Wounded Knee, South Dakota

Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, Universityof Wisconsin - Green Bay

There's nothing you can feel here except sadness.

On December 29, 1890, an attempt to disarm a band of Lakota escalated into a tragic loss of life. Although it was the last major armed clash between the Lakota and the U.S. Army, Wounded Knee was not the last armed conflict between Indians and the U.S. military. That little known skirmish happened on Leech Lake in northern Minnesota on 5 October 1898. Private Oskar Burkard won the last Medal of Honor awarded during the Indian Wars.

Scenery near Wounded Knee.
The fighting took place in the valley below. By all accounts an inadvertent shot caused the surrounding soldiers to open fire, killing many unarmed Indians and a number of their fellow soldiers.

A number of Medals of Honor were awarded to soldiers following the fighting. Indians have urged that the medals be rescinded. Early Medal of Honor citations tend to be vague, but at least two were awarded for rescuing wounded soldiers under fire.

The sign has obviously been changed to read "Massacre" instead of "Battle."

General Nelson Miles, no slouch when it came to fighting Indians, termed the battle a "massacre" and relieved the officer in charge of command. Nevertheless, he defended the Medals of Honor given at Wounded Knee.

The hill west of the site is the location of a cemetery and chapel.
An obelisk and fenced off area mark the burial site of the Indian victims of Wounded Knee.
Below: military headstones for Indian veterans.
Left: north of the hill is a visitor center devoted to the history of Wounded Knee.
The 1973 Wounded Knee Incident was largely precipitated by opposition to the reservation government. 200-300 activists from the American Indian Movement occupied the town for 71 days.

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Created 9 May 2007, Last Update 03 June 2020