On Dec. 29, 1890, U.S. Calvary soldiers killed hundreds of unarmed members of the Miniconjou band of Lakota at Wounded Knee, located on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Accounts of what incited the massacre vary, but most include the accidental firing of a gun. Estimates of lives lost range as high as 300, many of which were women and children.
Anxiety regarding the Ghost Dance movement drew government forces into Pine Ridge ahead of the massacre. Adherents to the Ghost Dance religion believed that following an apocalyptic event, Euro-Americans would be gone and tribal members could return to their way of life before the arrival of Europeans. The Ghost Dance sparked alarm in government officials, who believed an uprising would occur if it was allowed to flourish.
To learn more about the history of Pine Ridge, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s civic life and history page on the community.