Lessons Learned From The Massacre At Wounded Knee

2469 words - 10 pages


The massacre at Wounded Knee was the last action in a long and bloody war that pitted Native American Indians against U.S Military forces. For roughly 300 years the two sides had been in constant conflict across America in a battle for land, resources, and ultimately; freedom. This final massacre solidified the American hold on the west and closed the final chapter on a way of life that can never be brought back. Lakota Indians, having learned of the death of Sitting Bull started to move towards Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in hopes of finding protection from Red Cloud. However, the harsh South Dakota winter weather had different plans, causing Chief Big Foot to become extremely ill. The Lakota came across cavalry forces and showed white flags in order to show they were no threat and in need of assistance. The army had orders to move the Indians to a camp on Wounded Knee Creek in order to provide shelter, food, and aid. 1 It is evident that a misunderstanding combined with an already tense situation led to the confrontation and ultimate demise of many elderly men, women, and children at the hands of the United States Calvary. Was this an intentional act or just an unfortunate turn of events for the Lakota and Unites States Army.

Long before Americas lighting fast expansion across America, Indians dealt with Europeans. The Lakota interacted with early explorers and fur traders trading coffee, sugar, guns, and blankets for buffalo and beaver skins. Since it was a mutually beneficial relationship and both groups were able to work together peacefully. Inter-racial marriages were even conducted in which the Lakota wives were married to European men that were respected by the Lakota. 2 For many of those living on the east coast, the thought of traveling west into an unforgiving wilderness was thought impossible. In 1841, that myth was shatter when a group of sixty-nine people moving towards California and Oregon entered into Lakota lands and passed through unscathed. Once word arrived back east of the their success, people started to jump on wagon trains and venture west for land and prosperity. During the time period from 1841-1848 the Lakota never bothered any of the settlers passing through, even though they were carving roads over the grasslands and killing buffalo in the area. 3 The discovery of gold in California changed all of that. Starting in 1848, the stream of settlers “became a raging river” and in 1850 nearly fifty-five thousand people crossed through Lakota lands via the Overland Trail. 4 The Lakota did nothing even though increasing numbers of settlers along with their cattle were starting to decimate the prairie grasslands as they passed through on their way westward. The final issue that led the Lakota to push the settlers out of their lands was that of disease. The Native Americans had never been exposed to Asian cholera, smallpox, and the measles. European settlers brought these with them as they...

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