200 Lakota Dead at Wounded Knee

December 30, 1890

Reports from South Dakota indicate that another Ghost Dance chief of the Lakota has been captured and slain. After the recent death of Sitting Bull, the army attempted to arrest other promoters of the Ghost Dance. The Minneconjou chief Big Foot was next on the list of potential “troublemakers.”
Followers of Big Foot, a chief from the Cheyenne River Reservation, surrendered to and were disarmed by soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry near Wounded Knee Creek. When weapons were surrendered in what was deemed insufficient numbers, soldiers began searching the camp of the 350 Indians.

In a widely circulated story a medicine man named Yellow Bird began blowing on a bone whistle and calling for the men to resist the search efforts. He told them that their Ghost Shirts would protect them from the bullets of the whites. A follower pulled out a Winchester rifle from under a blanket and a shot rang out. The soldiers opened fire on men and women, killing fifty in the first volley.  Some reports indicate that four Hotchkiss artillery guns opened fire on women and children in the encampment from the overlooking hills.
The dead among the Lakota number about 200, including Big Foot who had been on his sickbed with pneumonia. The Seventh Cavalry suffered losses of twenty-five killed, thirty-nine wounded. Many of the soldiers’ wounds were from crossfire of their own men. The Indians had few weapons in their possession.
The Lakota bodies froze in the bitter cold and storm. Soldiers finally buried the fallen in a mass grave.

By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton


Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council

Subject Matter

Social Studies

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change