DECEMBER 29, 1890


In 1889, the messianic Ghost Dance religion arrived on the Pine Ridge Reservation promising the return of the Messiah, disappearance of white invaders, return of the bison, and raising of the dead.  To whites, the Ghost Dance was threatening.  In November 1890, President Benjamin Harrison ordered troops to the area.  The murder of Hunkpapa leader and Ghost Dancer Sitting Bull on December 15 added to tensions.  On December 23, Minneconjou leader, Spotted Elk (aka Big Foot), led his band from their village in the dead of night toward the Badlands.  His pneumonia slowed the trek and, on December 28, the Seventh Cavalry intercepted the band and confined them on Wounded Knee Creek.  On December 29, the Army demanded the surrender of all their firearms.  Black Coyote refused to surrender his rifle to a soldier and the gun discharged.  Nervous troops began firing at the band.  On January 3, 1891, a burial party put 146 Lakota in a mass grave.  A later accounting showed a total of over 250 Lakota dead.     

Source:  John E. Carter, “Plains Humanities: Wounded Knee Massacre," Encyclopedia of the Great Plains.  Retrieved 7/23/2019,
Photo:  Northwest Photo Co., Chadron, Neb., 1891.  Public Domain in the US:  Pre-1/1/1925.  Public Domain elsewhere where copyright term is author’s life plus 70 years or less.   

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