Wounded Knee:The Ties of Religion and Violence

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Wounded Knee: The Ties of Religion and Violence On the morning of December 29, 1890, many Sioux Indians (estimated at above two hundred) died at the hands of the United States Army near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Indians were followers of the Ghost Dance religion, devised by Wovoka, a Paiute prophet, as a spiritual outlet for Indian repression by whites. The United States Army set out to intercept this group of Native Americans because they performed the controversial Ghost Dance. Both whites’ and the Sioux’s misunderstanding of an originally peaceful Indian religion culminated in the Battle of Wounded Knee. This essay first shows how the Ghost Dance came about, its later adaptation by the Sioux, and whites’ fear and misunderstanding of the Dance, then it appraises the U.S. military’s conduct during the conflict, and American newspaper coverage of events at Wounded Knee. The Ghost Dance prophet Wovoka was born in 1865 into the Paiute tribe of Nevada. In his early twenties, Wovoka experienced a significant tuning point in his life when he recovered from a coma at the same time of a solar eclipse (Hittman 17). He had been deathly ill with a severe fever that sent him into a coma. After recovering, Wovoka spoke of being transported to the spirit world and of speaking with the Great Spirit. Wovoka felt he had been given special powers and sought to help the Indian population. Also known as Jack Wilson, Wovoka endured to unite the Indian nations with a message of patience, kindness, and love. The Indians desperately needed hope and guidance in a time of great depression and anguish. The Indians had been uprooted from their natural homes by the encroachment of white settlers on their lands. The con... ... middle of paper ... ..., Call No. F96.A3795 Last Days of the Sioux Nation, Robert M. Utley, 1961 (ch. 11 & 12 contained in WKPub; all pg numbers are in reference to that appearance) “Some Phases of the Recent Indian War.” Cited from Kerstetter, “Spin Doctors at Santee: Missionaries and the Dakota-Language Reporting of the Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee.” Western Historical Quarterly 1997 New York Times, “A Fight with the Hostiles.” December 30, 1890 p.1 c.4 New York Tribune, “Fighting at Pine Ridge.” January 1, 1891 p.1 c.3 “The agent further states that Sitting Bull is high priest and leading apostle of this latest Indian absurdity.” - R.V. Belt, Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Oct. 24, 1890. “If he fights, destroy him.” - Fayette W. Roe, 1st Lieut. 3d Infty, A.D.C., in a letter to Maj. Whitside of the 7th Calvary, in reference to the Miniconjous chief Big Foot.

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