen, 62.
[42] Means, Where White Men Fear to Tread, 243.
[43] Russell Means, "Statement of Russell Means" reprinted in Occupation of Wounded Knee: U.S. Congress Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, 145.
[44] Ramon Roubideaux, "Statement of Ramon Roubideaux" reprinted in Occupation of Wounded Knee: U.S. Congress Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, 177.
[45] Ellen Moves Camp reprinted in Matthiessen, 62.
[46] Rolland Dewing, Wounded Knee II, (Chadron, NE: Great Plains Network, 1995), 48.
[47] Means, Where White Men Fear to Tread, 237.
[48] Stanley David Lyman, Wounded Knee 1973: A Personal Account, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991), 19.
[49] Dewing, 49.
[50] Means, Where White Men Fear to Tread, 253.
[51] For a detailed account of the Wounded Knee siege, Akwesanse Notes, Voices From Wounded Knee, 1973. (Roosevelttown, NY: Mohawk Nation at Akwesanse, 1974) provides a overview as well as a timeline.
[52] Ibid, 261.
[53] Ibid, 261.
[54] Ibid, 261.
[55] Ibid, 261.
[56] Matthew Kin, and Frank Fools Crow , "Letter to Mr. Leonard Garment, Special Assistant to the President, June 9, 1973) reprinted in Occupation of Wounded Knee: U.S. Congress Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, 154.
[57] Ibid, 155.
[58] Paul Chaat Smith, and Robert Allen Warrior, Like a Hurricane : The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee, ( New York: New Press, 1996), 205.
[59] Ibid, 205.
[60] Means, "Statement of Russell Means" reprinted in Occupation of Wounded Knee: U.S. Congress Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, 143.
[61] Leonard Crow Dog , Crow Dog: Four Generations of Sioux Medicine Men, (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995), 188.
[62] Leonard Crow Dog, reprinted in Akwesanse Notes, Voices From Wounded Knee, 1973. (Roosevelttown, NY: Mohawk Nation at Akwesanse, 1974), 88.
[63]Leonard Crow Dog , Crow Dog, 203.
[64] Akwesanse Notes, 88.
[65] Ibid, 88.
[66] Leonard Crow Dog, reprinted in Akwesanse Notes, 88.
[67] Mary Crow Dog, 153.
[68] Leonard Crow Dog, Crow Dog, 203.
[69] Mary Crow Dog, 32.
[70] Ibid, 73.
[71] Ibid, 157.
[72] Ibid, 161.
[73] Ibid, 161.
[74] Richard, an Oglala, reprinted in Akwesanse Notes, 153.
[75] Lamont, Agnes reprinted in Akwesanse Notes, 244.
[76] Akwesanse Notes, 248.
[77] Edward Lazarus, Black Hills/White Justice (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991), 311.
[78] Leonard Crow Dog, Crow Dog, 209.
[79] Ibid, 211.
[80] Mary Crow Dog, Lakota Woman, 258.
[81] Ibid, 260.
[82] Ibid, 258.
[83] Leonard Crow Dog, Crow Dog, 260.
[84] Leonard Crow Dog, Crow Dog: Four Generations of Sioux Medicine Men provides an in depth discussion and description of the Sun Dance and piercing.
[85] Dennis Banks, Ojibwa Warrior, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004), 360.
[86] Ibid, 360.