The Wounded Knee Massacre (Short Story)

Guest Post by Richard Brawer

On December 29, 1890 the Seventh Cavalry attacked a group of Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee Creek killing two hundred and ninety men, women and children.  What precipitated that massacre?

Starting about the 1850s, settlers moving into the Western United States slaughtered Native Americans and herded the survivors onto reservations.  Reservation life was harsh and unforgiving.  The people were downtrodden with little hope of a future.  They reached out for something to cling to.  That thing that gave them hope was the Ghost Dance.

Born in 1856, a Paiute named Wovoka was orphaned at age fourteen after a battle with the white man.  A sympathetic rancher named Wilson saved him from the fate inflicted on his parents and taught him English and Christianity.

Wovoka took the name Jack Wilson.  Because he was fluent in English and because he worked for a white rancher, Wovoka (Wilson) was allowed to travel freely throughout Nevada.  He visited his people on the reservations and talked with elders.  He soon became a trusted emissary between the tribes.  As Wovoka became more and more respected, he began to talk about his own vision of the future which was a mixture of Native American lore and Christianity.

He prophesied of a new time for his people.  The white man would disappear.  Slaughtered Paiute ancestors would rise to live again.  All suffering, starvation and disease brought by the white man would vanish.  His people would regain their land.

 To hurry this new coming, Wovoka urged the people to dance in a circle and sing songs about their ancestors returning to life and the white man drowning in a huge flood.  The dance took on the name Ghost Dance.

Wokova also took his preaching to the Lakota Sioux of the Pine Ridge Reservation.  They latched onto Wovoka’s words with a passion not seen since Custer was defeated.  They danced day and night.  They even made clothes they called Ghost Shirts they claimed had mystical powers to stop bullets.

One day they were dancing in a hypnotic frenzy at Wounded Knee Creek.  The officers leading the Seventh Cavalry thought the Sioux were preparing for a rebellion and went to disarm them.  When the Sioux resisted, the soldiers, feeling threatened, opened fire.  It has not been proven, but the officers may have had a lust for revenge for the massacre of Custer fourteen years earlier.

Word of the slaughter spread like a prairie fire.  Wovoka’s vision and his words were declared false.  The Ghost Dance disappeared as fast as it came.

Today the Sioux have resurrected the Ghost Dance as a tourist attraction.  Or, as this author wonders, is it something else?

Richard Brawer is the author of Beyond Guilty a high concept thriller where a wrongly convicted woman escapes from death row and fights to prove her innocence, and the development of the latest nanotech drug that has the potential to virtually wipe out all disease.

After graduating the University of Florida and a stint in the National Guard, Richard worked 40 years in the textile and retail industries.  He spends his retirement years writing novels, sailing and gardening.  He has two married daughters, one granddaughter and lives in New Jersey with his wife Ruth. His website address is


Posted on September 1, 2011, in Short Stories. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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