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Indian Wars & Battle of Wounded Knee

On a winter day at the end of December of 1890, U.S. Army troops confronted a band of Lakota Sioux near Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Abruptly, shooting broke out. By the time it ended, some 30 soldiers and as many as 300 Lakota were dead, a majority of the latter women and children.

Such was the battle--or massacre--of Wounded Knee, the last significant episode of the nineteenth-century Indian Wars, and the last ghost of an effort by American Indians to assert their independence in a traditional context. For some years thereafter, several thousand Army troops--then a substantial fraction of the U.S. Army--remained stationed near Indian reservations to suppress any potential uprisings. Even in the opening years of the twentieth century, when the Army was called upon to garrison the Philippines in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, concern was expressed about drawing down the forces guarding Indian reservations. But, with Wounded Knee, the era of armed confrontation was over. Whether appropriately or ironically, a few years later the historian Frederick Jackson Turner would declare 1890 to be the year that the American frontier was "closed."

Once the shooting was ended, Wounded Knee largely disappeared from the consciousness of at least non-Indian Americans for nearly three generations. In 1938, a measure (HR 2535) was introduced in Congress to compensate Lakota survivors of Wounded Knee; the measure explicitly described the action as a massacre. The hearings, held in living memory of the events, provided valuable eyewitness testimony concerning what had happened 48 years earlier. The time was not ripe, however, for broad public reconsideration of Wounded Knee or of the broader encounter between settlers and Indians in the Great Plains during the decades after the Civil War. The bill was not enacted, and Wounded Knee once again vanished from popular memory. Not until more than three decades after the 193...

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Indian Wars & Battle of Wounded Knee. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:47, May 21, 2019, from