Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890: 116th Anniversary, 12- 29-06 (Part 1)

Originally posted by winter rabbit on 12/03/06

This is one of a four part series. I will link each current diary to the preceding one. I’m also giving an original song to listen to while reading. I wrote it over a period of roughly two years about Wounded Knee. Feel free to download it and put it to good use.

Topics covered in this four part series are: prior events and circumstances that led up to the Wounded Knee Massacre, Wovoka and the influence of Jesus Christ’s teachings in Wovoka’s instructions to the Ghost Dancers, the innocent role of the Ghost Dance and Ghost Dancers in the Massacre, The Dawes Act and similar governmental policies, the Wounded Knee Massacre itself, some philosophical thoughts, and conclusions. While I must speak of two religions by necessity due to the nature of the historical context, I am endorsing neither.

First, vital parts of understanding the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, are preexisting conditions, Wovoka, and the Ghost Dance.

Thomas E. Mails. “Fools Crow.” p.22:

…The first census was of the Sioux was taken in 1886. Thereafter they were required to have a family name. One of the father’s names was usually taken by the other members of the family, and everyone was given a distinguishing white first name, such as John or Nancy. Some family names, in translation, were unsuitable, so the census takers renamed them with complete English names…1889 and 1890 were years of severe drought, and unlike the white farmers, Indians could not move away to better ground. The buffalo were being systematically wiped out by white hunters, and indeed were virtually gone before 1890. In February 1890, the Dakota Reservation was opened to homesteading by non-Indians, and now the Sioux were ready to turn to anything that would offer them the slightest hope of returning to their old way of life. They prayed desperately, and sought visions from Wakan-Tanka for guidance and deliverance…It was at this point that a Paiute Indian named Wovoka entered the scene…”


Wovoka or “Jack Wilson,” who started the Ghost Dance was the prophet or messiah of the Ghost Dance to the Sioux. They practiced that religion prior the Massacre
  at Wounded Knee in 1890 (here are some photos of the Massacre).
Sitting Bull had been recently assassinated, yet they chose to peacefully dance, believing their way of life, the buffalo, and the land would be returned to them. They chose dancing the Ghost Dance in winter snow over revenge. They stood earnestly by their convictions, even up until the moment that the soldiers started it with (see paragraph mentioning Black Coyote in future diary).

Likewise in the future, Leonard Crow Dog  would bring it back temporarily during the 1973 Siege of Wounded Knee.
Mary Crow Dog talks about that in her
“Lakota Woman.”

The Ghost Dancers believed their shirts were bullet proof, and that their way of life would be returned. To understand some of why they believed those things; one needs to understand what was believed about Wovoka.

In his early adulthood, Wovoka gained a reputation as a powerful shaman. He was adept at magic tricks. One trick he often performed was being shot with a shotgun, which may have been similar to the bullet catch trick. Reports of this trick may have convinced the Lakota that their “ghost shirts” could stop bullets.

Also, Wovoka was reported to have had the Stigmata, same as
Padre Pio about 30 years later.
I heard an elder talk about Wovoka having the Stigmata, as well as the intent behind the Ghost Dance. It was nothing but peaceful, though it was controversial to many who did not participate. It hasn’t been done since the 1973 Siege of Wounded Knee.

Some say Wovoka’s Stigmata wounds were self-inflicted:
Some say his wounds were not:

I don’t know.

In addition, there is a lesser well-known fact about this history: a relationship between Wovoka’s philosophies, his instructions to the Ghost Dancers, and the words of Jesus Christ:

“Jesus is now upon the Earth,” he stated. But again, there is historic contradiction here- Wovoka is quoted as saying he was Christ and he wasn’t Christ. It would seem that either he excelled at playing to different audiences or was damned to being preserved by faulty historians.

Despite the later association of the Ghost Dance with the Wounded Knee Massacre and unrest on the Lakota reservations, Wovoka charged his followers:
Do not hurt anybody or do harm to anyone. You must not fight. Do not refuse to work for the whites and do not make any trouble with them.
While the Ghost Dance is sometimes seen today as an expression of Indian militancy and the desire to preserve traditional ways, Wovoka’s pronouncements ironically bore the heavy mark of popular Christianity.

I disagree that last sentence, “Wovoka’s pronouncements ironically bore the heavy mark of popular Christianity.”
Here are the historical teachings of fundamentalist, patriarchal Christianity:

  A short excerpt from: “Religion on the Frontier” by Bernard A Weisberger. From “Historical Viewpoints.” pp. 253-254:

  The great revival in the West, or the Kentucky Revival of 1800, as it was sometimes called, was a landmark in American History… Which way would the West go?… No group asked this question more anxiously than eastern clergymen. For, in 1800, they saw that their particular pattern was being abandoned on the frontier….McGready began to preach to these congregations, and he did not deal with such recondite matters as the doctrines contained in Matthew…Instead he would “so describe Heaven” that his listeners would “see its glories and long to be there.” Then he went on to “array hell and its horrors” so that the wicked would “tremble and quake, imagining a lake of fire and brimstone yawning to overwhelm them.”

That excerpt contains examples of:


Coercive persuasion

These are some words of Jesus:

(Matthew 26:51-52): And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

Compare those words more closely with what Wovoka said, “Do not hurt anybody or do harm to anyone. You must not fight. Do not refuse to work for the whites and do not make any trouble with them.”

No wonder the preachers “did not deal with such recondite matters as the doctrines contained in Matthew,” they would have been morally obligated to preach against the extermination of the indigenous people.


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