Interpret the past by reviewing primary documents, scholarly secondary sources, and then creating an analysis of this research.

One of the main jobs of historians is to interpret the past by reviewing primary documents, scholarly secondary sources, and then creating an analysis of this research. After reading your text and reviewing the assigned materials, submit an analysis of the Native American experience during the late 1800s. You may choose to focus on either the Wounded Knee Massacre or the creation of Native American Boarding Schools.


You might want to consider the following questions, but you are not limited to them: Is the history of Native Americans taught in American schools to the proper extent? What were the goals of white Americans/Native Americans in these confrontations? What was the true purpose of the Ghost Dance? What was the goal of the boarding schools? How should Wounded Knee be remembered or taught? How should modern Americans view the legacy of the boarding schools?

****This assignment should be at least 300 words and contain your reactions or questions about some specific issue within the historical narrative which you find compelling. For full credit, your paper must not simply sum up the reading or repeat points made there. Rather, I’m looking for you to create your own interpretation, explain the emotional content of the piece, or discuss some original insight. Include citations as needed.

*****Your short essay should include references to the textbook, as well as the articles included in the Lesson. If you choose to reference the material directly (quote them) be sure to include the source and page number. Your essay should be at minimum 300 words, typed.

America,A Narrative History,10th edition, by David Emory Shi, W.W. Norton Publishers – Ch 18

Eyewitness to History: Wounded Knee Massacre


“Wounded Knee Massacre”

Wells, Philip, “96 Years among the Indians of the Northwest”, North Dakota History, (1948).

On the morning of December 29, 1890, the Sioux chief Big Foot and some 350 of his followers camped on the banks of

Wounded Knee creek. Surrounding their camp was a force of U.S. troops charged with the responsibility of arresting Big

Foot and disarming his warriors. The scene was tense. Trouble had been brewing for months.

Wovoka called himself the Messiah and prophesied that the dead would soon join the living in a world in which the Indians

could live in the old way surrounded by plentiful game. The order went out to arrest Chief Sitting Bull at the Standing Rock

Reservation. Sitting Bull was killed in the attempt on December 15. Chief Big Foot was next on the list. When he heard of

Sitting Bull's death, Big Foot led his people south to seek protection at the Pine Ridge Reservation. The army intercepted the

band on December 28 and brought them to the edge of the Wounded Knee to camp. The next morning the chief, racked with

pneumonia and dying, sat among his warriors and powwowed with the army officers. Suddenly the sound of a shot pierced

the early morning gloom. Within seconds the charged atmosphere erupted as Indian braves scurried to retrieve their

discarded rifles and troopers fired volley after volley into the Sioux camp. From the heights above, the army's Hotchkiss guns

raked the Indian teepees with grapeshot.

When the smoke cleared and the shooting stopped, approximately 300 Sioux were dead, Big Foot among them. Twenty-five

soldiers lost their lives. As the remaining troopers began the grim task of removing the dead, a blizzard swept in from the

North. Philip Wells was a mixed-blood Sioux who served as an interpreter for the Army. He later recounted what he saw that

Monday morning:

“I was interpreting for General Forsyth (Forsyth was actually a colonel) just before the battle of

Wounded Knee, December 29, 1890. The captured Indians had been ordered to give up their arms, but

Big Foot replied that his people had no arms. Forsyth said to me, 'Tell Big Foot he says the Indians have

no arms, yet yesterday they were well armed when they surrendered. He is deceiving me. Tell him he

need have no fear in giving up his arms, as I wish to treat him kindly.' Big Foot replied, 'They have no

guns, except such as you have found.' Forsyth declared, 'You are lying to me in return for my kindness.'

During this time a medicine man, gaudily dressed and fantastically painted, executed the maneuvers of

the ghost dance, raising and throwing dust into the air. He exclaimed 'Ha! Ha!' as he did so, meaning he

was about to do something terrible, and said, 'I have lived long enough,' meaning he would fight until he

died. Turning to the young warriors who were squatted together, he said 'Do not fear, but let your hearts

be strong. Many soldiers are about us and have many bullets, but I am assured their bullets cannot

penetrate us. The prairie is large, and their bullets will fly over the prairies and will not come toward us.

If they do come toward us, they will float away like dust in the air.' I turned to Major Whitside and said,

'That man is making mischief,' and repeated what he had said. Whitside replied, 'Go direct to Colonel

Forsyth and tell him about it,' which I did.

Forsyth and I went to the circle of warriors where he told me to tell the medicine man to sit down and

keep quiet, but he paid no attention to the order. Forsyth repeated the order. Big Foot's brother-in-law

answered, 'He will sit down when he gets around the circle.' When the medicine man came to the end of

the circle, he squatted down. A cavalry sergeant exclaimed, 'There goes an Indian with a gun under his

blanket!' Forsyth ordered him to take the gun from the Indian, which he did. Whitside then said to me,

'Tell the Indians it is necessary that they be searched one at a time.' The young warriors paid no attention

to what I told them. I heard someone on my left exclaim, 'Look out! Look out!' I saw five or six young

warriors cast off their blankets and pull guns out from under them and brandish them in the air. One of

the warriors shot into the soldiers, who were ordered to fire into the Indians. I looked in the direction of

the medicine man. He or some other medicine man approached to within three or four feet of me with a

Eyewitness to History: Wounded Knee Massacre


long cheese knife, ground to a sharp point and raised to stab me. He stabbed me during the melee and

nearly cut off my nose. I held him off until I could swing my rifle to hit him, which I did. I shot and

killed him in self-defense. Troop 'K' was drawn up between the tents of the women and children and the

main body of the Indians, who had been summoned to deliver their arms. The Indians began firing into

'Troop K' to gain the canyon of Wounded Knee creek. In doing so they exposed their women and

children to their own fire. Captain Wallace was killed at this time while standing in front of his troops. A

bullet, striking him in the forehead, plowed away the top of his head. I started to pull off my nose, which

was hung by the skin, but Lieutenant Guy Preston shouted, 'My God Man! Don't do that! That can be

saved.' He then led me away from the scene of the trouble.


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