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 ...
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...Finally, the massacre at Wounded Knee also delves into the idea of escalation of force. When that first shot was fired, Cavalry soldiers fired in every direction and shot many fleeing Indians in the back and chased them down simply to kill them. The original order was to arrest them for imprisonment, not to murder them. We have been taught in todays Army to show restraint using non-violent tactics and resort to deadly force when all options have failed.
Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970
Waldman, Neil. Wounded Knee. New York: Artheneum Books, 2001.
Treaty of Fort Laramie (1851). “Wikipedia”
Fort Laramie Treaty (1868), “PBS, New Perspectives on the West”, 2001, http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/four/ftlaram.htm
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