Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, leaders of the Sioux on the Great Plains, strongly resisted the mid-19th-century efforts of the U.S. government to confine their people to reservations. In 1875, after gold was discovered in South Dakota’s Black Hills, the U.S. Army ignored previous treaty agreements and invaded the region. This betrayal led many Sioux and Cheyenne tribesmen to leave their reservations and join Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse in Montan By the late spring of 1876, more than 10,000 Native Americans had gathered in a camp along the Little Bighorn River–which they called the Greasy Grass–in defiance of a U.S. War Department order to return to their reservations or risk being attacked.
Wounded Knee, located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota,was the site of two conflicts between North American Indians and representatives of the U.S. government. An 1890 massacre left some 15 0Native Americans dead, in what was the final clash between federal troops and the Sioux. In 1973, members of the American Indian Movement occupied Wounded Knee for 71 days to protest conditions on the reservation.
At mid-day on June 25, Custer’s 600 men entered the Little Bighorn Valley. Among the Native Americans, word quickly spread of the impending attack. The older Sitting Bull rallied the warriors and saw to the safety of the women and children, while Crazy Horse set off with a large force to meet the attackers head on. Despite Custer’s desperate attempts to regroup his men, they were quickly overwhelmed. Custer and some 200 men in his battalion were attacked by as many as 3,000 Native Americans; within an hour, Custer and all of his soldiers were dead. The Battle of the Little Bighorn, also called Custer’s Last Stand, marked the most decisive Native American victory and the worst U.S. Army defeat in the long Plains Indian War. The demise of Custer and his men outraged many white Americans and confirmed their image of the Indians as wild and bloodthirsty. Meanwhile, the U.S. government increased its efforts to subdue the tribes. Within five years, almost all of the Sioux and Cheyenne would be confined to reservations.
Following the massacre at custer's Last Land, the Lakota and Cheyenne regrouped and attacked the remnants of Custer's Commando led by Major Marcus Reno and captain Frederick Benteen. They held off the attacks, and both of these officers survived the fighting. The victory was a hollow one for the native Americans , however. A renewed effort by the military forced Sitting Bull's followers into Canada, where they remained exiled for nearly fours years. The remaining 200 Lakota headed south, where they surrendered in July 1881. They were housed at the Dakota Standing rock reservation after some shuttling for fear of another uprising.
The conflict at Wounded Knee was originally referred to as a battle, but in reality it was a tragic and avoidable massacre. Surrounded by heavily armed troops, it’s unlikely that Big Foot’s band would have intentionally started a fight. Some historians speculate that the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876. Whatever the motives, the massacre ended the Ghost Dance movement and was the last major confrontation in America’s deadly war against the Plains Indians.
The battle between U.S. military troops and Lakota Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota on December 29, 1890, resulted in the deaths of perhaps 300 Sioux men, women, and children. The massacre at Wounded Knee was the last major battle of the Indian Wars of the late 19th century.